Who are London’s female DJ’s and how are they influencing the culture?
[piece will be published in WAVE mag soon]
The UK – London in particular – is internationally known as a hotbed of musical talent and a home to countless creatives and style influencers. And while headlines report that the music scene is seriously lacking female talent and representation of women in top positions is not yet equal, there is a growing number of women taking matters into their own hands. The ambitious women of ‘Generation CEO’ are forging their own paths and making a dent in traditionally male-dominated creative industries, to ensure that their voices are heard. These fashion innovators, music mavens, and nightlife entrepreneurs are some of today’s most prominent tastemakers.
So who are these innovators and what do they do? And more importantly, how are they influencing ‘the culture’?
Tiffany Calver, a BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra DJ and presenter, who showcases the best in riding rap music and Siobhan Bell, the DJ and all-round fashion innovator who’s killing it in the UK and across the pond, are two examples. These two women are killing it in their respective fields and are having a major impact on the UK scene, and while social media followers shouldn’t be the go-to source for determining a person’s influence, with over 103,000 followers between them, it’s safe to say that they’re not going by unnoticed.
Bell and Calver are proving that if you have a passion for something – in this case, music – and if you’re willing to put in the hard graft, take risks, and be open to taking on new opportunities, you can really thrive in a career that you truly love and enjoy.
Looking at their career trajectories, it’s easy to see that their official come-up in ‘the mainstream’ has been a long time in the making. Bell was putting in hours of practice, DJing in London’s NikeTown store on weekends before putting on her own party ‘Cherryade’ because nobody would book her; Calver cut her teeth as a music journalist for homegrown music blogs such as SBTV and Hypebeast, before making it onto Kiss and eventually Radio 1. Bell has grown to be a wicked technical selector. She mixes fast, her tune selection is always on point, and she has the ability to incorporate unexpected genres and sounds into what’s often billed as a ‘hip hop’ set.
It’s too easy these days for digital influencers to tap ‘sync’ on their CDJs, put together a playlist of crowd-pleasers, and add ‘DJ’ to their bio on Instagram for the bookings to start coming in. But do these people really have any influence in the music scene? Does a party really go off when they step up to the decks? Can they mix at lightning speed without faltering? And do they push boundaries and open up people’s minds to new, lesser-known sounds?
Calver and Bell have taken years to hone and perfect their craft and now they’re reaping the rewards of their hard work. When you listen to one of their sets or go to one of their parties, you can hear their musicality and feel their skill. It’s this talent that’s attracting people’s attention, getting Calver selected to make a mix for Drake’s OVO Sound show on Beats 1 Radio, Bell to DJ at parties hosted by major fashion houses such as Moschino and Versus Versace.
The growth and success of these women show how both are defying old stereotypes that women just aren’t as into music as men are, highlighting how women can thrive in the music industry. And as black women – people who are constantly underpaid, underrepresented, and undervalued – Bell and Calver are aspirational success stories to many black girls wanting to get into music, but don’t see where they fit into the industry.
Both Bell and Calver are in positions now where their opinions and taste hold weight and authority. This enables them to play music they genuinely like and listen to – and want to share with others. They don’t limit themselves to playing what they think they should play, or jump on the hype train and play what’s trending. Sheck Wes? Calver had him at her show in March 2018!
Now the host of BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s Saturday night Rap Show, Calver is able to shape what people listen to and enjoy, exposing the nation to new emerging talents who are bringing something fresh to the table, but may not have otherwise had the exposure. It’s this sharp musical ear and confidence in her own taste that’s pushed her to where she is in the music industry. Her presence in the BBC as a young, female radio host is actively changing established institutions from the inside-out. She’s in a position where she’s able to influence the nation, and drive conversations around the development of UK music and aid its development and popularity.
Calver’s name has become a brand in itself, and it’s this trusted authority that ensure her Tiffany Calver and Friends clubnights sell out – and go off – each and every time. And when Calver isn’t showcasing emerging rap artists on her own radio show, or putting on must-attend parties, she’s actively influencing others.
While Bell has become a household DJ name, she has another foot firmly stuck in the fashion industry too. Take a look at her Instagram and you’ll see how she mixes luxury high end designer with streetwear staples with ease, flexing 90s-inspired fits that mesh the tomboy with the ‘feminine’. She’s definitely not afraid to try new, different styles from what we’re used to seeing as we scroll through our feed of Insta baddie look-alikes. Would platinum 613 lacefronts have been a thing in the UK if Siobhan hadn’t done it first…?
As we move into 2019, there’s plenty more for these women to achieve. There’s no denying that they’re integral parts of the culture and it’s exciting to see what the future brings. London’s ‘Generation CEO’ is only just getting started...