MOBO Awards Founder Kanya King Talks Success, Music & Inspiration
Established back in 1996, the annual MOBO Awards has become one of the most prestigious awards ceremonies celebrating the successes of artists across the globe. The woman behind the show, London-born Kanya King, has experienced all the highs and lows that come with creating such a crucial brand for the scene. We caught up with Kanya during her visit to Birmingham.
What inspired you to create this awards show?
The concept of MOBO was born over a kitchen table in London way back in 1996. I wanted to create an inclusive music awards show that would highlight and celebrate a genre of music that wasn’t getting the exposure it deserved. There were so many artists who weren’t being honoured for their incredible music they were giving us. It really came from a desire to see them deservedly recognised for their hard work.
Just imagine: Urban music was enjoyed by large groups of fans in clubs and at concerts across the UK, but wasn’t getting radio airplay and as a result, music award shows completely ignored the genre. Our aim back then was to elevate the music from what was perceived as niche to mainstream status.
You mentioned having to re-mortgage your house to originally fund the MOBOs. This truly represents the risk necessary, but also the belief. Can you define the importance of this belief?
Back then when I started MOBO I took a huge risk and have to admit that it is not what I would recommend to everyone. But for me, it was absolutely important to take the next big step and overcome every obstacle that stood in my way.
I am sure that if you truly believe in your venture, you can achieve anything you want. Sure, you have to trust your instinct and be relentless but also gather a team of people who share the same winning attitude. You are only as good as the people you rely on – This is absolutely crucial to me.
A small team of dedicated MOBO believers and myself managed to get an awards show, the likes of which had never been seen before, on terrestrial TV at a prime time slot. The feeling was indescribable for us all.
The show itself is approaching its 20th anniversary. Is there anything special planned and what can we expect the MOBO brand to be venturing into or doing more of?
2015 marks an important year for us all here at MOBO with new challenges and new exciting projects. In their 20th year, the upcoming MOBO Awards will be the biggest and brightest show ever in the MOBO history –but it doesn’t stop there. Along with great partners such as ITV and HTC, we are expanding the MOBO brand to not only help emerging artists to make their mark in the music industry but also create opportunities for young people to get their foot in the door of all creative industries.
Exciting times ahead!
Do you have a favourite MOBO memory?
There are so many. I always struggle to think of just one, but the biggest highlight for me has to be putting on the very first show back in 1996. With all the naysayers and doubt, we managed to put on a hugely successful show in just six weeks!
The UK music scene is stronger than it has ever been. Would you agree?
I would absolutely agree. What makes me the most proud today is that it’s not only Pop and Rock that are receiving mainstream support and popularity, but also Urban music like Grime and Rap as it continues to gain more and more attention.
Last year was an especially fantastic year for urban talent. Underground artists gained huge attention and are more successful than ever, for instance after Stormzy’s MOBO win he has gone on to land in the Top 3 of the BBC Sound of 2015 list and his debut headline show sold out in under four minutes, showing the strength of his following and star power.
You’ve received numerous accolades and recognitions over the years, what’s next for yourself?
My dreams have always been to inspire, educate and motivate young people so they can reach their full potential through a variety of enterprises and initiatives.
When I look to the future, I’d like to play an even bigger role in developing and promoting new talent; but not only as artists. I would like to create more opportunities for aspiring young people who are determined to put their foot in the door of the creative industries through with various parties and other influential bodies and giving them the opportunities they deserve.
Ordinary people can become extraordinary if they can dedicate their lives to the pursuit of their dreams. I’ve always believed in the power of thinking big and taking action, there is no such thing as being too audacious with your dreams. I don’t believe I will ever stop dreaming or setting new goals for myself because when one dream is achieved another is pursued.
The show moved outside of London a few years back, it’s been to Glasgow and Liverpool, will we ever see the MOBOs hosted in Birmingham?
We don’t have any limits here at MOBO –Anything is possible!