Meet The Ballantine’s True Music Fund 2023 Recipients
Written By Marcus Barnes
Driven by our core ethos, centred around diversity and inclusion, the Ballantine’s True Music Fund returns for 2023. This £100,000 fund has been set up to support organisations actively working to achieve these core ideals globally. In a world still unpicking the dominance of colonial conditioning, the focus here is on supporting emerging local music-focused organisations and collectives, to help elevate their essential work as they strive for equality in music. This in turn feeds into the global zeitgeist, helping to create a positive shift and more balance and fairness across the board.
Each group will be awarded £10,000 to contribute to their work and Ballantine’s will be following their journey to understand how this funding will impact their work. This year, the 10 recipients include several African outfits spearheading progressive and inclusive businesses that are helping to provide a solid foundation for their local communities.
Like Santuri for instance. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Santuri is a value-driven community enterprise operating in the alternative/underground electronic music scene in East Africa. The multifaceted project offers a variety of avenues for entry into the electronic music world; from music production and DJ courses, studio services, showcases, artist development opportunities, as well as research and market development activities. Central to their offering are two key spaces: The Santuri Salon is located in the Basement of The Mall, Westlands, in the Kenyan capital, while they also have a fully equipped recording and production studio available for hire, in Kilimani. They have cultivated an environment that provides safety for female/non-male individuals and collectives, as well as LGBTQI+ communities. Santuri’s funding will be allocated to support and galvanise the growth of four collectives, who’ll host two events at their studio space.
The Other Radio is an independent online radio station with 70 hosts, presenting a diverse range of music and formats. Based in Cape Town, the station’s name says it all. Their remit revolves around the alternative sounds, voices and opinions of the South African city – anything that can be classed as “other”. In September 2021 Other Radio opened their studio hub, a space that was conceived for the purpose of democratising access to DJ equipment in Cape Town, where the often prohibitive cost of such technology creates a barrier for locals. Funding from the True Music Fund will aid the relaunch of live broadcasts on the forward-thinking station.
ANTI-MASS are a vital voice in East Africa creating space for marginalised communities. Their work is critical in Uganda, where the political climate has become unbearably oppressive. ANTI-MASS hosts workshops and events intended to foster safety and awareness for the nation’s disenfranchised minorities. Their parties are always held in different locations as an act of resistance and the music developed by ANTI-MASS breaks out of the rigid structure that many genres end up relying on. Their funding will support the acquisition of technical equipment and the initiation of DJ workshops for minorities in their home nation.
Africa Rising Music Conference promises to create a paradigm shift in South Africa’s music industry, and beyond. Launched in 2022, the conference has been conceived as a female-led event encapsulating a fresh outlook and direction in what is a typically male-dominated industry. Across two days, a broad array of discussions, panels and Q&As highlight African voices, giving international delegates an insight into the nuances of the nation’s music industry. Alongside the enthralling content on stage, the conference also provides a space for Africa’s rich pool of talent – both public-facing and behind the scenes – to connect with their international counterparts. In respect of this, the ARMC will use their funding to support a cultural exchange program with artists from Germany and Zambia, including studio and performance time.
Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, Femmes & Thems are carving out its own niche within their local music scene. Their focus is on showcasing the best female and non-binary talent from SA. Like many industries, music has long been dominated by the white male archetype, with women, people of colour and non-binary acts in the minority across the board. Launched by Alex Stringer and Tegan Marlow, the monthly nighty has established a platform that elevates these minority voices. Their funding will support a four-week program aiming to give POC queer-identifying people the chance to learn how to DJ for free.
In Barcelona, Jokkoo was set up in 2017 with the intention to explore and disseminate contemporary electronic sounds and showcase the avant-garde scene, from the African continent and its diaspora. The collective currently has six members: Maguette Dieng (Mbodj) Baba Sy, Oscar Tylor (Opoku), Nico Beliot (Mookie), Ismäel Ndiaye (B4mba) and Ikram Bouloum, who have united with the shared vision of establishing hybrid Afroelectronic music and diasporic narratives within the global community. collaborated with cultural institutions such as the Macba, the Convent de Sant Agustí, the Reina Sofía Museum, La Casa Encendida and the Bordeaux Museum of Contemporary Art. The Jokoo family plan to use their funding to train people up with the necessary knowledge to find roles within the music industry, diversifying the business in the process.
Founded in Sao Paulo in 2016, Feminine Hi-Fi highlights the role of women in reggae music, utilising the genre as a voice against gender-related oppression. The all-female project is led by Dani Pimenta, Lovesteady, and Laylah Arruda. Complementing their sterling work for representing female voices, the powerhouse crew also set up Feminine Hi-Fi Records. The label is the first Brazilian platform dedicated to recording, promoting and distributing music exclusively by women in reggae. Their ambitious funding plans include three workshops (to be offered for free), two editions of the Feminine Hi-Fi Festival and the addition of a new team member to help with their digital marketing strategy.
Femme Africa is the organisation behind Femmefest – an annual festival that celebrates women in Africa. Founded by Ayomide Dokunmu, it was set up to amplify the voices of young African women in music. Rooted in a sincere and authentic desire to champion women in music, Femme Africa is not about hype or following trends. The organisation is based in Lagos, Nigeria, where, as is often the case, the music industry is male-dominated. Femme Africa’s dream is simple: to instigate shifts and progress within music that lead to it being a safer space for women. Their funding will be spent on developing an audio technology program, where women will learn various aspects of production and artist marketing, along with opportunities for work experience through the organisation’s network of contacts.
In Ghana, iMullar has risen up to become one of the key voices for Africa’s emerging artists. Founded by Maxwell Adjavon, iMullar is all about creating spaces that facilitate deep immersion in music, without distraction. A force for African creatives, the outfit also has its own sound system, which acts as a powerful platform for amplifying up-and-coming talent. A wide range of DJs have found support through iMullar, as a result, it is an essential component in the growth of Africa’s emerging music market. Their vision is to bolster the IMSS Academy, where education and empowerment are paramount – especially for women – and to develop their studios, creating an accessible creative space for all.
Lastly, Spanish YouTube broadcaster El Bloque TV has become an essential voice in the promotion and development of the nation’s black music scene. The channel regularly features rappers, singers, vocalists and performers from across Spain, all of whom make and perform music that struggles to be recognised and supported by mainstream television. With over 1.3 million black people living in Spain, it’s vital that there is an outlet for the diverse array of music produced by the nation’s black communities. El Bloque TV, as its name suggests, is rooted in nurturing and celebrating music from the block, in whatever form it may take. With the TMF funding, they will host Plug Park – a multi-day event bringing together an array of independent talent, favouring gender diversity, disadvantaged groups and people with functional diversity.
As you can see, each of the recipients of this year’s fund is undertaking work that not only supports and nurtures their local communities but has far-reaching implications for the progression of the music business worldwide. We’re excited to see where the funding will be utilised and how it will boost their local and global impact.
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