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Women Who Rock: Skin of Skunk Anansie

I wish I could tell you how I first heard about Skunk Anansie but I honestly don’t remember. It had to have been sometime around the late ’90s. Maybe they had a song on a soundtrack, maybe I heard about them opening for someone big like U2 or Lenny Kravitz. What I do remember, though, is being completely blown away by their lead singer, Skin. Skin is just…wow. She’s got that fierce Grace Jones look – black, bald, and beautiful – and when you first see her, you expect aggressive, punk-ish screaming vocals. But then she opens her mouth and starts to sing and it’s just pure silk.

Skin of Skunk Anansie. Photo via SkunkAnansie.net
Skin of Skunk Anansie. Photo via SkunkAnansie.net

Skin, born Deborah Anne Dyer, is 45 now and was 27 when she first joined Skunk Anansie. Before that, she’d been working as an interior designer until she decided to give that up and focus on music. After spending a couple of years with other bands in the London area, she joined two guys, Cass (bass) and Ace (guitar), in forming Skunk Anansie. (The band’s name comes from the West African legend of Anansi, a spider-man. Dropping “Skunk” in front of it was just to make it sound a little nastier.) They later added drummer Mark Richardson to the lineup.  The band broke up for a few years, between 2001 and 2009. During that time, Skin contributed her lush vocals to projects by other artists including The Prodigy, Tony Iommi, and Sevendust. (Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Skin’s collaboration with Sevendust on a song called “Licking Cream” was where I first heard of her. Watch the video here and you’ll see why I was so impressed.) She also did some modeling and some DJing while also working on two solo albums.

We’re more clit-rock than Brit-rock.

– Skin, referring to Skunk Anansie’s music

Since the band reunited in 2009, they’ve released three new albums. In 2011, Skunk Anansie was onstage during Pukkelpop, an annual music festival in Belgium, when a severe storm hit and caused several tents and towers to collapse, causing the death of five people. Skin called it the scariest moment in her 20 years as an artist.

In addition to her musical endeavors, Skin is also an activist involved with charity organizations that focus on torture victims and asylum seekers. She has also been a part of the global effort to end female genital mutilation, stating, “It is a basic human right for women of all cultures to hold and express our sexuality and keep/control the heart of our womanhood.”

I’m not sure what else I can say about Skin because she’s truly one of those artists that you just have to see her and listen for yourself. Start with the official Skunk Anansie YouTube channel.  Listen to “Because of You,” check out “My Ugly Boy” if you prefer something a little edgier, and if you still want more, watch their latest video “I Hope You Get to Meet Your Hero.”

By April

If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted, I wish I had some ice cream.

2 replies on “Women Who Rock: Skin of Skunk Anansie”

This is so bananas. I like Sevendust and remember hearing “Licking Cream” and not thinking too much of it other than that the female vocalist had that grrr about her but I never investigated. Enter “What Are You Doing Here” about black women and rock music and here I am telling myself I need to go Youtube this woman and lo, I’ve heard her voice. And you’re right, when you see her, you expect screaming and intensity but, yes, silk is the perfect description. Her voice is very smooth and confident and Skunk Anansie’s music isn’t what I thought it would sound like. Back to Youtube I go!

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