by Mayran Osman
Hamda Issa-Salwe is the sales and creative coordinator at Bravado by day and a freelance music journalist at night. At Bravado she focuses on bringing in and creating special projects for UK rap and grime artists to appeal to urban consumers. In addition, her freelancing gig as a journalist has allowed her to interview celebrities such as Michael Dapaah, Charlie Sloth, and Cherrie. She is a testament to the value that a young woman of colour can add to key decision-making processes in the music industry.
Hamda tells me that her interest in writing started when she was in her teens. She used to write for her school paper and for a local charity magazine. She would carry out investigations for the local charity magazine, and on the back of this secured a Jack Petchey grant for writing an article about legal highs in Camden Town. Her passion for writing continued in university where she pitched her work to various magazines and was able to get her work published on The Fader, FACT magazine and Link Up. Whilst working at Link Up she interviewed radio presenter, Charlie Sloth and, comedian, Michael Dappah. Hamda tells me, “I started my interview with Charlie Sloth about how he does Fire In The Booth, as soon as I start talking about Fire In The Booth, I hear ‘Zoop’ and it’s like the puffer jacket zipping up and then Michael Dappah walks in and he is like “Yo, boom Charlie, so where is my fire in the booth?” He interrupts the interview and they go into this skit.” The Link Up video has now gone on to gain a million views. The takeaway from the video was Charlie Sloth inviting Michael Dappah to come on Fire In The Booth. He ended up doing a freestyle and it turned out to be the Mans Not Hot song, which blew up and received five million views on Youtube. “Obviously I don’t have any credit in him becoming so big, but I was involved in a tiny part of that, which felt crazy and amazing to have just been there for a tiny bit of his journey”, Hamda says.
Working at Bravado has allowed Hamda to work on exciting projects, one of them was helping to organise the merchandise for the Guns n’ Roses tour, which took place in the London Olympic Stadium. There were 60,000 people each for the two nights; in total it was 120,000 people. She sold thousands of t-shirts and was able to view behind the stage areas, “When you are at the office the whole day you don’t think about the purpose of the product, but when you see the product on fans you realise that this person will have that t-shirt in ten years time. It will be vintage by then, and it will be something memorable for them. I was like this is fantastic and was buzzing for weeks after that.”
She has also worked with Missguided on a huge campaign and created a range of Disney princesses t-shirts with meme references, the retailer loved the concept and bought the product, “We had the samples come into the office, and I was ecstatic. My small idea turned into something huge and that is going to be worn by someone like Shelly-Anne from Manchester. The designs feel playful and nostalgic. Sometimes I feel like a modern version of the Disney princesses I grew up watching, but I’m older and badass.”
I ask about the advice she would give young people who want to break into the music industry, “I would say if you are in university right now get any sort of experience that you can get. Create a professional email address with your name on it, get on Twitter and Instagram, and make sure to make your handle your name, be active on Twitter and try to make connections. If you are interested in writing, email editors that have their email address in their Twitter bio and pitch your ideas, but don’t go into too much detail because people will steal your ideas. Make sure that you are always building up your CV. Once you have a variety of work create a website and make it your portfolio so that you are a bit more professional, include your details and your email address. Recruiters love seeing young people active in the music industry and that is what helped me secure my role at Bravado. Try to go out as much as you can to events and network, I used to go out by myself to events with the intention of me writing a review and I would have to kind of be forced to socialise so I would end up meeting and connecting with people who were in the positions I wanted to be in. The people you meet that are going to be so useful for you are photographers, DJ’s and people that work in PR.”
Issa-Salwe explains that a significant amount needs to change in the music industry in order for it to accept more diverse talent, “If companies do not hire diverse talent then they will end up making terrible decisions, which is why people get offended when adverts cross the line and bad PR decisions are made. People who are not very well informed are making these decisions. We need people that are in tune with the sentiments and nuances to be present, as not everyone understands the culture. The more young people that we have kicking down those doors and getting into those offices, getting into those boardrooms, the more diverse and less problematic the industry gets.”
Hamda’s wisdom and influence is exactly what we need to look up to. Her ideas and advice reinforce how consistency and determination will help you reach your goals.
To keep in the loop with what else Hamda gets up to follow her on Twitter @HamdaLDN and check out her work on hamdaissasalwe.com