Medya Gungor meets two local women who are helping The Voice look for local talent
SouthSounds was founded two years ago as a community-based creative collective whose mission is to showcase the talent of local artists. Best friends Gaia Ahuja and Matongo Chiabi began hosting sell-out events at performing arts venue Streatham Space Project, inviting singers, rappers and poets from all backgrounds into a judgement-free, no-pressure space to perform freely with the support of other like-minded artists.
Young people from South London are often stereotyped before their voices are heard, so these events are an important platform for those whose creative ability deserves to be noticed and shared.
Bringing it up a level, SouthSounds have collaborated with ITV’s The Voice and are currently in search of applicants aged 16+ to take part in the 2021 series.
There are only a few days left to apply. The deadline is 15 May – so get your applications in soon!
I caught up with founders Gaia and Matty via a Zoom call to see what they had to say.
How did your collaboration with ITV’s The Voice UK come about?
Gaia: We wanted to be able think of a way we could interact with artists during isolation, something original and personable that involves a lot of people. Then it was kind of fate, the email from The Voice had been in our inbox for ages, but life had taken over so we hadn’t properly looked into it.
Matty: One night I was going through our inbox and read the email title: “The Voice UK x SouthSounds” and I thought it was a prank! I rang Gaia straight away saying “We’ve got an email from ITV, they really want to do this!” This really helped bring our ideas to life as we knew what we wanted to do but we wanted to make sure everything was structured and well planned out.
Gaia: Because me and Matty run everything ourselves it’s been hard not being together and having each other to bounce off, but now because of The Voice it’s more about the applicants, so we’re able to take a step back and do more behind the scenes.
Matty: The situation has forced us to be more creative and also work on our professional side, building SouthSounds as a brand and preparing for the future. We’re connecting with so many more artists now, which means when we can finally host our next event, we’ll be able to introduce loads of new people. It’s exciting.
Was SouthSounds created because you felt there was no platform for young artists locally? Were you in this position yourselves?
Matty: It was a bit of both. A co-ordinator at Streatham Space jokingly suggested that we put an event on, but we thought about it and realised that we knew a lot of artists, we talk about the current climate in the community and how there’s no opportunities for young people. So we just did it.
Gaia: It’s really important to us that our events are fun and everyone’s having a good time, that’s why we make sure there’s a bar and a DJ. It has an intimate energy because the space is small so when artists are performing, it’s special and everyone is respectful. Then as soon as someone has stopped performing, everyone’s laughing and chatting again.
Matty: It’s stressful s but we definitely feed off the crowd, so when they’re there supporting us too it means we can produce a show that everyone enjoys.
What would your advice be to someone who might be thinking about applying but hasn’t had the experience of live performing before?
Matty: I’d say “Be brave”.
Gaia: I’d say to look on our Instagram as we have videos of performers who were in this position, saying how much fun they’ve had with SouthSounds. It’s the perfect environment to do something for the first time, it’s supportive. I get nervous for people because I want them to do well!
Matty: We want people to look at our Instagram and think “Yeah, I could do this”. The bigger the crowd gets, the more warmer and inviting it all becomes. For so many performers at our events, it is their first time performing and with The Voice I would encourage people to apply because you’ve got nothing to lose and if it’s what you love doing, you never know what could come from it.
TO ENTER: Send a cover, freestyle or original song to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a video using the hashtag #TheVoiceUK and the tag @southsoundsevents
DEADLINE: 7pm 15 May 2020