Ypsi-based musician and director collaborate on song and video celebrating International Women's Day

Ypsilanti-based musical group Abigail Stauffer and The Wisdom released a song called "Embodied," with an accompanying video by Ypsilanti filmmaker Toko Shiiki, today to mark International Women's Day. The video was shot in several locations around Ypsilanti, including Frog Island Park and The Ypsilanti Performance Space.

Stauffer says the song's title and theme are about how she and other women can reexamine their relationships with their bodies.

"A therapist suggested thinking more about how it feels to be in your body rather than what your body looks like," she says. "So much of our concern centers around our appearance, rather than the experience we're having in the body and what a body can do."

Stauffer says Shiiki, a friend of hers, was a natural choice to direct the video. Stauffer says it was inspiring to film the video with two other local performers she admires, Jenny Jones and Nickie P, and to have the video shot by a woman filmmaker, featuring a local female dancer performing in spots around Ypsilanti.

Stauffer wrote most of the lyrics, with Nickie P supplying rap lyrics for the song's bridge. Part of the music was written by Stauffer's regular collaboration partner, Dave Haughey (a.k.a. Dave the Cellist).

Shiiki says she immediately said yes when Stauffer asked her to shoot the video, even before she had heard the song. But once she heard it, she knew she had to help get the song's powerful message out.

Shiiki says she originally wanted the storyline and the dance in the video to convey power. However, that vision became more nuanced after seeing dancer Cristina G. Benn in action. 

"I saw her dancing, and she could express so much vulnerability and also open herself up, so I changed the story entirely," Shiiki says.

Shiiki says the song's message of rejecting others' judgments and to being comfortable in one's body resonated with her. She says "lookism" and impossible beauty standards aren't just a problem in America, but around the world, including Japan and other Asian countries. She notes that a series of posters promoting plastic surgery for teenage girls across Tokyo recently caused an uproar.

"I really wanted to share this music and add a visual journey to this powerful music to share not just to the U.S. but the world, especially in Asian countries," she says.

You can listen to "Embodied" and watch the video for the song at abigailstauffer.com or www.tokoshiiki.com.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Abigail Stauffer and Toko Shiiki.
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