Kanya King on why the music business needs the MOBO Awards

Kanya King on why the music business needs the MOBO Awards

It’s the return of the MOBO Awards tonight (December 9) after a three-year hiatus.

The virtual ceremony starts at 7pm on YouTube followed by a BBC One highlights broadcast at 10.45pm.

Nines leads the MOBO nominations with five, while there are three nominations each for Lianne La HavasMahalia and Tiana Major9. Performers include Headie OneM HunchoMs Banks and Tiwa Savage.

Here, MOBO founder and CEO Kanya King takes us inside this year’s ceremony…

Why was it important to bring the MOBO Awards back at this point? 

“Although we haven’t had a MOBO Awards for 2018 and 2019, the last couple of years has seen more work than ever from the MOBO Trust, MOBO Unsung, MOBO Help Musicians Fund, events and social campaigns. It has been a very busy few years for MOBO. MOBO is an important brand that has built up an enormous amount of trust and goodwill over the last 25 years. 

“We had always planned to bring the awards back as it is, and has been, so important to a lot of people – and not just the talent. And especially after this historic year, we were not going to ignore the times that we are in and decided to end 2020 on a bold and optimistic note. The event was on a hiatus because, after 22 consecutive, annually televised, award shows, we needed to take stock, evaluate, assess our impact and work towards expansion and diversification. Looking towards the future, it is important for us to use the Awards to build on our strong foundation for a wider purpose and even greater impact.”

What do YouTube and the BBC bring to this year's event in terms of reach, domestically and internationally? 

“Having YouTube and the BBC on board is having the best of both worlds, working with titans of the industry. The BBC brings enormous reach across TV, radio and online and YouTube is a key channel for our audience, so it’s fantastic to be partnering with them. They bring in a global audience by getting fully behind the brand and what we stand for. It really is the ideal combination to bring the awards ceremony back into the public domain working with such influential allies.”  

The MOBO Organisation is committed to driving diversity, inclusion and opportunity in music and beyond

Kanya King

How important have the MOBOs been in making UK rap, in particular, such a powerful force in contemporary music? 

“MOBO has consistently championed not only UK rap but a host of genres from reggae to grime, gospel, soul and R&B to hip-hop for almost 25 years. Every year, we have nominated some 50 to 70, mostly emerging, artists across the genres and put them onto the ladder of success. A MOBO nomination or category win has changed many artists' lives. This year, we are even nominating 12 Best Newcomers who are to benefit from this accolade. 

“Outside of the awards, we continue to support talent and break artists through our talent development programmes such as MOBO UnSung with PRS Foundation and the MOBO Help Musicians Fund backed by Help Musicians. These programmes provide a whole series of opportunities as well as financial support for emerging talent. It is rewarding to see artists such as Tiana Major9, who came through the MOBO Unsung platform and is now a three-time MOBO nominee. It shows that these programmes do work.”

Is the support of labels crucial for the ongoing success of the awards? 

“There has never been a more dynamic time for Black British music than now, with it being embraced by the masses. There are so many artists who only five years ago would have been considered niche and are now achieving mainstream success through high chart positions. It is important to have long-term backing from the labels, because their support impacts a whole wider ecosystem which extends to support not only for performing talent but behind the scenes talent too.”  

In a year of global protests calling for racial justice, how can the MOBOs help to bring about positive change in music and beyond? 

“Apart from the work The MOBO Organisation does, we will help bring about positive change in the music industry by our career-mentoring activities, ensuring that those wanting a job in music can connect, grow and learn from other creatives and individuals on our platform and at industry events via our mentor pathway. MOBO has always been an aspirational brand and we'll be able to do much more in 2021 through a few initiatives we will be launching.”

Tiwa Savage is performing this year – how will the strength of African artists be celebrated at the MOBOs?

“For two decades, MOBO has been championing African music and culture. Throughout the years we’ve witnessed artists like WizKid, Davido, D’Banj, Tiwa Savage, Fuse ODG and many more experience phenomenal success and I’m proud to say that MOBO has been a great platform to honour their achievements, as well as providing the opportunity for their talents to reach a wider audience. Whether it’s through winning a MOBO Award, performing on the MOBO stage or even earning a MOBO Awards nomination, MOBO continues to recognise the phenomenal impact and footprint African music continues to make, not just in the music industry, but in the wider society. In this respect, I'd like to mention that we are partnering on the Best African Act category with a US platform to further support African musical talent across the world.” 

What does the future hold for the awards in 2021 and the organisation? 

“The MOBO Organisation is committed to driving diversity, inclusion and opportunity in music and beyond. We are working towards an exciting new chapter for the awards and the organisation will see a number of groundbreaking initiatives that are to benefit organisations as well as creative talent. Lots of changes on the horizon!”

To read our full MOBOs report, subscribers can click here.

* To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, subscribe to our digital issue by clicking here.

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