Wireless, where are the women?

Was Wireless’ lack of women a comment on the media and music scene in general? Or was it just a jarring oversight by the “men in charge”?

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As a woman in music and media I’m consistently looking to see myself represented. The very lack of women in the scene is the only way that I can explain my sheer excitement whenever a new girl pops up on the block. In fact, RONIEBOND was created to service the very needs of women in music and media because we have an abundance of male-centric platforms (think LinkUpTV, GRM, SBTV), but as far as similar platforms for women, I struggle to name one. But why? How do we explain, justify or resolve the lack of women on big ass festivals like Wireless?

Urban music and media is male-dominated for a number of reasons, not least because the nature of the industry means only a relentlessly tenacious woman with a lot of luck will make it. Is that just the way it is? Or is there a more to the story? Let’s take a look.

There are no women because… of what’s happening underground…

A lot of the producers are guys so unless you’re shacking up with one, it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself in the studio with the opportunity to sing your heart out on a fire beat. So although there’s been this explosion of independent male artists, a similar equivalent for women hasn’t happened because more often than not women just aren’t allowed in those circles. If you try and holla at a guy in the industry, what are the chances he’ll take you seriously? In my experience, this is an unlikely feat.

We have guys like Ramz whose tune “Barking” hit #1, now of course Ramz was relatively unheard of, but he is mates with Dave, Dave retweeting your tune will definitely not hurt you.

There are no women because… there isn’t a system in place to give these women the tools to succeed.

We’re living through exciting times where sounds are rapidly evolving, kids who grew up in multiethnic environments are combining their influences sonically so we have this afrobeat-rap-grime-rnb fusion sound that is very difficult to pigeon-hole. If you’re a creative trying to break into corporate circles, you’ll probably be aware of how much corporations love to put you in a box. So if you’re a woman trying to venture into this untested field without an underground army of producers and a bonafide network, you’ll need corporate label backing and you probably just won’t get that if they don’t ‘get’ you.

There are no women because… If you’re not peng you don’t get reception

This last pointer is controversial because I know lots of pengtings making fire music that still aren’t getting sufficient reception. But in urban music and media this concept of pengness is even more complex than dealing with the male gaze is on a normal day. ***By urban I’m specifically referring to Hip-Hop/RnB and genres of ‘black’ origin.

Recent ’black’ history, slavery/apartheid etc has left deep-rooted scars and issues within the black community, namely things pertaining to colourism and the hyper sexualisation of the black female body.

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How does Colourism play out? In popular media, only acceptable ‘black’ images flood our screens, this usually means lighter skinned black people, this helps propagate and this also is the effect of colourism in the black community. Or alternatively, we just have an absence of dark-skinned women at the top of the urban music scene.

What’s the hypersexualiation of the black female body? This is the image of the nude video girls, the commodification of the black female body, the reason why women in urban media are highkey always naked because yes, sex sells, but in the black community, the Hottentot image and the femme fatale black woman archetype still has an effect on what we consider popular today.

But, did the music really bang tho?

In 2017 SZA captured my soul with CTRL, Drake’s cosign meant that Jorja Smith blew with just a handful of releases. IAMDDB killed the scene. Kelela, Ray Blk, NAO are all women who I regard very highly so there are plenty of women. There were countless occasions when I had to check myself when curating the RONIEBOND playlist because it was so male-centric. I wanted to represent the women that I support, but I also couldn’t lie to myself and put on tunes that I’d already rinsed or that just weren’t amazing. So this begs me to question if women aren’t on the Wireless lineup because maybe 2017 just wasn’t our year.

Nonetheless, I’ve still managed to curate a brilliant lineup of women who I’d love to see on stage. Even if they didn’t release a tune yesterday, music needs to live longer than this 5-minute hype that we’re growing accustomed to, only real music is going to last.

It’s difficult to now attempt to reverse hundreds of years of socialisation which even today black people still play into and in all honesty, I love the retweeting and social media hype that we’ve now all become accustomed to participating in, but the only real way to advocate for change is to put your money where your mouth is. Given that Wireless tickets still sold out, very, very quickly, I doubt that anyone cares as much as they claim too.

This was exhausting to write but necessary to address and interesting to watch play out. RONIEBOND would love to throw a festival.


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