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  • Writer's pictureSophie Smith

Radio presenter and songwriter Winnie Ama on confidence and representation

Winnie Ama
Image via Winnie Ama

Winnie Ama is an emerging Northern-Irish singer-songwriter, activist and radio presenter. Like many in the music industry she wears many hats, and she nails absolutely all of them. From her activism in community organisation Why Not Her? to presenting Colourful Radio she is using her platform to create positive change within the music industry, and with a voice like hers- you want to listen.

Before writing music you wrote stories and poetry, have you re-used any of your art in your music?

Nope! I've never thought of that actually. The stories and poetry stand independently as their own thing. I don't think I've shared them with more than a handful of people, for no reason other than I've never thought of it. Now I'm thinking of it and they have their own place in time and space so I wouldn't reuse them, but if there are themes and ideas that still create a resonance, I would reference them as ideas. I think each piece of art is beautiful in its uniqueness. Your music is hyptnotizingly soulful, what is your favourite song you’ve written to date?

Ohhhh! Thank you so much! I loved creating 'Here I Go' which is a journey song, it's very fun, completely literal. In the first verse it's about a girl who is so awkward and shy that she used to panic if anyone even looked at her to start a conversation. Then of course, she gets over it and lives her best life because she starts paying attention to the right things and ignoring the rest. I wrote that song as a nod of respect to the people who nurtured my spirit when I didn't know who I was or what I needed. It's also a reminder to encourage people when you see potential in them. I'm grateful for my journey from crippling shyness to full confidence and the ability to absorb the joy in every moment instead of worrying about what people think.

Winnie Ama faces the camera with her head in her hands
Image via Winnie Ama

Which song is your favourite to perform live?

I love performing Don't Worry live. It's a singalong song, easy to learn, it's about love and good times.

Who would you love to collaborate with?

Arlo Parks, Stormzy, Tems, Snowpatrol, Van Morrison. I definitely wanna collaborate with like-minded artists and producers across genres and eras to make some really special tracks in the future.

What about Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse’s style inspires you?

I think all of them did it for the love of art and expression, and the success followed them. I don't think any of them wanted to be famous, they just wanted to create beauty and they did, lyrically, vocally, musically and emotionally most of all. All of them had soul and all of them created timeless and relatable immersive art. You are a radio presenter at Colourful Radio, how did you get into presenting?

I did a session with Colourful Radio, as an artist - in interview, then they asked me if I'd like to have my own show. I was shocked and I said a huge yes. It's an honour to say yes an opportunity to learn a new skill in music and make something new, especially in a space where females and people of colour are under-represented. You work closely with Why Not Her? Can you tell us about your involvement and what you do as an organisation?

I work with Linda Coogan Byrne and Gary Lynch to create the reports. We analyse the data for UK and Ireland to check for trends in representation on the airwaves and make recommendations to policy makers and industry to increase representation on the radio. We want radio to reflect our multi-cultural society and not just one aspect.

Winnie is looking at the camera at a 45 degree angle wearing big gold hoops and a oversized shirt
Image via Winnie Ama

What advice would you give to women and gender minorities entering the music industry?

If you can't find a space for people who look like you, make that space, invent it yourself. If you find people who are similar, regard them as your allies, not your competitors. Allies together make a musical scene and sometimes whole new genres. Competitors end up divided and weak. Always offer your best work, never anything incomplete, don't give people a reason to reject your work on merit. Promote work that you'd be proud to stand alongside and songs that you can defend at every level. How would you like to see the music industry change for women and gender minorities?

I would love to see women and gender minorities breaking the 20% glass ceiling at all levels and in all genres of music alongside their male counterparts. I want to see women and gender minorities at parity with men, representing the population on A-List radio rotation, headlining festivals and receiving the same levels of support as men from labels, radio, promoters and the rest of the music industry.

Stream 'Don't Worry' by Winnie Ama here:


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