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Her voice has been featured in collaborations with Ringo Starr, Harry Gregson-Williams and the Dave Matthews Band, but Alanis Morissette teamed with a very different music-maker on her latest song: coffee grains.
The Grammy winner, along with renowned Costa Rican musician Carlos “Tapado” Vargas, used coffee beans and other machinery used in making coffee to create the percussion elements in “The Morning,” a new anthem inspired by female coffee producers in Costa Rica.
Morissette’s track and music video release accompanies the documentary A Small Section of the World — which premieres at DOC NYC on Nov. 14 before its release in limited theaters and VOD in December — directed by Lesley Chilcott (producer of Waiting for Superman, An Inconvenient Truth) and produced by Dominic Sandifer and Nick Davidge. It focuses on the Asociación de Mujeres Organizades de Biolley (ASOMOBI), and depicts how the female inhabitants of the Costa Rican town are vital to the global coffee production industry.
“I just basically live for the feminine being and beauty — really talking about it and extolling the virtues of the feminine being celebrated in men and women alike,” Morissette told The Hollywood Reporter of the collaboration. Watch THR’s exclusive premiere of the video below, followed by a chat with Morissette.
How did Nick and Dominic first approach you for this project?
I think they were trying to see who might lend the voice and sing through the hearts and minds and souls of these women in Costa Rica, to tell their story and articulate something that might be a little challenging to articulate. I was flattered that they saw me as the kind of person that can really get inside another person’s experience and capacity, and articulate it for them as best I could. It was an honor.
The title of the documentary came from a line in the bridge of your song. What inspired that line?
I think about all the people that served so generously in today’s world — whether it’s nurses, hospice workers or teachers, all these people perhaps are paid millions of dollars less than a baseball player in their prime, and yet they’re offering so much of their lives in generosity and expertise. A lot of them are not in the public eye. They don’t have their own YouTube channel. There aren’t millions of followers. But there’s this gorgeous planetary contribution and evolutionary contribution that’s taking place in a very quiet way. A lot of times, we live in a world where extroversion and warrior-ism wins the day, and the artists and the teachers and the priestesses — these people who provide more subtle contributions — are not publicly acknowledged, so for this to be publicly acknowledged is really heartening.
Did you get to meet any of the women or activists in Costa Rica?
My intention was to. We ended up Skyping a lot, and then Tapado and I met in person and worked together. Working with Tapado was really easy. We had a shorthand, and even though there was the translation challenge for us with speaking different languages, it was quite easy because in our own way we just kind of finished each other’s sentences.
You only have few minutes in your song to tease an hour-long doc. What do you hope viewers take away from your music video?
I think the invitation, in this small amount of time that the song lasts for, would be telling the subtle details of how women are every day, how we were built physiologically to serve. These women were built to serve; they’re built to fortify the bond of a village, of a community, of a family. So much of their intention behind this was to find ways to create income for their village to the point where people and family members wouldn’t have to leave in order to bring home the proverbial bacon. Their intentionality was to certainly provide a beautiful cup of coffee, but at the same time, the deeper intentionality behind it was to keep their families together, and to keep their culture not fragmented.
For a long time, there was no conversation about women in coffee. But I think Lesley was telling me some 75 percent of coffee-making is done by women. I just think the community of coffee and how the women’s movement conversation can be threaded into it is really exciting and surprising.
A Small Section of the World opens in Los Angeles on Dec. 5 and New York on Dec. 19, and will be available on demand beginning Dec. 16.
Editor’s note: The chat with Morissette has been edited and condensed.
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