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Transvocalizers –Suzy Wedge & The Waves

| Jul 20, 2009
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Transvocalizers by Pamela DeGroff

Suzy Wedge is a musician/singer with a mission. Her chosen vehicle for that mission happens to be surf music. Okay, so what’s so unusual about that? After all, there is a renewed interest in that genré. What makes Suzy Wedge unique is that she is a transgender Canadian who is originally from Istanbul, Turkey. She currently resides in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and is enrolled in the Jazz Studies Program at Vancouver Island University. She only just recently “came out” as Suzy, and while her band, The Waves, is relatively new as well, she’s already (pardon the pun, but it’s too good not to use) making waves in the music scene.

“I come from a musical family,” Suzy said. “My mom is the only in the family interested in serious music, though, and she listens to everything from tango to jazz. My dad likes what my mom does. They live their lives as bohemians and they have family friends who listen to music together, and go to tango, jazz, and classical music events every week.”

According to Suzy, growing up in Istanbul she was exposed to a diverse music scene. “I heard a lot of different styles of Turkish music when I was a child,” she said. “At the same time, a lot of music from the Western world such as blues, jazz, metal, rockabilly, surf, and Latin.”

While Suzy was still at home and growing up the best known guitar teacher in Istanbul was Bora Uslusoy, and it was through studying with him that Suzy’s training and technique began to diversify and develop.

A few years back, Suzy heard the surf music band Rumblefish, and was hooked on the style. She expanded her guitar playing by taking lessons from their guitar player. Unfortunately, Suzy (or rather her male self Cihan Unal) was required to go into the Turkish military. However, she used the time to woodshed her guitar chops. This, in turn, lead to further exploring music when her military service was over. The move to Canada provided the opportunity to study and develop in a much different environment.

“I apply jazz technique and theory to my playing,” she said. “Jazz theory helped me to understand the structures in my songs. I became a better song writer with the help of jazz theory.”

Her band, Suzy Wedge and The Waves, includes two other members who are also Suzy’s classmates and roommates. Paul, drums; and Dustin, bass (no last names provided.) It was at school that Suzy became “Suzy,” and the band was put together.

“When I came out as Suzy first day of the second semester, everybody got shocked, including my teachers,” she said. “They did not know how to react and communicate with Suzy…they knew me as John or Cihan before. After they got to know Suzy, they started to accept me as Suzy. After I explained that I am a trans woman, they found that new person exciting and interesting. I have very strong emotional connections with my friends. There is an incredibly strong relationship, friendship, and support behind that story. All my friends have been helping me to deliver that very strong, very important transgender message to the people for the last six months.”

Suzy’s delivering of that message has gotten her banned from giving political speeches on trans issues and rights at a local club. “I care very deeply about the politics involved in my band,” she said. “But I’ve always enjoyed surf music, and care about my songs a lot.” This is evident in songs such as “Fear”, which is about transphobia; “Transgression,” a song about exploring the possibility of moving beyond the gender binary; and a song about suffering oppression entitled “Hidden Emotions.” All of these tunes are due to be part of Suzy Wedge and The Waves upcoming album, entitled Transgression. No firm release date has been set yet, but early fall is a possibility.

“In every kind of music, there is discrimination against girl musicians,” Suzy said. “There is social stigma in the society that females can only sing. And society prefers to listen to male instrumentalists more than female instrumentalists.”

You might not have thought surf music was anything but fun, non-serious stuff to listen to while by the beach or pool. Guess again. Suzy Wedge and The Waves are definitely on a mission to not only keep the genre’ viable, but to change the overall perspective towards transgender people everywhere.

“If I have one thing to say to the whole world, I would say peace, understanding different cultures and different people and considering every human being as equal and unique will bring people freedom,” Suzy said in closing. “We will break the chains that limit us. We will explore different worlds.”

For more information on Suzy Wedge and The waves and to hear their music check out their MySpace page.

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Category: Music

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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