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Why are Female Asian music producers so rare?

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Why are Female Asian music producers so rare? We put the question to the industry’s long serving artists, female vocalists themselves and to those in the broadcast media who are beacons of knowledge, including Kam Frantic, Nihal, Sukshinder Shinda and DJ Noreen Khan. We also asked why the number’s are non-existent, why females choose singing over production and what can be done about it?


Why are Female Asian music producers so rare?

A couple of  months ago we put this answer to our twitter followers and in return we received a complete look of puzzlement and a clueless response. Can you blame them? Ask yourselves this: How many Female Asian music producers can you name? We didn’t even get any cheesy responses such as ‘Women can’t use reason or logic‘! If you name more than 5 you should be doing our job!

So when we came across this BBC News article (Click Here) that found it just as difficult to find more than a handful Mainstream female producers, it got us thinking. As Asians, the reluctance to push women into the entertainment industry has always been a taboo subject in culture, nonetheless nowadays that it not an issue we can use to hold us back. There are many UK and Sub-Continent based female vocalists hitting the limelight such as Rashee Rraga, Kiran Dhanoa, Bambi of Team PBN or the superstars Sunidhi Chauhan, Miss Pooja, Sanam Marvi etc.

We put the question to the industry’s long serving artists, female vocalists themselves and to those in the broadcast media who are beacons of knowledge. We also asked why the number’s are non-existent, why females choose singing over production and what can be done about it? (We did not receive responses in time from Suki Chand, Rishi Rish and DJ Kayper)

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Kam Frantic

Right now, as well as working full time at Frantic Studios as a producer. I also teach engineering and production. I have never been approached for training by a female Asian or non Asian, every one of my current students is male. In the main stream producers like Pharrell Williams, Dr Dre etc are household names, only three women have ever been nominated for best producer at the Brits or the Grammys. However, none of them went home with the prize. So clearly this is not an issue just confined to the Asian music sector.

Sexism may be a factor, but I believe the problem is more basic. The bottom line is, women don’t seem to be interested. There are now no insurmountable social barriers for a woman Asian or non Asian preventing her from becoming a music producer.

The typical lifestyle of a music producer is very intensive, very competitive and time consuming. In order to be able to maintain that level of focus, attention and dedication to your craft, it has to come at the expense of something and in my case that expense is my social life. This may be a factor that deters women from the onset. There does however seem to be a stereotype that women just can’t do this. Artist looking for a music producer, will rarely, if ever look into sourcing a female music producer to work on their project. I’m not even sure if our industry has any female producers at all?

Generally my clientele want do go with a tried and tested name. I had to start out completely from scratch at the beginning of my career. I just think more women need to step forward and pick up the gauntlet. With the right amount of dedication anyone can become a music producer. I for one would love to see a more level playing field.

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DJ Rekha:

When posed the question about female representation or the lack of I find the question itself to inherently problematic?  When you ask me why it is,  as if,  there is a single cause and as someone who has managed to push through and have a career, its as if I have to reveal the secret. There is no secret, women are underrepresented in a variety of arenas, and sexism is systemic that means both genders participate in it. Women are not encouraged to participate or have ownership around technology.

Women cook most of the food consumed in the world, yet the most celebrated chefs are men. In Bhangra music more specifically as well as certain other genres its even more challenging. There is no space for a non-hetro male presence. I always encourage women who want to pursue djing and production to be well versed or even better versed in the technical aspect of what they do as they will be held to doubting higher stand. Women are capable of doing anything- please get over it.  Let’s not talk about it. Lets just create a situation to allow for it to happen and thrive.

Sukshinder Shinda:

“To be honest I can’t see why their have not been any female producers I would be very pleased to see some come through… I dnt think they are held back as I have met some great female tabla, harmonium and dhol players as well as singers just think its a personal choice nothing more.”

Kiran Dhanoa:

“Well I’ve always dreamt to produce and hopefully will one day.. With my music I have a great deal of input in the production and how I want it all to sound etc etc. Too be honest I myself haven’t heard of any female producers or heard of anyone that would even like to. I think just as female singers are coming through very slowly… Female producers would take even longer as a mould to break through. The talent must be out there but think about how much male competition they would have to go head to head against! Honestly I would love to hear Dj Kayper produce I think she may just have the talent!

Even with singing I didn’t think I could do it… That was a big enough risk for me to take.. Production is ten levels higher. Now when in studio Rishi Rich has noticed how much of a musical ear I have and hopefully production would be next on the cards.”

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Nihal (BBC Radio 1):

This is a problem across the music industry and I am really not sure why. I cannot name a single female Bhangra producer. After 10 years on Radio 1 that is an embarrassment for the industry. Are there cultural reasons? How many female DJs are there? Behind every female singer there is a male producer (not literally) so where’s the encouragement to make beats. Is the music industry for all genres sexist. It’s worrying that in panjabi music only Miss Pooja really stands out. But perhaps this is about stereotyping, a lack of access and role models for female producers to look up to.

Sonia Panesar:

First of all there are lots of Asian producers in the Music industry, however most of them are MALE…or so it seems! There are most definitely a lot of budding Asian female producers but Im sure there are lots of reasons why they are not prominent in the industry.

Also, some female vocalists are able to arrange their own songs and where possible even fully produce them. But we’re stuck in a system of lack of opportunity, where record labels welcome female vocalists but if she is a producer, it doesn’t matter! It becomes a minor skill. I don’t know why that is but thats the impression I get and I’ve been in the industry for several years.

I guess there’s a fair amount of pressure as well in the sense that asian girls are naturally expected to study, work, get married and have a family. Also, in my opinion, “music’ on the whole is still not treated as a career unless you become the next ‘Jay Sean’! A lot of parents also drill in the fact that once you’re married or have kids you won’t have time! To some extent, they are correct, but I guess if you really want to do something you will put your heart and soul into it and will juggle things around to make it work – like I do. Ladies! I’m a mum and I actually re-launched my singing and music career shortly after the birth of my son! I also am very lucky to have support from my husband and both mine and his family who all share music to some level and I guess that helps too!

I have always been a vocalist but what a lot of people don’t know is that I produce most of my songs – that means songwriting, composing the melodies, arranging the songs, playing in instrumental pieces, producing a beat, intro/outro the whole shabbang! Its only once I’m happy with the composition that I then give it to producers like Phat Kat to add to it digitally as well as even recording in live musicians…and yet I am not known as a producer. Not complaining though!

I’m not entirely sure what exactly can be done about it, but all i know is that with support of my family, I have been able to re-launch my career and continue achieving through my passion for music. A few years ago Asian female artists were scarce…now there’s a few of us! I’m sure that with time it would be the same with Asian Female producers too!

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Rasshee Rraga:

I think it is down to the lack of support from family members and the fact that the industry is dominated largely by males.

DJ Noreen Khan (BBC Asian Network):

Female artists are lacking in the Asian music scene and then female music producers seem to be almost non existent. M.I.A. and DJ Rekha are 2 that I can think of off the top of my head but then I struggle. There are probably many who sit in their bedrooms producing on software or those are DJ/producers but not many who seem to be making a big impression. In the Bhangra scene it’s difficult to name just one who is producing hits.

I think the production scene has always been dominated by men and that is evident on a mainstream level too. So what shoud be done? I think artists need to experiment too and consider a woman they may know to produce for them. Then if one produces a hit I’m sure it would inspire others to follow.

Male music producers should also enourage women they know to get in the field and support them. Some kind of a workshop could also be set up to help women and I think the scene generally needs to invite women who have an interest in production to step up.

I hope in the future I will be interviewing and spinning records produced by females and if any girls are reading this article and thinking I’d like to produce or can produce…then don’t hang around, get into a studio and start doing your thing!

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TitchyB (Asian Female DJ/Producer):

There are many Asian females who would want to get into the music industry, but this depends on the support they receive from their family and most of all the community.  Some see this as not a career to go into but it’s the passion one has in music. I am fortunate to have supportive parents and family.  I believe this is due to more demand on female singers and mc ‘s than producers. There are some female producers but based on a different music genre such as Dj Rap. I love her style of uniqueness her production is in the feel of love for what she does.

What’s holding them back? The Fear of how people may portray them. Following too much of the trend? there could be so many different reasons to this. The majority say music is not a good influence on most people especially in the Asian Community, but I believe music is a way to express feelings.  My love of music has always been there..if its behind the decks or a computer screen.  I had faced a lot of obstacles during my time of DJ’ing, in most cases they didn’t accept my love and hunger in music, but I was always pushed forward by my parents to continue what I enjoy doing  and they knew it was music. Other than that I don’t think it is so much of holding them back its more know how to get there and being able to face or stand strong in this field?

What can be done to change this? Have more faith and trust in yourself. If you have the passion for something …fight for it or you’ll only regret it. Trust me I am talking from experience.

Whats your opinion on the issue, do you agree with the above comments? Let us know!

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Music Editor at Chakdey.Com who has lots to say about everything!

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