Tuesday 12 March 2019

Mother Zosima - The Greatest Story Ever Sold -1990's- (Tape, Self-Released), US

Mother Zosima (the radical nun) was a feminist avant-folk project created by Kirsten Anderberg based on performances at Seattle (night-)clubs between 1983 and 2001. She took her name from the character Father Zosima who is one of the characters in The Brothers Karamazov (1879) of Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. In the story Father Zosima is some sort of guru as well as an ideal image of an orthodox Christian saint living in a monastry. He preaches for compassion and peace, basically as a reflection of Christ. During the course of the story Father Zosima dies and his holiness is called into question by the rest of the monastry because his body starts to decompose very rapidly leaving behind a terrible smell. This decomposing process is being looked upon as a sign of God prooving that Zosima was nothing but a mortal soul.

I suppose by inverting this character into Mother Zosima not only is Anderberg opposing Dostoevsky's approach of putting the man at a literary centerpoint - The "Brothers" Karamazov - as feminist critique, she is also shaping her own mirrored performative image as a radical nun that is preaching her own ideals. By choosing the title The Greatest Story Ever Sold she shows her cleverness of creating this image but also the self-irony she puts into her personification since Zosima is being looked upon as a mortal soul. And that's why this is some incredible music criticizing the American society. It is not at all stagnated into this contemporary gender and identity poltics debate we deal with nowadays, but it shows how cleverness, self-consciousness, lots of humor and appropriating commercial culture can actually serve the cause of the actual message.

The music by Mother Zosima is straight radical feminism, criticism of politics, criticism of commercial culture, criticism of weird American morals and Christianity etc. but it doesn't directly attack its enemy. It's an approach of empowering the woman, not obeying to conformism and preaches for self-empowerment while dissecting the different corrupted aspects of American society with humor and with a lot of skill. It reminds me of the feminist beat poets of the sixties like Diane Di Prima as well as some other female protest-song vocalists from the revolutionary hippie times in the States. It musically also comes close to Care of The Cow and their singer Christine Baczewska's solo work and even of certain songs by Annette Peacock

The songs by Mother Zosima are still so extremely relevant today. It's like nothing has ever changed. Specially when we look at this madness with Trump and the current state of the United States. To me it's really important to see how Mother Zosima's music is not some cult music stuff from the glory days of hippie hights, but music from a much later era carrying these important messages whilst not yet fallen victim to today's infinite cynical and polarised political views. We can learn from this creativity today and understand how political hyper-reality doesn't help us further by fighting it's xenophobic symptoms, but to put forward a message in a very clever package without being distracted nor doing concessions to constant exterior confirmation. This is what empowerment looks like. This is what is so deadly important about Feminism. I hope that Archaic Inventions can sometimes show the link from the past to today and provide possibilites and/or show the potentials of emancipatory power.

The Seattle scene of the 90's - aside from the birth of Grunge (an albino, a mosquito..) and stuff - was probably very very interesting and consisted of a creative diversity that was able to birth all of this legendary musical output. But yep, what a time we live in now! But we won't let our guard down. No worries. Enjoy Mother Zosima! (btw I wasn't too sure about the year of the release).

Get it HERE


  1. But wait, there's more!

    Mother Zosima teams up with Linda Schierman to form Raw Sugar. Here is their cassette release, which is probably self-titled, though from the inside cover art it sort of looks like it might be titled "1985." I'm assuming this is also the release date. I do not have the outer cover art, so who knows?

    And then there is another collection of Raw Sugar songs...though I have no idea what its title is, or even whether it was ever released. Someone just loaned me this tape without much labeling, so here it is:

    Mother Zosima was frequently a strolling musician at the Oregon Country Fair in the 1980s. This point of information, plus the date of 1985 on the Raw Sugar release, leads me to suspect that your guess of a '90s release date for "The Greatest Story Ever Told" may be off by a decade.

    Thanks for posting great and obscure stuff!

  2. Hi there, it is I, Mother Zosima, still singing in my nun's habit at protests in Hollywood in 2020! My performing chronology is
    1978 - busker Pike Place Market, performing breaks at clubs for what became the Royal Famille du Caniveaux
    1980 - underage backup singer in Seattle Motown band, Annie Rose and the Thrillers
    1982 - Raw Sugar forms with me, Linda and Becky Woods, who went on to become Miss Washington
    1983 - performed with Seattle Swing, David The Minstrel and Harmonica Bruce
    1983 - 1989 Linda and I perform as duo Raw Sugar
    1989 - current I have performed as Mother Zosima
    throughout the decades, I have performed at fairs, clubs, events, on streets. I got 8 tickets for obscenity/peace disturbance for singing the songs on this cassette in Santa Cruz, CA in 1986. The ACLU represented me on all 8 charges and the charges were dropped but I began wearing the nun's habit to get cops to quit harassing me on streets! As Artis the Spoonman was a block away screaming his "poem" "give me back my foreskin" I was being arrested for singing "girls have got to act a certain way or they call us bitch" - charged with obscenity for "bitch!" The Pike Place Market took my busking permit over bitch in that song too, requiring a hearing...ugh. The double standard for obscenity re men and women on streets busking is marked! I am glad to see people still enjoying my music. I wish it would become irrelevant!!

  3. Omgods!! Lol at those old Raw Sugar cassettes! I do not even have copies of those anymore! Linda and I first performed as Raw Sugar in 1982 at the University Street Fair in Seattle, sharing an intersection with Artis the Spoonman, Reggie Miles, Robert Almblade and Scarecrow playing together. I believe that first cassette with One Hour Mama, which I forgot we even recorded, was recorded and sold in 1984. Then the next year was the 1985 cassette. We made our own jay cards with press on letters, it was all very independent in all ways! It is crazy to hear these recordings I made in my 20's now that I am almost 60! Thanks for posting them!

  4. Awesome and amazing to hear from you! And I am so glad that you approve! Thanks for the detailed info, too! So it sounds like I was inaccurate about seeing you at the Fair in the 80s, since you didn't go solo until 1989. Well, you know how all those Fairs blend together...

    BTW, I am not the person who runs this blog, but I'm the guy who uploaded the Raw Sugar music to YouTube. The source tapes I used were borrowed from Teri Ciacci (who I think you might know?)

    I'm a big fan, so I always try to share your tunes with anyone who I think needs to hear it. Yes, sadly, it's still relevant. Glad to know you are still at it!

  5. Big fan of Mother Zosima checking in from Maine--I saw her on the streets of Seattle c.1990, bought the cassette, and went on to attend the same seminary as Nadia Bolz-Weber, (who would love her music if she doesn't already). I was eventually ordained in the United Church of Christ. This music has been quoted in sermons, and now that it's Advent, I'm thinking of it again in a radical-activist-joyful-resistance "magnificat" kind of way. Mother Zosima, if you see this, carry on with your Good Trouble!

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