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7 foundation.fm DJs and collectives on the women and non-binary artists who inspire them

foundation.fm is linking up Pioneer DJ for a series of workshops, discussions and more

  • In association with Pioneer DJ
  • 15 March 2021

foundation.fm has two key goals: providing you with radio shows you wanna shout about to your mates and making a safe space for women and LGTBQI+ persons. Listeners and hosts on the show will say the Peckham radio station has lived up to those goals since its formation in 2018. From 10am to 10pm, foundation.fm serves up the freshest tunes from across the board, from fruity UK garage, sun-kissed afrobeats, Jersey club and bumpin' house music to rugged techno, electro, grime, drill and trap. That's just a handful of what you'll hear played out by the likes of residents Heléna Star, KG, Scarlett O'Malley, Kennedy Taylor, Freshta, Vanessa Maria, Concrete Jungyals and more on a programme which includes The Brunch Show, The Specialists and The Mix Hour, the latter being a final hour of power each day, with Sally C, SYREETA, TSHA and Nightwave listed as previous guests. There's also the Friday Takeover, which gets guest labels, collectives or DJs from other stations on the airwaves, or the Artist Hour, which has welcomed the likes of House Gospel Choir and Nubya Garcia. If you're after a bit of downtime, afternoon show the Catch Up will tailor to your needs, balancing out tunes and chat.

Co-founded by Frankie Wells and Becky Richardson, foundation, in its own words, puts women at the forefront, pushing for gender equality and helping women and non-binary progress in the music industry. This year, foundation.fm has linked up with Pioneer DJ for a special partnership which kicked off on International Women's Day. For this, the community radio station will be working with the DJ tech brand on a bunch stuff including workshops, discussions, a radio takeover and a DJ competition.

As part of the foundation.fm and Pioneer DJ hook-up, we spoke to some of foundation's DJs and collectives to find out the women in music who inspire them, what they've learnt from them, the importance of women role models and more.

Heléna Star

Who are the women in music who inspire you most?

To pick one is too hard! I am inspired by all the women I have met on my journey so far. Just being surrounded by so many outstanding women is something that I feel very blessed to have. Someone who I have been watching and learning from has been Ash Lauryn.

Why does Ash Lauryn inspire you so much?

From her radio shows to blog - Underground & Black - she is an artist who has a clear purpose in her work, has such extensive knowledge of music and a deep love that really shines through.

What have you learnt from them?

That putting in the hours really does pay off.

How can you use this inspiration in your own career?

Asking myself the question, 'Why?' Keeping the roots as to why we do it.

What advice would you give to women who are trying to get into the music industry?

Just do you. Use your energy to focus on your own journey. Getting swept up in what other people are doing can hold you back.

What is the importance of women role models?

Seeing a reflection of your own image in an aspiring position can only be positive. Being able to see someone that represents you is crucial.

What new women artists and collectives are you excited about in dance music?

Anz, Jossy Mitsu, Effy, TYGAPAW, Amaliah, Gabrielle Kwarteng, plus so many others!

What changes would you like to see in the music industry to help women succeed?

Paying women, especially Black women, for their contributions. Not using us as tokens on line-ups and keeping the energy from International Women's Day everyday.

Kennedy Taylor 

Who are the women in music who inspire you?

This is hard as there are so many but I would say J Lo, Annie Mac, Amaarae, Erykah Badu, Rihanna, Amy Winehouse, Ms Banks and all of the women DJs doing their thing.

Why do they inspire you so much?

Firstly, I think J Lo’s work ethic is unmatched and that’s what I love about her. I think all of these women have challenged stereotypes, shown us their true authentic selves and created their own brand and lane.

What have you learnt from them?

I’ve learnt that I can really succeed on my own as a woman, I can show my true self, I can experiment with different looks and I don’t have to fit into a box. We have a lot of power and there are no limits to what we can achieve. We can be whatever we want to be and if people don’t like it that’s ok.

How can you use this inspiration in your own career?

When I feel like I don’t fit the image or sound that might be popular, I remember that all of these women are and were completely unique, respected and unbothered by society’s judgement. It’s actually cool to just be you. It reminds me to not try and fit the mould. I did that when I first moved to London and will never do it again.

What advice would you give to women who are trying to get into the music industry?

Please remember that you are the brand, create your own opportunities and build your own platform instead of someone else’s. That doesn’t mean don’t take great opportunities elsewhere, but realise your value and do things for yourself that you can own completely.

What is the importance of women role models?

They are vital! It’s so important to see women succeeding in the industries you want to be in, to be able to say, ‘She did it, so can I’. Anything we imagine has already been done meaning we can do it too! To be able to actually see it for real makes it even more believable for us.

What new women artists and collectives are you excited about in dance music?

I’m really excited about an artist called Denyher. She’s a really sick rapper from the UK and she’s got such an authentic sound. There’s also an incredible non-binary artist called DijahSB from Canada and I really think they’re [going to be] next to blow. They make such honest music.

What changes would you like to see in the music industry to help women succeed?

I would like to see more safe spaces for women, just like foundation.fm. Places that actually nurture women’s talents and skills from a genuine place, not for the wrong reasons. I also want to see more men in the industry becoming allies and challenging sexist behaviour. More has to be done to protect us.

Read this next: The unsung Black women pioneers of house music

Scarlett O’Malley

Who are the women in music who inspire you most?

Eliza Rose, Ell Murphy, Heléna Star, RAW SILK, and Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and many more from across the radio industry like Frankie from foundation.fm, Snoochie Shy and Moxie.

Why do they inspire you so much?

Each of these women inspires me for completely different reasons. I love that Eliza is truly eclectic in her sound and is a real selector. Her music knowledge is so broad and deep. Also, her love for records mirrors mine and I just think she’s really talented, both in what she plays and how she executes it. She’s also singing and writing a book!

Ell Murphy is doing so much at the moment production wise and it’s been great to see her grow over the past year. So many great productions, written tunes and vocals. Her tracks sound like authentic '90s UKG and each and every one is a banger.

Heléna Star is another DJ I’ve loved seeing rising through the ranks over the past couple of years and I loved her Mixmag Lab LDN set. Heléna is one of those DJs whose mixes I can listen to and love every tune. She plays the kind of house that I love, has wicked taste and I trust every track that she chooses.

RAW SILK I just really admire for their multifaceted sets and their selections. I’m always really interested to see what they play with every set, bringing something new!

Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy has kind of done it all. After I interviewed her for my whynow radio show, ‘In Conversation with...’, I kind of felt like we were kindred spirits; love a lot of the same music, subculture and records, so to see what she’s been doing over the past 10 years with events and Classic Album Sundays, she’s a real hard-working inspiration.

What have you learnt from them?

Collectively, they have taught me that being authentic to yourself will always prevail, and to also trust in my sound and selections as versatile as they may be. I’ve been collecting records for well over 10 years now, and deep dived across the board in terms of genre, and that’s okay! Also to keep on keeping on even when you doubt yourself.

How can you use this inspiration in your own career?

These women really inspire me to carry on learning on my craft, to keep on searching and digging for records and tunes, and to work to your strengths while remaining true to yourself. They help settle my nerves in trying to navigate this industry.

What advice would you give to women who are trying to get into the music industry?

Perseverance is key and hard work will win. Also, do not be put off by misogyny - subtle or overt - in the industry as it will be a factor, but for every person who attempts to hang over you in a DJ set and monitor your levels because they think you don’t have a clue, or for every person who talks down to you, there will always be someone waiting to champion you. There are so many women across the music industry now just waiting to open up even more gates of opportunity so stay strong.

What is the importance of women role models?

Representation and opening up avenues in order to show what you can do is so important. You want to be able to see what is possible when starting out in the industry. I also love working in women-heavy environments. I’ve always found them really supportive and felt my most comfortable. The creativity spawned in these spaces is always incredible so women role models are crucial.

What new women artists and collectives are you excited about in dance music?

Amaliah is such a cool and talented girl I’ve got to know over the past couple of years. I love how hungry she is to find new tunes and perfect the art of DJing. She’s really got her eye on the ball and I’m excited to see where she goes.

Sisu crew, Selextorhood and Splint are all collectives that have really caught my attention in the past year, whether it be through live mixes, charity fundraisers, radio shows and collaborations. They are really pushing women in the industry and I’ve really taken notice.

What changes would you like to see in the music industry to help women succeed?

More opportunities, particularly for working class women attempting to get into the industry. It’s already hard enough trying to have your voice heard among the noise and most are over-qualified for jobs they apply for. Just to be seen as fair competition for roles, but add in the struggle of not having financial support to take on free internships or low-paid work and no family ties to get you in the door, it really is made so much harder. Also fairer line-ups, more equality in industry work forces and wider representation in all factions of the industry from sound engineering to management.

Vanessa Maria

Who are the women in music who inspire you most?

Bianca Oblivion, Jamz Supernova, Halfqueen, Tash LC, Mina, KG, Tiffany Calver, SHERELLE, LCY, Fauzia, OK Williams, Jordsss, Snoochie Shy. The list can go on!!!

Why do they inspire you so much?

They are all authentically themselves, they each dare to be who they want to be and they have perfected their craft. Seeing women kill it in such a male-dominated industry is so empowering, it makes you feel like you can do it too. They are role models, trailblazers and gate openers. I can relate to each of them in so many different ways and it's their self-transformation that is truly inspiring. More than anything, it's the hope and encouragement that they install in the younger generation of women. It's the 'If I can you can' mentality which translates into the idea that you, yourself, are genuinely the formula for your own success as much the next person is for themselves. In short, these women inspire me to believe in myself and self-belief is truly one of the most beautiful gifts in this life.

What have you learnt from them?

Don’t compromise who you are. Your integrity is absolutely everything. Don’t give up. Trust the process. Work hard and stay focused. Music is for everyone, you are supposed to be here and you deserve to take up space. Take risks, push new music, experiment with your sound and be fearless with it! Most importantly I’ve learned that we're all still learning, so don’t ever feel like you can’t ask someone a question. And believe in your sauce - vital!

How can you use this inspiration in your own career?

I back myself now more than I have ever done. I believe in myself and I allow room for mistakes. We are all still learning and no one is perfect! I also just have a go-for-it attitude, you don’t get it if you don’t ask and the worst that someone can say is 'No'. I’ve also become more experimental in the sounds I’m pushing, I’ve always loved global club music from South African Gqom to Brazilian baile funk but my first love is drill and I’ve always been a huge driller. In my own career, I have been inspired to merge club and drill. It's the two sounds that best present me as a person, and that’s largely come from watching all these amazing women push the sounds that they know and love.

What advice would you give to women who are trying to get into the music industry?

You can and you will. Don’t let anyone - especially a man - tell you otherwise. It's a difficult industry to break into but that does not mean it's impossible. Nothing is impossible. With the right work ethic, you’ll be exactly where you want to be with patience, timing and dedication. Do your research, understand the scene, perfect your craft, and stay consistent. Don’t be discouraged by 'failure'. When one door closes, another door opens somewhere else. Just remember that what is meant for you will never miss you. It's never about getting it right, it's about having the confidence to show up and give it a go! If you don’t try you’ll never know where you could have headed and truly the greatest gift you can offer is that of your own self-transformation. So keep doing you, focus on yourself and your goals and don't ever give up. I’m excited about your journey!

What is the importance of women role models?

It means everything. Women role models represent and expand what is possible, they give other women hope and they empower the younger generation to follow their dreams. They inspire women to be more ambitious and to aim higher and they offer a framework for how to do so. As role models, they show us what mindsets and behaviours we need to rise. Women role models are the blueprint.

What new women artists and collectives are you excited about in dance music?

Boko! Boko! is a party and collective founded by Mina, Tash LC and Juba which excites me so much! They champion future sounds from around the world including Afropop, Tropical and Kuduro. I played at their Christmas party in 2019, just before lockdown, and it was so much fun - the very best energy and the very best vibes. I'm super excited to hear more from Fauzia this year after dropping the 'flashes in time' EP. Alvaa, a DJ and producer from Barcelona, is also due to drop more this year which I’m gassed about and anything that KG puts her hands on is gold dust! Jesley is also my favourite up-coming producer. Her productions are so clean-cut and immaculate it's ridiculous.

What changes would you like to see in the music industry to help women succeed?

We need more women in positions of power, I don’t just want women to have seats at the table, I want them to get rid of the table, build their own tables and have an influence on the decisions that are being made in the music industry. I’m tired of gender inequality, I’m tired of sexual harassment, I’m tired of women having to callout behaviour. In 2021 I want to see men holding other men accountable, as we women are tired of being the educators and the onus shouldn’t always be on us. I want skill-based programmes for women who want to get into music, grants and funds, workshops, mentorship schemes, permanent job roles, equipment and opportunities. I want it all for women because we deserve to shine.

Freshta

Who is the woman/women in music who inspires you most?

Martha is someone in music who has inspired me since the start of my music career. She's a DJ, radio presenter, documentary maker and curator. Her weekly show on NTS Radio on a Friday afternoon is always one to keep up with and she also runs Tempo, a collective bringing together music and sport.

Why do they inspire you so much?

Seeing her be so multi-faceted with her work in the music industry really inspires me to push the boundaries with my work and combine different aspects of what I love into DJing and radio. Also, Martha has been so supportive and has paved opportunities for up-and-coming women in the music industry, including myself, which goes to show how genuinely passionate and encouraging she is to get women into the music industry which is inspirational to see.

What have you learnt from them?

In my early days of entering the music industry, Martha's radio shows taught me a lot about radio show preparation, structure and creation. As someone who started out in the industry with no background or experience in radio, I had to depend on learning through others and Martha was an example of someone I was able to learn a lot from, as well as being someone who was willing to teach others.

How can you use this inspiration in your own career?

It's inspired me to encourage and connect with other women wanting to enter or develop the music industry, particularly women of colour like myself who are underrepresented and are starting off self-taught without any experience.

What advice would you give to women who are trying to get into the music industry?

Perfect your craft. Put in the time and effort to be skilled at what you do. Don't be shy of seeking out advice from people you know in the industry and/or look up to and utilise the opportunities around you. A lot of people don't realise how many communities and collectives have opportunities for people wanting to get in the music industry. Be proactive and look out for these chances. For example, free DJ or music production courses or shadowing radio presenters.

What is the importance of women role models?

Women role models provide a necessary representation of an underrepresented group in music and beyond. Role models lead by example and spark inspiration in those wanting to follow in their footsteps, which is vital if we want to see a change in gender inequality. Having women role models to idolise triggers the thought of 'If she can do it, then I can too' which is often what is needed for a women to take the leap into a male-dominated industry.

What new women artists and collectives are you excited about in dance music?

Where do I start? My G Jossy Mitsu recently released her debut EP 'Planet J' on Astral Black Records. She's a sick DJ so it's not a surprise her productions bang, too. I can't wait until we can hear her electronic sound in the dance. Sicaria Sound recently blessed us with their 'Binate' EP giving us bass heavy sounds - 'Midnight Strike' is a personal favourite off the project. Even though 2021 is the final year for the duo I'm looking forward to what else they have to bring us this year. Some of the collectives in the music industry that push for women in the scene include Producergirls, Sisu Crew, shesaidso, Saffron Records and Girls Can't DJ (GCDJ).

What changes would you like to see in the music industry to help women succeed?

More space made for women, particularly black and women of colour in the music industry, in music line-ups and also positions of power. Also, for more people involved in the music industry that aren't necessarily artists or the 'face' of a brand, to rise up and contribute to gender equality, like promoters and label owners. Real change won't be seen until everyone is pushing the same agenda, and we all have a part to play.

CTRL SHFT

Who are the women in music who inspire you most?

EZE: Julie Adenuga, Hemah K, Maya Jama, Alex Ampofo, Yinka Bokinni, Nadia Jae, Henrie, Kamilla Rose, Amika Ezer, Taylah Elaine, Jordss, KG, Lil C and more!

Annie: It's not just one or even a couple of women that inspire me most, but seeing women, as a whole, gain more visibility throughout music drives me I'm seeing women all around me
striving and achieving their dreams. Getting jobs, headline sets, songwriting, producing, singing, heading up PR agencies, marketing roles, creating whole, female-led radio stations
(shout out foundation.fm!) in every aspect of this industry. I'm seeing so many women band together to bring each other onto projects, create and collaborate together. A collective voice is impossible to ignore and it's inspiring to see so many women winning together.

Why do they inspire you so much?

EZE: Each of these women have created a seat a table for themselves in a male dominated-industry, excelling in high-rank positions or being an absolute gem in the scene. Some of these women I look up to in regards to hard work, consistency and character and personality. Others I admire for their craft, skills and years of experience. Most I think are just sick full stop!

What have you learnt from them?

EZE: To really live in your purpose, stay in your lane, and remain focused until you reach your end goal.

How can you use this inspiration in your own career?

Seeing women of this calibre accomplish great things or be at a certain level in their careers allows us to see that that women can really push through norms that wouldn’t necessarily be
given to them. When the opportunity is not presented to you, you take it.

Read this next: The women who've shaped electronic music

What advice would you give to women who are trying to get into the music industry?

Denaas: My advice to women getting started in the music industry is to just throw yourself out there, the hardest step is always that first one, after that you will find your place in the scene and it will start to make sense as long as you stay consistent and determined. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. We need them to learn. One thing I really live by and that has helped me a lot is the 10,000 hour rule to master and perfect your craft.

Jay Dolce: Don’t give up! It can be hard navigating the industry as a woman but let your passion for music drive you and your determination. Find and surround yourself with other like-minded women so you can create your own personal support network and don’t be afraid to go against the status quo, hold your ground and speak your mind.

What is the importance of women role models?

Chennae: Women role models give us someone to aspire to be like, especially when they look like you. Seeing someone accomplish great things or be at a certain level in their career allows us to see ourselves doing that same thing or more! It’s a win-win because it breaks down barriers and creates more opportunities for us and for the girls to come after.

Jay Dolce: You can’t be something you don’t see. Without female representation in all arenas of life, girls will grow up thinking they can only do certain things, limiting their beliefs and their aspirations, so representation across the board is extremely important.

What changes would you like to see in the music industry to help women succeed?

Chennae: I would like to see more women of colour in positions of power within music, as headliners for festivals and in primetime slots on radio. We’ve seen small changes as of recent which is amazing, but we definitely need more. It would be amazing to see line-ups that have loads of women on them rather than just the token one-female DJ or act, and I’d love to see more initiatives that help girls who look like me get into the industry, too.

Jay Dolce: I want to see an equal balance of women on line-ups, more women in senior positions behind-the-scenes and the pay gap completely eradicated.

Concrete Jungyals

Who are the women in music who inspire you most?

Sasha SK: The music industry is largely populated with highly successful and leading women in music. One that truly inspires me is Rihanna. From music sensation and style icon to a makeup entrepreneur and the first black woman to own a major high-end fashion house. As well as becoming the world’s richest female musician and being an all-around bad bitch, Rihanna is undoubtedly a true inspiration for any aspiring musician/woman in music or entrepreneur, notably for those in the female and black community.

Emmy: Anyone that really has real passion and drive, no matter how famous or undiscovered they may be. If I see them killing it, I'm inspired. If I had to pick one person, for me it would be Missy Elliot.

Tiffany SK: I would have to agree with Sasha there and say that Rihanna is one of the most inspiring female artists, she is a true powerhouse of a woman, a one-woman wonder, and I aspire to be as multifaceted as she.

Why do they inspire you so much?

Sasha SK: As a marginalised entrepreneurial woman being from two minority groups, it is a huge success as a black female entrepreneur to overcome the barriers to successful businesses, so we love to see it!

Emmy: Her [Missy Elliot's] vibe, her attitude. I grew up on that stuff, it made me sassy and know my value. “Put the pussy on ya, like I told ya, Gimme all your numbers so I can phone ya, Your girl acting stank then call me over, Not on the bed, lay me on your sofa, Call before you come, I need to shave my chocha” Jheeez! Although, when I was younger singing these lyrics, I wasn’t too sure of what they meant. I knew that I felt strong and confident singing them.

Tiffany SK: Rihanna just gives off major Big Dick Energy and I am here for it. She comes across as this strong, independent woman who lives her life for herself. We also happen to share a birthday which makes me love her that much more.

What have you learnt from them?

Sasha SK: To never let anyone tell you you can’t do anything. Only you are the reason for not achieving your goals, you are in control of your own destiny, so don’t waste time saying you want to achieve something. Just go out and do it and show everyone that breaking the barriers is possible.

Emmy: That you are a babe, and you have control. You have power, I have power, all of us women have power.

Tiffany SK: To never forget who you are, where you came from and where you’re going. She [Rihanna] taught me that despite the colour of my skin, the shape of my body and my gender that I can be whoever I want to be and, whatever I do in life, do it well. Lastly, I learned that comparing yourself to others or being a sore loser should not be my M.O., and you can look good while doing it. I believe she said, “She can beat me, but she can’t beat my outfit!”

How can you use this inspiration in your own career?

Sasha SK: Become successful in one career path first and then branch out into other fields once you’re ready, rather than trying to juggle too many start-ups at a time.

Emmy: To really have trust in myself and to fuck the patriarchy and societal constructs surrounding women.

Tiffany SK: To trust the process, stay focused and I shall prosper. If I stick to my guns and never let anything or anyone stop me from achieving the greatness that I was destined to achieve.

What advice would you give to women who are trying to get into the music industry?

Sasha SK: Network, network, network! You need to be proactive when it comes to getting into the music or any industry really. So going to events, networking events or, during the pandemic, network online! You can find people on Twitter, Clubhouse, Instagram, LinkedIn, wherever. They’re all there, it’s just up to you to find them and message them. My all-time favourite saying is, “You don’t ask, you don't get.” So don’t be afraid to ask for the things you want, whether you want someone to hire you or listen to a mix/track or get bookings. Never wait for the opportunity to come to you, you must go out and get it!

Emmy: Collaborate, mingle, get together with others who share your passion. Find your community!

Tiffany SK: Networking is key, meeting people and finding a community that can support you whether online or offline is crucial. Not only will you be able to get support from those you surround yourself with, but you can learn from them too. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and approach people. The worst thing that could happen is you get rejected but you move. In the words of Aaliyah, “If at first, you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again!"

The music industry is a highly competitive place and, at times, is not for the faint-hearted, but remember to stay motivated, believe in yourself and also take some time to look after yourself.

What is the importance of women role models?

Sasha SK: It’s important especially for the younger generation to be able to look up to and see these women doing things they didn’t think were possible for a woman and show them that it is possible and to be completely and unapologetically loud and proud when standing for what they believe in. It shows that they, too, can have a voice and be heard.

Emmy: They are so important to other women for the simple factor of having someone to look up to. To see they have a chance, too, and to know that it is possible to achieve their dreams.

Tiffany SK: Women role models are crucial to the growth of other women, especially young women. Seeing someone who looks like you in places you wish to go and doing things you wish to achieve is one the greatest motivational factors ever. It makes you realise that, ‘YES, if they can do it, so can I!”

What new women artists and collectives are you excited about in dance music?

Sasha SK: I’m totally here for 6 Figure Gang, another collective of talented specimens. They are going places! Our Concrete Jungyals residents are so special to us. We’ve got Anaïs, Chikaya, Grove, Lotu, Missledz and MiyaMoro. Super talented and are definitely ones to watch.

Emmy: I'm super excited about a lot of people right now. I’m always keen to see what everyone is up to next and to see what's in store for many artists now that bookings and events are going ahead. I’m really excited about our residents at Concrete Jungyals, they are really talented.

Tiffany SK: There are so many that I'm excited for. The people and collectives currently on my radar are The Beatriarchy, Dynamics, Anz, Zora Jones and our residents.

What changes would you like to see in the music industry to help women succeed?

Sasha SK: I would like to see more compliance with equal and diverse line-ups. I want to stop seeing 'female DJ' or just one woman on line-ups. And more women banding together and succeeding together!

Emmy: I'd like to see women being treated fairly. I don’t mean having women-only line-ups or being that women who’s a token on an all-cis white line-up. I mean fair representation, no need for special treatment or to have to say 'I’m a female DJ'. I feel that men in the industry could do a lot more. They should be just as driven by equality as we are, everyone's an ‘ally’ nowadays but when it comes down to it, they’re still playing those sets with no women on the line-up. They should start using their platforms.

Tiffany SK: I would definitely like to see more women taking up spaces in the music industry, whether they’re an artist or music industry professional. More opportunities need to be made available to women, especially those from marginalised backgrounds. Information and resources need to be more readily accessible to them as well. Equality is simply key!

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