It’s International Women’s Day 2017. It is vital that globally we take a day to acknowledge and be aware of the wonderful women who are positively contributing to the improvement of our world (past, present and future). As a young, black female, I’m constantly reminded boy the media and society that I’m in the minority in most aspects of life. The following women have been sources of inspiration for me. It’s fantastic to see strong black females especially in the arts and the music industry – long may it continue.
This cellist-singer-songwritter-composer has been an inspiration of mine every since I started learning the violin. I went on a mission to seek out black string players and I came across Ayanna. At the beginning 2017, I wanted to go to one of her gigs at Kings Place in London and I couldn’t make it and the tickets had sold out. I was so disappointed and that was that… Fast-forward two weeks and I actually got to meet her when on a mentoring day with AYM. She performed one of her songs, did a short Q&A and shared her music journey. I asked her what advice she’d give to young musicians like myself. She said “Be the best version of You”
Ever since I first discovered Laura Mvula (I think it was when she’d released her album Sing to the Moon) I’ve been in love with her song, her style and her vibe. Then, to my absolute delight, I found out that Birmingham Conservatoire was her alma mater and then I became obsessed. To know that someone so multi-talented (she plays/played the violin too) had come from my place of study gives such a boost. I’m an avid Instagram follower and I love her transparency. When I went to see Snarky Puppy on their tour in November 2015, Laura did an impromptu performance of her song Sing to the Moon with Snarky Puppy and it was mind-blowing. Not only is she a singer-songwriter but she’s now composing for the Royal Shakespeare company.
It was only recently that I’d become aware of Pretty Yende. She’s a South African soprano and she seems to be taking the world by storm after her breakthrough at the New York Metropolitan Opera . Like a typical young person, I scroll through Instagram many times a day and I’d constantly see Pretty Yende pop up and I just had to find out more about her. A graduate of the young artist’s programme at La Scala Milan, she actually was first inspired to take up classical voice after hearing music on a British Airways advert!
The short film above is what first made me aware of who Ingrid Silva was. I found the video so inspiring. In some ways her story is not unusual in the sense of many people start from humble beginnings and work hard to achieve their dreams. I genuinely connected with and was affected by the short film. It made me think about my own personal journey with my craft. However, again scrolling through Ingrid’s Instagram, seeing the amount of works she does just to give back to her community it’s really inspirational and confirms the importance of arts in society.
Saxophonist Millicent Stephenson has been another musician who has been on my radar since I was very young. I remember seeing her either on the tv or on a leaflet or poster, thinking “it’s the lady the with the gold sax”. A few years ago now, she won an award and that really symbolised progress and success for me. I believe she also runs workshops and conferences in Birmingham particularly for young women – I missed that last one but I’m definitely keeping my eyes and ears peeled for the next workshop. Also, Millicent Stephenson really synthesized many genres that aren’t necessarily directly linked to the saxophone into her playing. She inspired me to do the same with the violin and integrate gospel songs, reggae etc. into my repertoire.
Tai Murray was another internet based find for me. I think I was searchig some YouTube videos on the Ysayë solo violin sonatas and Tai Murray came up. Before her, I had never seen or heard a black virtuoso. I had heard many great black violinists in other genres but never a black violinist with such dexterity in the classical industry. She is a huge inspiration because as a black violinist, she has helped to paved the way for people like me to follow.