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July-August 2010

Montreal’s Vanessa Rodrigues blends music and food activism

Jenn HardyWebsite

Vanessa Rodrigues serves up musical food activism. Photo by Tom Inoue.

Vanessa Rodrigues serves up musical food activism. Photo by Tom Inoue.

When she isn’t playing jazz organ in Rio de Janeiro or running her own jam session during the Montreal International Jazz Festival, musician Vanessa Rodrigues can usually be found making her own pickles. The Montreal-based musician has her plate full with music projects, but high on her list of priorities is food—the growing of, the eating of, and the educating about. She recently released her album Soul Food for Thought, a dancey, funky album all about food and the politics surrounding it.

“I am not a hard-core activist,” she says. “Nor am I going to play the part of a preachy vegetarian. I support local, organic markets and am pro small business. I grow my own food whenever I can.”

With mostly instrumental tracks, including tunes like “What’s in This?” and “Eater’s Manifesto,” Soul Food for Thought gets listeners thinking about what they are eating. The song “Ode to Monsanto” might not have any lyrics, but the creepy, uncomfortable feeling Rodrigues gets from the agricultural biotech company is vividly conveyed. Accused of trying to take over the world’s food supply by patenting genetically modified seeds, and making farmers desperately dependent on their particular pesticide, the chemical firm is—with good reason—under constant scrutiny.

Listen to a clip from “Eater’s Manifesto”:
Listen to a clip from “What’s In This?”:
Listen to a clip from “Ode to Monsanto”:

Rodrigues has done her homework on Monsanto and advises everyone to do the same. “People … need to know who Monsanto is, what it has done and what it is doing. These people made Agent Orange. You trust them with your food? Really?” Rodrigues recently started tending her own garden and now happily grows her own kale, beets, cucumbers, peppers, and carrots. But does she use pesticide?

“No thanks!” she says. “Sheep manure, that’s it.”

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