Put your money where your streams are: The must-see female acts to catch this year
In celebration of Women’s History Month, here‘s our round-up of rising names that you can connect with in-person at a live music venue near you
Thursday 24 March 2022 By Kemi Alemoru
Women are important for the entire year, of course. But Women’s History Month gives us ample opportunities to spotlight the enormous contribution of women to culture. In the music industry, they’re bringing fresh perspectives to several scenes and shaking tables in the process. They’ve become an unstoppable force in rap, are making indie and rock cool again, and pushing genre boundaries while telling alternative narratives.
This work isn’t always appreciated or rewarded on the same scale as men. In Britain and beyond, there are still battles to fight for gender equality. There’s still a well-documented pay disparity between high-earning men and overlooked female staff in the industry. Men dominate most of the top slots for music festivals, as a Guardian investigation revealed last year, with women making up just 20% of some line-ups. And in terms of chart success, as of 2020, representation for women had gone backwards. Only 2% of producers credited on the Billboard Hot 100 were women, and men dominated the list taking 80% of the spots.
But these gloomy figures give us more reason to shout about the achievements of women in the space. There are countless incredible artists garnering cult followings for their addictive, relatable, and moving music.
Here’s a round-up of rising stars that you can connect with in-person this year, either at their own gigs or as part of summer festival line-ups.
The last couple of years have been pivotal for Rina Sawayama. At the beginning of lockdown, she dropped her critically acclaimed debut studio album, Sawayama, an electro-pop project of club bangers where her sweet vocals are paired with rebellious rock sensibilities.
You can catch Sawayama in action this year if you’re on the continent in the summer. She will be performing at Primavera Sound in both Barcelona and Porto, as well as Glastonbury and Tinderbox. And lucky for Stateside pixels, she’ll be heading across the Atlantic to perform for fans in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
If her electrifying performance of ‘XS’ on Jimmy Kimmel is anything to go by, she’s got an amazing show in store.
With saccharine vocals and a nocturnal indie sound, Biig Piig’s discography is akin to a meditative sound bath. The artist straddles multiple worlds, hailing from Ireland but residing in LA. She sings and raps, and her part-muttered, part-sung tracks are in both English and Spanish.
The artist came up through Nine8 – an eight-person strong collective of alt-pop artists who support each other financially, creatively, and equally. Co-founded by fellow rising star, Lava La Rue, Biig Piig was encouraged by her peers to record her songs and out came her truths, anxieties, failures, and tales about love.
If you want to hear her soul-baring stories first-hand, she’ll be playing some dates in June and July, including shows in Germany, Ireland, Australia, and Colorado.
The London-born maverick has been fine-tuning her idiosyncratic approach to music: glitchy production of her laid-back and languid vocals, which softly deliver some of the filthiest bars in the game, add a dance beat, and finish the job with some off-kilter melodies. None of it quite fits, yet you can’t stop listening.
Shygirl has been steadily emerging from the underground and is certainly one to watch with a quick succession of essential releases like ‘UCKERS’ ‘BB’ and ‘SLIME’, as well as features with FKA Twigs, slowthai, Lady Gaga, and BLACKPINK. Her song ‘FREAK’ even appeared in Rihanna’s blockbuster Savage x Fenty lingerie show.
She has several dates coming up in the US and Mexico, although her New York and Los Angeles shows have already sold out. This summer, she’ll return to Europe for the festival circuit, so you can catch her at Primavera in Barcelona, and Lost & Found in Malta. She also has a solo show planned at Berghain in Berlin.
Inspired by Irish and Sudanese sounds, Sudan Archives’ music manages to bridge the gap between classical music and the avant-garde. Floating between genres, sometimes within a single track, her repertoire spans electro and orchestral R&B, layering her soulful vocals over experimental beats, synths, and rousing violins.
After her recent dream-like release, ‘Home Maker’, a track about the beauty and mundanity of domesticity, the US singer is stepping out. Over the coming months, she’ll be playing in Knoxville, Boston and Seattle, before jetting off to spend the summer performing around the UK. Sudan Archives can be seen at a number of festivals, including All Points East in London, Connect in Edinburgh, and Forwards in Bristol.
Even though Priya Ragu started her professional career as a technical purchaser for aircraft parts, it’s her burgeoning music career that’s really taking off.
Standout tracks like ‘Good Love 2.0’ and ‘Chicken Lemon Rice’ from the Tamil-Swiss newcomer’s debut mixtape, damnshestamil, earnt her a BBC Sound of 2022 nomination, while MTV named her as one to watch.
Her pop soundscape is one that tells the story of her own making. Ragu’s music is imbued with hints of neo-soul artists like Lauryn Hill and Musiq Soulchild, samples from Kollywood soundtracks (the Tamil language film industry), and Carnatic music.
You can catch her singing live at London’s Shoreditch House on 31 March as part of our Soho Rising series. But for those of you who can’t make it, she’s also be doing dates in New York, Glasgow, Dublin and Paris over the summer.
Music has long been RIMON’s dream – the artist has revealed that she’s been writing music since she was 10 years old and burning them onto CDs. Having spent time with Amy Winehouse, Frank Ocean and Erykah Badu, the Eritrean-born and Amsterdam-based artist’s music blends soulful – and sometimes electronically distorted – vocals with conscious and introspective lyricism.
Her work is stuffed with mantras for her and her friends, like the album BBYGIRL FOCU$, which is an important commandment to keep self-love as a top priority. And more recently, the EP Digital Tears, was a conceptual exploration of our addiction to technology. Elsewhere, RIMON sings about self-growth and heartbreak.
She’s about to set sail across Europe, performing for crowds in Brussels, Paris, Hamburg, London, and Berlin.
It’s still hilarious to think that one of Doja Cat’s first big moments came in 2018 when she dropped a lo-fi video rapping about being a cow. When ‘Mooo!’ went viral, she’d just released Amala, an album that could better be described as a statement of intent. She has a knack for contagious melodies, and hilarious, witty and relatable lyrics that stick with you for months. Since then, Hot Pink and Planet Her have confirmed her as one of the biggest names in music, and an untouchable hitmaker. Doja Cat is now undeniably a superstar.
However, even though much of her chart domination really set in while we were all shut indoors, fans will be able to get a little closer this year as she tours around the world. She’s top billing at festivals like Lollapalooza in São Paulo, Coachella in California, and Glastonbury. She’s also touring the US with The Weeknd in August and September for a show where a dollar from each ticket goes towards the Canadian singer-songwriter’s XO humanitarian fund.
To find out more about our Soho Rising series, click here; to find out more about Soho Desert House, click here.
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