Live Culture: Girls on the guitar

By Tali Israeli
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 1, 2004

UA coeds believe in singing, not stripping, to express themseves

Move over Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera; there are talented female artists who don't believe in stripping down to the bare minimum just so they can sing.

Justine Cabulong, a media arts freshman, and Christine Moussa, an undeclared sophomore, are two girls who sing and play guitar, but say they would never use their bodies to sell their music.

"I think an important part of being a female artist is not to depend on the characteristics that you have that males don't. Like being sexy," Cabulong said.

Moussa said her favorite female artist is Sarah McLachlan because "she writes quality music and doesn't need to use her body to sell it."

"I'm not a product that needs to be packaged a certain way and marketed to a certain crowd," Moussa said. "Yeah, sex sells, but for me, I'll leave it to the music. If it's good enough, it can sell itself."

There aren't a lot of bands that have female lead singers, but there are many solo female artists, Moussa said. And there could be more.

"I think there are a lot of girls that are talented, but maybe they are just too shy or not given the chance," she said.

Even though Cabulong said that in her experience, guys are better guitar players, she still thinks "females have all the potential to surprise the music industry."

Cabulong is a solo artist who plays acoustic guitar and sings at the Road Kill Grill, on the southwest corner of North Park Avenue and East University Boulevard. She started taking guitar lessons when she was 13 and then learned on her own for a while.

Cabulong was in a band and giving guitar lessons in high school, but when she moved to Tucson for college, she had to give them both up.

The style of music in her metal rock band was completely different from her sound as a solo artist, Cabulong said.

"It's different because when you're working in a band, it's a blend of styles and tastes, and I think that's really interesting. Playing solo is more personal. It's more personal than I would like it to be because it's all about me instead of that combination of people," Cabulong said.

Cabulong's songs cover topics like relationships, everyday living, personal theme songs and songs about other people's lives.

Moussa has been playing with her lifelong friend G.J. Hadeed in The Love Seat for two years. They got their start after winning Battle of the Bands last year.

Moussa said she's been singing since she was a little girl, but she was too shy to perform in front of crowds until her first public performance at her high school graduation.

Now, even though she still gets nervous, Moussa sings alongside Hadeed's guitar, playing at places like Belushes, 1112 E. Sixth St., and the Cellar in the Student Union Memorial Center.

Even though it's mostly a duet right now, Moussa said her band sometimes plays with drums and bass.

"I love expanding, mixing it up, different instruments, different styles," she added.

Every song she writes is an accomplishment for Moussa. She said that everyone has stories but it's hard to get it down into a song people want to hear.

"I always try to have a positive message because I think the world needs more peace and love messages than anything else. I don't want to just tell my story; I want it to connect with everybody," Moussa said.

Cabulong writes both the music and lyrics, while Moussa writes only the lyrics and leaves the rest to Hadeed.

"It can take anywhere from a couple of hours (to write a song) if I'm really headstrong on a topic, or it could take months because I'm waiting for something to come along and help me finish the song," Cabulong said.

For Moussa, however, songwriting normally takes five minutes, she said.

Both women said music is just a hobby for them right now but that they have room for improvement and are hoping to grow as artists.

"I don't really feel incredibly unique as an artist right now," Cabulong said.

Cabulong and Moussa believe their expression of emotion is what drives them as artists.

"My goal as an artist is to just be able to express the different experiences of my life through music but still be cryptic enough to keep them personal," Cabulong said.

The emotional impact of songwriting may be the reason Cabulong won't try to make a living as an artist.

"I don't want to survive off of having to have emotions and make something off them in order to feed myself," Cabulong said. "I try to be laid back about the whole thing because that's how it's supposed to be."

To hear Moussa, check out Cabulong plays at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Road Kill Grill.