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arTistic Attention: TA Shelina Brown promotes feminism through rock music

Outside of being a teaching assistant, musicology graduate student Shelina Brown is part of a punk rock band PANTHAR, which blends feminist art punk and up-tempo, guitar-driven 80s goth rock. (Effren Piñon/Daily Bruin)

By Ruhee Patel

Jan. 14, 2016 8:40 a.m.

With the series “arTistic Attention,” A&E will feature the very people whose office hours we really should go to more and explore their arts & entertainment-geared interests to find out what really makes them tick.

If you know an artsy TA who deserves to be featured, email us at

Shelina Brown named her new wave band PANTHAR after a taxidermied bobcat.

The bobcat, named Bobby, was owned by PANTHAR’s original guitar player, who had a taxidermy obsession. Brown said the stuffed cat’s presence inspired the group to give the band this cheesy name.

But while the band’s name is lighthearted and fun, Brown said her music is a form of cultural activism and feminist pride in a music scene dominated by male professionals and performers.

The musicology graduate student currently works as a teaching assistant for the undergraduate MUS HST 7: “Film and Music” course, in addition to being the lead singer in her five-piece band.

PANTHAR will release their next EP on Jan. 26 under Lolipop Records and will also support the electronica artist MR on Jan. 21.

Brown grew up listening to Japanese pop music in Japan, where she spent most of her childhood. She didn’t discover punk or rock music until she moved to Canada around age 15.

At the time, the Internet was still young – YouTube’s creation was still only a dream – so, after listening to music by punk rock band Bikini Kill, Brown mail-ordered seven-inch records every month to satiate her craving for more music.
Shelina Brown grew up listening to Japanese pop when she lived in Japan but discovered punk and rock as a teenager when she moved to Canada. (Efren Piñon/Daily Bruin)

Through labels like Kill Rock Stars, Brown discovered feminist art punk as she explored Riot Grrrl music and older bands.

More than introducing her to new music, however, the power of Riot Grrrl – music made by girls for girls – opened Brown’s mind to politics and feminism, which she said was life-altering.

When Brown eventually moved to Los Angeles, she said she found her niche within the underground goth scene.

While there is gender parity in PANTHAR’s niche of the Echo Park underground scene, Brown said their niche, in general, is not reflective of the male-dominated Eastside scene.

“In the Eastside scene, it can be difficult to assert yourself as a woman because you always have to negotiate being assertive, but not wanting to be taken as bitchy,” Brown said. “You’re always in a boy’s world.”

Gender-based problems arise with professionals in particular. When performing in casual bar settings, Brown said she often deals with male bookers and promoters, who often notice Brown not because of her artistry, but because of her gender.

“You get bookers and promoters that want to hit on you all the time,” Brown said. “The hardest part is drawing that line and making it clear that you’re not interested, but you don’t want to burn that bridge either.”

Still, Brown said the scene is changing. Every year, she sees more and more women working as audio engineers and producers, equalizing the playing field.

The band itself takes a collaborative approach to making music that is a blend of feminist art punk and up-tempo, guitar-driven ’80s goth rock. PANTHAR’s current guitarist, Daniel Munoz, said when he works on songwriting with Brown, he often composes his guitar pieces and then passes on a recording or sheet music to her so that she can add on to it.

“For the most part, (songwriting) is very hands on,” Munoz said. “The way it works is that they trust me to come up with cool stuff and I trust them to do the same.”

Brown said performing on stage is cathartic. The entire experience is rewarding because PANTHAR’s overall ethos and culture have a meaning beyond music.

“(Our music) is cultural activism in that sense – challenging people to hear and experience new things,” Brown said. “It’s a good thing to be a part of.”

Compiled by Ruhee Patel, A&E contributor.

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