Vague Audio Tapes founder Dominic Martin loves the surge of activism that’s been sweeping Philadelphia, but he has one beef: It could have more focus on causes at the local level.
“Many local groups and organizations that are fighting for civil rights, social justice [and] the disenfranchised,” Martin said, “do not get the same attention — and thus funds — as national groups fighting the same fight.”
Determined to do something about it, he decided to get his Philly-based record label involved.
Last week, Vague Audio Tapes (VAT) kicked off a new album series benefiting local nonprofits. The first release is a compilation featuring songs by 18 different artists, in styles ranging from from the “coffee shop riot gurl” vibe of rapper Moor Mother to the minimal techno of Hero/Victim.
All proceeds from the tape, which is available to purchase online (“name your price” for the digital album; $7 for the physical cassette), will go directly to Project SAFE. The 13-year-old, volunteer-run nonprofit provides advocacy and support for women working in what the organization calls “street economies” — aka “the sex and drug trades on the street in Philadelphia.”
Specifically, the VAT money will go toward tampons and sanitary wipes. Yes, tampons.
“They’re one of the most requested items we’ve had,” Project SAFE spokesperson Jen King explained. “Women have often told us they’ll leave tampons in for over 24 hours because they’re so expensive.” (Leaving tampons in that long can lead to dangerous infections — including, on rare occasion, Toxic Shock Syndrome.) King also noted that women, especially those in unstable housing situations, are often forced to choose between food or sanitary products when they’re menstruating.
Moor Mother, whose given name is Camae Ayewa, told Billy Penn she has participated in similar sanitary supply drives in the past for shelters, “so it is something important to me.” The song she contributed, titled “Sea,” was chosen because she “wanted to present a noise track that shares the urgency of the cause.”
Ayewa’s reasoning was echoed by several of the musicians on the tape, which sonically runs the gamut from the ambient sounds of Chaperone to the more techno-oriented Ultraesthetic.
“What Dominic has done with this benefit compilation is massively important,” said Chaperone’s David Coccagna, “[It] shines a light on a very overlooked necessity facing Philadelphian women in shelters and on the streets.”
Stephanie Bonham, who records as Lead Pipe, agreed: “Sanitary products are a basic necessity that go a long way toward making daily life easier for folks living on the street.”
For his part, Martin is excited to be working with Project SAFE on this under-covered issue, since his goal with this series isn’t just to raise money for local causes, but to raise awareness as well.
Next up in the VAT series will be a release focused on refugee resettlement in the area.