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Julie Matthews on songwriting

Mike Harding | 21:35 UK time, Tuesday, 2 September 2008

My guest blogger this week is singer and songwriter Julie Matthews.

Well known for her many performances and albums with Chris While, Julie was also one of the main writers on the 2006 BBC Radio 2 Radio Ballads. As well as that - she's a good egg and all this week she's going to be telling us what she's been up to.


Julie Matthews writes:

Being a songwriter gives me a wonderful freedom of expression and I see my job as three fold; confession, observation and social comment. The first is a kind of therapy for me; I get to express my feelings and experiences. The second, I borrow from the feelings and experiences of those around me but the third is the most challenging and if I manage to pull it off, the most rewarding.

A few months ago I came across an article about Comfort Women. During World War Two, the Japanese government adopted a policy of sexual slavery to serve their military. Young girls were taken from their homes or from prisoner of war camps and put into 'Comfort stations' where they remained until the war was over. Most of these women never spoke of their experiences until recently and now there is a movement, aided by Amnesty International to seek recognition, justice and restitution for these amazing women, now in their late seventies and eighties. The more I read the more horrified I was and at the same time, it inspired me to write a song. I had followed the story of one of these women, Gil Won Ok so in order to make the song personal and identifiable I based it around her and her resilience and wrote it in the first person. It is called 'Take these Bones'.

From there, the snowball effect took place. Chris (While) and I decided to include it on our forthcoming album. We then decided it needed a choir and taught a variety of parts to our vocal workshops, Rejoice the Voice.  Bearing in mind these women are amateur singers and were working to Chris silently conducting a tempo while I recorded them, they were amazing and the result was a 250 strong women's choir on the track. I had wanted to spread this story and raise the profile of the Comfort Women with the song and it seemed before the track was even put on the album, the journey had started.

The full circle for me came when I finally made contact with Gil Won Ok with the help of Amnesty International and 'The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.' They are coming to the UK in November and I feel blessed to not only be meeting these very special women but Chris and I will be working along side them with the song to raise the profile of their plight.

Someone said to me at the start of my song writing career that I shouldn't mix politics with music. I am so glad I never listened.



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