‘You have to work ten times harder than anyone else’, Shay Sade, presenter, music editor and vlogger

Hazel Brown caught up with Shay Sade for a cuppa and a chat. Shay has been a radio presenter for youth-led radio station, Reprezent, for the past three years, is music editor for GUAP magazine, who focus on young emerging talent, and a vlogger for Ubunifu Space.

Shay has created an exclusive playlist for WMN readers. Tune in while you read.

Can you tell me a bit about your show on Reprezent and how you got involved?

My show is a platform for emerging and fresh music from around the world. I play future beats, electronic, quite a lot of south African house music, UK trap, ballet funk from Brazil – a big mix of all sorts of sounds. As well as music, I like to interview other creatives, have debates and make it quite fun and vibrant. We’ll have a discussion about colourism, for example, or we’ll have a discussion about how it is being a woman vs a man.

Recently I’ve been trying to focus on female artists in RnB. In the UK it’s not seen enough and not spoken about enough. We have some front runners like Jorja Smith, but we have so many artists who aren’t put on the map.

Reprezent is a great place for young people to grow, develop, and learn. Last year I was presenting live from Lovebox Festival. We had a Reprezent takeover on Beats 1 where I got to present an influence show talking about who’s up and coming in 2018.

What’s been your favourite moment in one of your shows?

My favourite moment has been interviewing Sampha. That was one of my biggest moments just because I was scared. I wasn’t frightened to interview him, I was scared because I like him so much and really respect him as an artist. That was part of The xx takeover. The xx had a series of take over shows for around a week and they were performing at Brixton Academy – so many different creatives came down such as Nadia Rose. I’ve been able to interview artists from America as well. There was an artist I interviewed called Buddy who had a headline show in London and I asked him ‘yo, do you want to talk?’ and they were just ready for it.

How did you first get into DJing?

DJing is something that’s quite new for me… I’m still trying to grow my confidence to get out there more, but this year I’ve had a lot of people asking me to DJ. Now I’m like, ‘ok, maybe it’s time to finally get out there’. My first gig is meant to be in South Africa.

You’re also a music editor for GUAP magazine – why do you think it’s important to have platforms that showcase emerging talent and creatives?

A lot of these big platforms that we look up to are kind of slow to what’s happening right now… For example, IAMDDB has got such a unique sound. Without all these other little platforms pushing her and talking about her, it would take a while for bigger platforms to take notice. We need a middle ground from the artist to the big players and those online platforms and magazines like GUAP are a great place for that.

How long have you been at GUAP?

Since 2017. I knew Ibrahim and Jide [who run GUAP] from college. I remember going into my first or second year of uni and seeing that they had this magazine going. When I came to leave uni I thought, ‘I don’t just want to present – I want to do more. What I can do? I like to talk about music. I like to write about it as well.’

They did a playlist and I thought ‘these guys can do way better than this.’ I think it was in my kind of genre like future beats and alternative sounds. I messaged Ibrahim saying I wanted to help out. He got back to me a couple of days later. He said ‘let’s talk’ and then from there we both just clicked musically.

I get to meet so many different people, curate print issues and articles, and work with a great team of people who love music.

Through your work as a music editor and presenter, you have a lot of conversations with emerging and established artists. What do you think some of the challenges are that women in the music industry need to overcome?

I think being taken seriously. Sometimes I think talking to different artists, especially male artists, they may feel as if talking to them or interviewing them could lead into flirtatious behaviour, going out with them and that kind of stuff. This is my job, this is what I do, I’m not here to get a relationship… I think a lot of people just assume they can get their way in. I feel that women have enough challenges as it is, to be sitting in a room full of predominantly men, so to then look at a women that’s in a room and think ‘she wants a bit of me’, that’s an issue I think that I’ve had to overcome.

As well as that, I think you have to work a lot harder. I’ve been struggling for a long time trying to build my confidence and not let anxiety get to me. It’s a hard one because the industry can be so cut throat and everyone’s trying to go for the same stuff. It’s about keeping your self esteem in tact. That’s been a struggle for me. Especially when you’re a woman of colour, you have to work even harder than anybody else. You can be a male of colour and you may be a bit better off than a woman of colour, especially when it’s presenting and DJing.

You said you have to work harder, what is it that contributes to that do you think?

The music industry is obviously predominantly white, so if you are a person of colour and you are doing things behind the scenes you’re more likely to not be seen. Obviously nowadays I see so many women coming out and they’re like, this is what I do, but before, when I was trying to get into it, I didn’t really see a lot of that. I would say your skin colour can be a disadvantage sometimes… For me, I’ve been taught that you have to work ten times harder than anyone else and you need to do this only because this world will not be nice to you.

One person once told me that if you’re pretty you are more likely to be accepted, and ‘you’re lucky to be a pretty presenter’ or ‘you’re lucky to be a pretty DJ’ because you’re more marketable. ‘Right ok, it’s not even about my talent it’s about my looks now.’ People tell me to stop wearing hoodies, stop wearing oversized t shirts, ‘start showing your body a bit more because that will get people to look at you a bit more…’ but it’s not who I’m trying to be. I’m trying to be a presenter and music editor. I just don’t think the way you look should be the first port of call.

Do you think sometimes you’re seen or judged differently?

Yeah definitely judged differently. I feel like colourism plays a big part in that. Being a darker skinned woman as well, I feel like I’m automatically perceived differently. I think that can just be in any walk of life. I think I am perceived differently to someone that may be fairer than me and that isn’t out of jealously or anything like that, that’s just generally what happens. Especially in the black community that happens quite often.

What steps do you think we can take to ensure we have a more equal and fair music industry?

I could sit here and say companies need to hire a certain amount of women, and within those women there would have to be a certain number of females of colour, but that may not be judging on merit – that may be judging on the way someone looks. I think it should be about creating more opportunities and… it’s teaching people to get in front of these roles. There’s a lot of kids that want to be an A&R but they don’t know how to do it… so teach them about what they can do. Start early – more workshops, more things that can help them.

With radio it’s so hard and it’s such a small industry… It’s finding the opportunities which are quite rare. With radio you have to show yourself, you just have to be online all the time, you have to be on social media, you need to put on a really good show, you need people to recommend you, you need to be in their face a bit more. That’s when the bigger stations are like, ‘oh, this person is really popular and is quite cool’. It’s not easy where it’s like ‘there’s an ad for a daytime presenter, let me apply and give them a show reel.’ It’s not like that.

You’re also a vlogger for Ubunifu Space, can you explain a bit about that?

Ubunifu Space is an online platform which tries to connect the diaspora to the African continent. We merge the two. We have a YouTube channel that has done amazingly well, we’re so shocked what it’s done in a year. My friend Brian had the idea – he wanted to get UK people more interested in music from around the world specifically Africa. He thought we could start reacting to music videos and that’s what we did. From there it’s really taken off and now we’re on over seven million views. We’ve got so much more content coming, we’re going to be going to South Africa to do a tour out there.

The channel is really great, it really introduced me to music from that continent. I’m Nigerian but, obviously apart from Nigerian music, I didn’t know a lot about South African music, East African music and all the sounds that were coming out that were so good and people just weren’t listening to enough over here. We have the UK team, we all know each other from school, and then we have a Kenyan team who would react to UK music. The Kenyans have stopped that now but they’re going to be doing some other exciting stuff for the space.

Listen to Shay on the Reprezent Mixcloud
Ubunifu Space on YouTube

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