Freda Rente’: The Compassionate Outsider

Freda Rente'. Photo by Phillip Cooke

Melina Paris, Music Columnist

San Pedro’s own Freda Rente’ (also known as Sista Sin) is celebrating the presence of the African American female presence in the punk-rock scene with a film-in-making called, Under the Underground, A Chocolate Girl’s Phobic Adventures within the Realm of Rock-N-Roll.

Under the Underground will be narrated by Freda with story segments, art and music with about 20 interviews with other artists including, Kyra Rossler of Black Flag and DOS and Dave Travis, producer and director of The Year Punk Broke.

Black women in music often are invisible, specifically in the punk scene. The documentary has been in the works for almost five years and chronicles her adventures in music and performance. The California punk scene of the late 70s to early 80s was very eclectic. It included bands whose sound crossed over to art or experimental punk.

In 1978, in Southern California, the first hardcore punk bands became popular. Fans tended to be younger than the art punks of the older Los Angeles scene and came mostly from the suburban parts of the Los Angeles area.

By 1979, the younger hardcore punks had replaced the older artistic Hollywood scene and become the leading expression in both Northern and Southern California. At this time, punk also began to diversify with sounds from hardcore party surf rock to 1960s garage rock. This was the scene that Freda and her contemporaries came from. She is a member of the punk band The Zarkons, who were formerly The Alleycats and was in the Los Angeles underground punk scene of the mid-80s.

Freda noted that the experimental and artistic nature of the punk rock scene is what drew her to it. Freda is also into rhythm and blues, rock and poetry. She sings, plays guitar,bass, drums and sitar, among other instruments.

“We die a billion deaths and we get to create ourselves again as many times as we are available to and strong enough to,” said Freda, describing what her documentary conveys.

In her words, Freda is the “designer of her own.” She has gone through tremendously hard times but she keeps getting back up and creating.

In addition to her documentary Freda’s mission these days is to bring all kinds of artists together in well-produced and well-presented live events. She does this as the host and producer of Noise Fest, a monthly event at Harold’s Place in San Pedro.

Noise Fest is a global live event that just happens to take place locally Freda says. She explained she uses the word “Noise” in the sense of sound. It is global because her vision is to present a multi-genre of artists from around the world to perform and show their art. Noise Fest is a hub for artists of all kinds including painters, storytellers, dancers and burlesque.

As a working studio musician Noise Fest was initially designed to provide Freda a live outlet to perform in. She chose to create an intimate personal atmosphere, while booking herself and other artists.She wants to bring in live bands and jam with them. She cooks a big meal for the artists that join her and they get to be in the advertisement for the events. As Freda see’s it she is inviting them into her “home.”

Noise Fest also serves as a live segment for Altered Culture T.V., a Web-based television show that Freda started.

Freda invites other artists to show their creations alongside her. There is a constant way of life and performance with Freda. She has been helping others for a long time, doing fundraisers for 20 years at Toberman House, Harbor Free Clinic and local homeless shelters.

She uses a screaming butterfly logo to promote her charity events, a poignant image, which might represent her or the people who she helps.

“It is a female winged being whose chest is open to reveal her ribcage in ugly shoes,” said Freda, describing the logo. “It is a silent scream.”

Freda has walked a sometimes torturous road in the music business and it has mostly to do with her skin color. She clearly specified that there is a difference from being a black female in the punk scene and being a black female – out front – in the punk scene. With her multiple talents, being out front was often her position. It was not a good experience for her.

“Being a drummer or playing bass guitar is non-threatening,” Freda said. “Being out front (on stage) is a different dynamic. It’s not simple.”

Freda explains that she is a musician and does not like to put color with music, or even gender. But it’s there. Realizing early in life that she was creative, she knew who she was and what she wanted to be. That is why she has always made her own path, even when others would try to box her in a certain genre, label or expectation. She is an artist who allows other artists to shine with her rather than stepping into the light alone. This also might be why it has been a hard road for her. She gives to others first.

The character “Sista Sin” has always been her alter ego Freda said. “Sista Sin” is a brilliant, take no prisoners type of person. She is fearless, without hurting people.

“All of my alters are extremely polite,” said Freda laughing. “I am a survivor in the truest sense. I can’t say music has been my release, most of my heartbreak has been by way of… (Music). It’s a one-sided love affair that I’m extremely passionate about.”

You can catch Freda’s live show monthly at Harold’s Place. Her lineup so far for January will be;  Sista Sin (AKA Freda Rente’), Neptune Recovery, The Slow Poisoner, from San Francisco and Joe Chambers Experience featuring Joe Chambers from The Chamber Brothers.

Venue: Harold’s Place
Location: 1908 S. Pacific Ave. San Pedro


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