When she was 17, Brittany Parks started going by the name Sudan. 6 years later, she is known as Sudan Archives: singer/songwriter, violinist and producer. Blending R&B, experimental electronic and Sudanese fiddling, she shows a range and ability that is hard to find in pop music.
Using nothing but a loop station, a violin and her voice, Sudan Archives creates textured and dynamic songs that showcase sophisticated inspirations without sacrificing the essential pop hook. Experimental electronic elements weave in and out of a traditional song structure, fused to the African music that she changed her name for. Her distinct personality and refusal to conform are evident in all of her works, from her striking music videos to her reimagined cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta.”
Perhaps the biggest reason for Sudan’s unique sound is her autodidacticism. She began to study the violin in fourth grade, but her self-education led to her making electronic beats over classical music, defining her own sound out of curiosity and experimentation. Writing, performing and producing everything on her album, Sudan is redefining what it means to be a self-defined, self-determined artist.
Performing at the “Show Up” party hosted by Tumblr on the first night of SXSW, Sudan walked on stage wearing a metallic gold skirt and top, the same majestic fabric dangling from her arms as she danced on stage. Alternating between her single loop station and violin, she freely moved about on stage, totally immersed in her music. The crowd, enchanted by her effervescence, mimicked her dance moves from the floor and the balcony, constantly cheering and shouting “you’re a goddess!”
About our Female Artist Discovery series:
The entertainment industry has always been problematic. From Elvis Presley to Mac DeMarco, speakers and screens have gravitated towards artists and performers of a similar race, gender and sexual orientation. This is not to say queer and female artists haven’t been met with mainstream success – artists such as St. Vincent, Charli XCX, Bjork and Fever Ray have proven that the modern music industry does have room for prominent female voices. Still, there is work to be done. Just this year a study conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reported that 90 percent of Grammy nominees in the last six years were male, and that just nine male songwriters hold one-fifth of the top songs since 2012. Additionally, a grim 2 percent of producers in the industry today are women. The aforementioned research focuses on Billboard charters and Grammy nominees rather than underground and independent artists, where the female voice may be more prominent. However, the side of chart-topping hits and inequality is what dominates our most accessible media and sets the agenda for the public’s mindset. This doesn’t only reflect issues in representation – it cycles back into the mindset of consumers and results in more content creation with unequal representation.
In the wake of troubling numbers and statistics, there are some who have stepped up and proactively worked towards equality. This year, the SXSW music festival lineup heavily featured female artists and female-fronted bands, exposing them to the industry at large and thousands of new fans. This series features some of WUSC’s favorites.
Photos by Christian Senf (Instagram: @christian_senf)