Let's talk Latin America

Empowering women in the Colombian music industry

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BristoLatino music editor Zara Huband met with Fabiola Morales Monje of Mujeres en la Música, the new project empowering women in music.

Led by Sol Okarina, musician, and Fabiola Morales Monje, music manager; Mujeres en la Música is an organisation which creates spaces for sharing and communication between women in the music industry.

The initiative is fresh to Colombia and is the first of its kind, inspired by existent groups in other countries around the world, including the US-based organisation Women in Music, set up in 1985. The Colombian organisation aims to create a space for dialogue in which women can share their knowledge and point of view with other women in the industry; focusing on the experiences and achievements of female managers, producers, artists, technicians and contributors.

Through attending panel discussions at music industry events such as BOMM (Bogotá Music Market- an event which promotes artists and invites people to share knowledge about the industry), Mujeres en la Música is making itself known. It’s within these spaces that the organisation invite experienced members of the industry to galvanise, support and mentor younger generations in their field of experience, encouraging women to enter different lines of work.

Fabi’s own experience comes from working as a manager for many years and as an organiser for Sofar Sounds Colombia. She has also sung in various groups, giving her first-hand experience as a female performer. Other Mujeres en la música participants include Ariana Vallecilla, manager of the international Pacific singing group, Canalón de Timbiquí, who have played gigs in the UK in London and at WOMAD, and whose musical leader, Nidia Gongóra colaborated with Quantic on the 2017 album ‘Curao’.

Their online platform can be accessed by anyone and includes useful links with tips for strengthening projects and building business ideas, information about their artists and conferences as well as links to their inspirational playlists.

Women may be present in the performance of music in Colombia but they have historically been limited to these roles. Considering that 95% of producers worldwide are men and that a woman has never won a Latin Grammy for production since the awards began in 2000, Sol and Fabi concentrate on kindling female talent in male-dominated roles such as production. Fabi explained that women play a unique and challenging role in Colombia’s music industry, and face slightly different problems; “in a country with strong traditional family values, it’s important for groups like this to break down those barriers that obstruct many colombianas from pursuing their musical ambition”, she told me.

Today, given the way music is produced and distributed, gender confines are not so rigid– female musicians who are starting out can have more autonomy over the creative process, thanks to online platforms like SoundCloud. But the lack of equal opportunities in many areas of the music business is still a problem at large, which is why Fabi’s organisation aims to reach beyond big cities and extend their influence to women in more remote areas of the country where there is talent just waiting for a platform like Mujeres en la Música.

This bold and forward-thinking organisation will hopefully become a template for others to launch, facilitating support networks between well-established figures and younger generations in which they share knowledge and fresh ideas.

By creating a space that can uplift and support the women who are newly establishing themselves in the industry (as well as getting them involved in the first place), it can encourage women to instigate their own projects and lead the Colombian music industry in a new and more diverse direction.