As the world celebrates and shines a spotlight on women for this year’s International Women’s Day and women’s month, we look at Kenya’s music industry and the plenty of success it has to showcase.
Narrowing it down to music streaming, the most popular means of accessing music in today’s world, we speak to some great women at Boomplay, as well as their partners and artists, to understand their thoughts and role in embracing equality and equity in their individual spaces.
For Boomplay, charity seems to truly begin at home and Tosin Sorinola, Boomplay’s Director of Artist & Media Relations, puts it succinctly: “One can easily tell that Boomplay is a huge supporter and driver of women’s representation and empowerment through our workforce, which consists of great women in leadership positions at management and other levels across our local, regional and global operations. The General Managers of four of the six countries where Boomplay has a physical presence are female, and we also have women in director positions in our global leadership teams.”
These top executives, backed by their respective Boomplay teams, are changing the narrative of the under-representation of women in Africa’s music industry.
Boomplay, which has a diverse music catalogue of 95 million songs from across Africa and globally, gives artists – both men and women alike – the opportunity to earn from their musical talent, thus enabling a more inclusive music industry, but how is the platform helping female artists achieve their dreams?
Sorinola says Boomplay is dedicated to amplifying women’s voices and ensuring inclusion and equal representation in music.
Big reason to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day
She adds that ‘Content categorization and diversification efforts by Boomplay have optimized female musicians’ visibility by gradually increasing female artists’ exposure in its recommendations.
We engage all our resources for female artists’ content promotion, thereby creating equal opportunities and ensuring female artists have extended reach just like their male counterparts”.
Famous Kenyan singer, Nadia Mukami, is among African women artists with a big reason to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) – in no small way because of her association with Boomplay.
Nadia, also a songwriter, performer, poet and recently, record label owner, is one of the top streamed woman musicians on Boomplay in Kenya, according to stats from the 2022 Boomplay Recap.
“I make money from my music; I am living on my music,” says Nadia, who started singing five years ago while on campus.
Award-winning Nadia hails this year’s IWD theme, ‘Embrace Equity’, as a clarion call to women to “keep pushing against discrimination in the music industry.”
She cites the underpayment of female artists as a norm and a serious challenge that needs addressing fast. “You would find a female singer underpaid for shows even if she has a bigger song than the male artiste who is paid more.”
Bilha Ngaruiya, Country Manager Kenya at Boomplay partner ONErpm agrees that equal opportunities need to be more. She says the responsibility to have a more equitable society, industry, or workplace is for everyone to look outside themselves and invite people in.
Promoting gender equality and equity
She says, “Equitable action requires us to move beyond our biases and do what’s best for our community, industry, and each other. American actress, writer, producer, and comedian Issa Rae captured my exact thoughts about this when she said ‘, I think it’s all about time. I’m obsessed with the time that I have left and the small window that I have to make the changes that I want to see before I hopefully get old and die. And leave these places for the next young female music executives.”
clarion call to women to keep pushing against discrimination in the music industry.
“I think operating from that scared place is actually really helpful because it makes us impatient about waiting for things to happen. And do it now instead of the ever-elusive tomorrow! And it makes us fearless about the things we normally might be afraid of, like rejection, embarrassment, or diminishment. If it can be urgent for us to push for equality and equity in our communities than we will see change today while we are still here.”
Ngaruiya adds ‘ONErpm is excellent at promoting gender equality and equity. Not only do I have a variety of female colleagues from diverse backgrounds and diverse experiences to lean on for support and guidance, but I also have loads of male colleagues who support the women and us in our ecosystem. They guide us where we need guidance, support, laud, and lift us when needed”.
Anyiko Owoko, a lover of music, arts and culture and a staunch supporter of artists and the creative sector,” founded Anyiko Public Relations – a leading artists and culture PR agency based in Nairobi, Kenya.
She shares her thoughts on this year’s women’s day, stating that: “This year’s theme #EmbraceEquity theme is very appropriate and calls for society to recognize that women make things work while being considered equal even though they are naturally poised to encounter a lot more difficulties and challenges in life, with many linked to childbearing and the task of maintaining their careers after that.”
Help create an equitable society
“We must recognize that we still live in a society that doesn’t consider such extra baggage and disadvantages. If we did, all workplaces would have different policies to suit working mothers, pregnant women and children.”
After all has been said and done, how does embracing equity in the music industry affect the outcomes?
Martha Huro, the Managing Director of East Africa and General Manager of Kenya for Boomplay and yet another key figure playing a significant role in promoting equity in the region’s music industry stated that ‘This year’s theme ‘Embrace Equity resonates with all the avenues and opportunities created at Boomplay for artists and industry executives.
In my role, I’m opportune to work with incredible women in the music industry who go the extra mile to achieve their goals.
Women are known to be intelligent, passionate, creative and great multitaskers, amongst other outstanding qualities, and creating an industry that applauds and rewards women by giving us equal opportunities and voices without bias based on gender will go a long way to advance our industry in all aspects from production to distribution and all other touch points in the ecosystem.
This will also, by extension, help to create an equitable society.