This year for International Women’s Day, BAYN’s Music wants to celebrate the women that run our African music industry. To do so, rather than coming up with another list of powerful female artistes in our music industry like last year, we have decided to take a step further by interviewing women who come from different backgrounds but are undoubtedly making an impact on the continent and beyond through their work. They play different roles but their ambition and mission is the same: build a solid, sustainable and gender equal African music industry.
As strong advocates of gender equality, we worked on this editorial hoping that with these interviews, the women who will come across the powerful stories of these change makers and doers will be inspired to pursue their dreams despite the hardships they will face along the way.
Out of all the requests we have made, three personalities accepted to take part in this editorial. Initially they were supposed to answer three questions out of the questions sent to them but it seems like talking about women in music is very interesting so 2/3 of our participants answered more than three questions. Read their responses to our questions, and get empowered.
CEO of the JTon group of companies, Joy Tongo is an American-Nigerian agent based in the United States who for several years has acted as the North American agent of the defunct biggest African duo Psquare and is presently Yemi Alade’s North American agent. She is behind the success of Yemi Alade’s 2017 Mama Africa US Tour which brought together more than 100,000 people across the United States. She is also the former president and organiser of the first-ever Nigerian Entertainment Awards in 2006, which still exists and acts as a platform where Nigerian artists can showcase their talents in the US. Joy holds an MBA in Finance from Long Island University and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the City University of New York. She has many years of experience working for top fortune 500 companies and was an agent and a producer for BET Africa. This summer, you can catch Joy Tongo on Canadian roads as she will be touring with Yemi Alade during the Black Magic Canada Tour.
BAYN’s Music: You founded the Joy Tongo Foundation which aims at building and lifting young teenage girls who are prostitutes, orphans, have low self-esteems etc. What motivated you to put in place such a structure?
Joy Tongo: The foundation is now called Dynamic ladies “Daughters of Zion”. I was motivated by my surrounding and growing up as a teenager in Nigeria, I realized that a lot of girls go through the same struggles growing up in Nigeria or anywhere in the world, and that we all share similar stories. My visit to orphanage homes within the past 6 years and celebrating my birthday there yearly also motivated me to start my foundation. I know that everyone has a story and their story ranges from low self-esteem, raped, abandoned by their biological parents, orphans and so much more. I have always had a calling to help others and mostly a passion for the young females and God placed the calling upon my life and he gave me a voice to speak to them. November last year I visited the Little Saint Orphanage home where I educated and uplifted the girls and spoke the word of God into their lives. This was a life changing experience for them and for me. We all can impact someone’s life and I am doing that through Dynamic Ladies
BAYN’s Music: Last summer you were the main promoter of Yemi Alade’s Mama Africa US Tour which brought together more than 100,000 people. Please can you share with us your secret and most importantly tell us what motivates you?
Joy Tongo: I am Yemi Alade’s US and North American agent. I am not a promoter but an agent and management here in the States. I am the first and last contact a promoter goes through when booking an artist. Which is the key player for a successful tour and any US dealings. I was Psquare’s US agent in the States since 2010 up until their break up last year. My secrets are the passion and the love I have for Africa and entertainment. I am one of the pioneers that bridged African music to America. I was the founding President of Nigeria Entertainment Awards and the first initial contact and producer when BET decided to launch its African network in Africa. I am motivated to see African spotlighted in a great and beautiful way. Like the slogan for my company “Unleashing the Power, Beauty and Talents of Africa” says it all. I was born in Los Angeles, California but moved to Nigeria when I was 3 years old and returned back to the States (New York) right after high school and back then Africa wasn’t spotlighted in a great way. Everything African was negative. This motivated me to start my company and now we can see Africa in a positive light.
BAYN’s Music: What do think that women can do to shatter the glass ceilings that prevent them from reaching their full potential?
Joy Tongo: With God all things are possible. I do not work with my power but with the strength and power that God has given to me. Women are talented naturally and very able to multi task. Multitasking is a great gift. We are already shattering glass ceilings and doing great exploit. Women are crossing boundaries that the world never thought could be done through us. If we as women come united and work together we would reach our full potential
BAYN’s Music: Some would say that you are doing a man’s job, so how do you survive as a woman in this industry which is predominantly masculine?
Joy Tongo: As for me, there is no such thing as a man’s job. So, because it is called a man’s job and as a woman we have the passion for it we cannot do it? Nah. No job should be considered a man’s job. I had to put up a tough skin to be able to work in this industry. When I first started out I did not have that tough skin. Reminiscing on my initial move to Nigeria, I was tossed around. Living in Nigeria for the first year was very tough, hard and challenging for me. I had to decide to either move back to New York or put up a tough skin. I grew into a man in the industry dominated by men. The few years I spent in Nigeria also shaped how I handle business and things. You cannot be a female in a male dominated industry but rather act and think like a man and as such you get treated as a man with more respect. Basically, you survive being in a male dominated industry by becoming a man in the business without losing your feminine touch or your essence of your being. A man in the business and a woman at home.
BAYN’s Music: If you were taken back in time, what would you say to the younger version of you that you would have loved to hear?
Joy Tongo: I don’t dwell in the past. I have learnt that life lessons is the best teacher and that success is a journey. I would tell my younger version to be bold and never care what people say about you. And, everyone’s definition of success is different and we all have different journeys in life. Therefore, create and go on your own path which God has designed for you. We are all unique.
Paola Audrey Ndengue
Also known as Puff Mammy, Paola Audrey Ndengue is a French-Cameroonian public relations specialist, brand manager, marketing consultant and Senior Consultant as well as CEO of Agence Pannelle & Co. Her offices are based in Abidjan, Ivory Coasts where some of her clients include local artistes but notably Universal Music Africa artistes like Kiff No Beat or Tenor for which she does public relations work. Aside, she is also a well established Editor as she has worked as Editor for Voodoo Media and as Editor-in-Chief of the Afro-French fashion magazine Fashizblack (that she co-founded), and Editor-in-Chief of LIFE Magazine. Recently she has taken the position of Head of Public Relations at Afrikrea (an online retailing website).
BAYN’s Music: How did this whole journey of public relations specialist for music artistes in French speaking Africa start for you?
Paola Audrey Ndengue: Everything started in 2007 when I founded a medium called Fashizblack for which I worked as Chief Editor. We collaborated with a certain number of artistes and I would generally be in charge of dressing them and interviewing them. Since the media became popular thanks to the visual quality of its shoots, I was later on contacted by artistes based in Paris to manage their public image. That led to them contacting to me to discuss strategy.
BAYN’s Music: Would you say that our emerging African music industry is still far behind when it comes to gender equality as compared to mature industries like that of the US or France for instance?
Paola Audrey Ndengue: I’d say yes and no. Yes because the fact that African music industry is late in comparison to the rest of the world in terms of structure, results in women being more affected by gender discriminations. But we should rather this as a global struggle and not just something which is African. This year for instance, the fact that the President of the Grammy Awards’ Academy considers that women should do more efforts to put themselves forward in the musical industry is a blatant example of how disconnected people of a certain rang can still be. So no, this issue is not limited to Africa. Sexism is a global problem.
BAYN’s Music: Have you ever felt like your condition of woman has held you back from getting certain opportunities despite being equally qualified as your male counterparts?
Paola Audrey Ndengue: If it happened that I have been discriminated against based on my gender, there are chances that I did not notice anything because when I am involved in a project, I always tell myself that I am equal to the dudes. But if I had been discriminated against personally, it would be more because of cronyism. That is, maybe I was not friend enough with a particular person to win a certain market, or I was not willing to do anything illegal or immoral so that the person gives me the market. This said, I really don’t think in terms of gender when I am implicated in a project.
BAYN’s Music: On numerous occasions on Twitter, you have voiced the fact that entrepreneurship is not a journey meant for everyone. Paola Audrey, what motivates you and keeps you running 24/7 despite the hardships?
Paola Audrey Ndengue: Yes, entrepreneurship is really not made for everybody. Regarding what motivates me I really don’t know to say exactly, but I believe that in this world there are people who are predestined to leaders, and other followers (no bad connotations attached). I’m saying this because when it comes to me, I’d say that enterprising is something natural because I never ask myself questions and just move forward (sometimes a bit too much). But I would say that the main reason why I am still standing is because I have a vision which is so strong and persistant that even if I deviate from my initial plans, I always find a way to make it back to enterprising.
For years now I have had a global vision very fixed and rock solid in my mind that sometimes I must admit it’s not very easy. But through entrepreneurship, I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself and about others, especially what I can tolerate or not. I’d sum up this by saying that enterprising is a human experience that is undoubtably rich even though you learn through pain.
BAYN’s Music: Please can you share with us one of your biggest achievements and tell us how it has transformed you?
Paola Audrey Ndengue: Quite frankly, I have the impression that I still haven’t achieved what I have always wanted to do. Some people will see certain of the things I have done as an important accomplishment, but truth be told for me achievement (or accomplishment) is a process and at the moment I can’t talk about my biggest achievement. If it is in terms of what I have done, I can talk about building a media platform, the fact that we’ve done crowdfunding in 2011 and managed to raise $50,000 online at a time when the practice was not very popular. But honestly I am the type of person this always looking forward rather than at what I have done. So I will talk to you about my biggest achievement once I’ve reached my ultimate goal.
BAYN’s Music: What message would you address to the young people who want to be like you?
Paola Audrey Ndengue: If I had a message to address to the youths, I would first be: Good luck! Because it is not easy. But more seriously, I’d tell them to have a vision, to stay put, not go for less, to be rigorous, without being to strict with themselves otherwise they might miss certain opportunities or end up doing comparisons that they should not. I’d also tell them that it is important to develop a certain culture of demanding high standards from yourself, that is a form of auto-discipline and to always consider it important that you must learn something new everyday. As a matter fact, learning something new everyday before I go to sleep is my leitmotiv and this is applicable to to every professional sector but more specifically to the people working in Communication or Marketing. The world is constantly evolving so on a daily basis you need to keep learning and work on your own added value.
DJ Cuppy is an English-Nigerian DJ, music producer, songwriter, singer and philanthropist. Daughter of Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola, Cuppy through her hustle has managed to stand out as one of the very few female DJs in Africa. She has an open-format DJ style and is well known in London as the official DJ of Cactus on the Rooftop, she is also known for DJing at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards and for her 2015 tour Cuppy Takes Africa where she toured 8 African countries. In 2014 she released her first compilation House of Cuppy and end of last year she released her debut single titled Green Light featuring Nigerian producer and singer Tekno which already cumulates more than 5 million views on YouTube and 1 million streams on Spotify.
BAYN’s Music: How did this whole journey in music start for you, and how did you know that you were making the right decision?
DJ Cuppy: I believe in destiny… My musical endeavours began at a young age, I have always loved music right from my early days and I’m a passionate driven person who could never shake my love for music off. I’ve been lucky to be able to make my passion a profession which is rare, making me know that I’m on the right path. Now, as Cuppy, I no longer view myself as a girl with a hobby, but a woman with a brand and business to run.
BAYN’s Music: Do you believe that female DJs and producers in our African music industry face more barriers than their male counterparts? (Please support your answer with an explanation).
DJ Cuppy: Completely… A female DJ is really not the norm, and sometimes, people don’t like what they don’t know. But you know what? Whatever us girls do, we must do twice as well as boys to be thought half as good. Barriers are higher compared to male artists and DJ’s, but we can overcome them. My advice to any woman venturing into the entertainment industry or any career is to work hard and believe in themselves! It’s important to always see the positives in being a woman and use this to our advantage.
BAYN’s Music: What message would you like to address to the young women who see you and to be like you?
DJ Cuppy: For me I feel like talent and skill has no gender. You know, anyone that’s trying to go into anything should have genuine passion for it. My advice to any woman is you need to get ready to work hard. Hard work pays off! WHO RUN THE WORLD- GIRLS.
How to reach the participants of this editorial:
Thank you for visiting baynsmusic.com and for reading this article.