It would be an understatement to say the music industry has faced real hardships throughout the pandemic. There’s been no live performances as such, in venues we know and love, and recording has taken on a different vibe.

Of course, the industry has faced tough times before, with the advent of the internet and live streaming. The way we consume our music has changed too from vinyl to CD, MP3 to telling our device to play our favourite songs on demand.

Despite these recent hardships faced by the music industry here in Wales, the Forté Project, an artist development scheme for emerging musicians, have just announced that KINGKHAN and Mari Matias from Cardiff, along with The Honest Poet from Monmouthshire, Mojo JNR from Swansea and Hemes from Pontypridd have been selected to embark on its 2021 programme, alongside six other artists.

To put into perspective the scale of the challenges facing the industry, the World Economic Forum came up with these frightening statistics……

  • The music industry has been hit hard by coronavirus with live performance revenue the biggest casualty. A six-month shutdown is estimated to cost the industry more than £7bn in sponsorships, with longer delays being even more devastating.
  • The industry is fighting back with new ways to monetise music consumption and innovative models: To show our appetite and need for live music, Fortnite hosted a live rap concert recently that attracted nearly 30 million live viewers.
  • The crisis is likely to accelerate underlying trends in the music industry, based on the importance of streaming, which has grown from 9% to 47% of total industry revenues in just six years.

Yet the Forté Project didn’t give up the fight last year and as a result, has secured Arts Council of Wales and PRS Foundation funding, allowing the project to expand beyond its original South Wales regions for the first time and reach new artists across the country.

Thanks to this, the chosen artists, aged between 16-25, will be given professional industry support designed to progress their early careers, during a six-month mentorship programme.

They will receive masterclasses from top names in the industry such as Romesh Dodaganda (Grammy nominated producer: Bring Me The Horizons), Corey Sanders (Songwriter for Katy Perry), Warp Records (home to Brian Eno and Aphex Twin), Bethan Elfyn (BBC Radio Wales), and Davey Newington (Boy Azooga).

Naturally, the programme has been shaped to suit a more Covid friendly way of working with all classes taking place digitally, and the addition of some new pandemic-proof lessons. Including, how to professionally live stream and record tracks at home, which is more important now than ever before.

On top of this, another new, yet relevant aspect of the programme this year is working with Mental Health UK to deliver a digital mental health support package tailored to each act.

Forté Project’s Lead Officer, Spike Griffiths told us…….

“Even though the past 12 months have been crushing for the music industry, it feels great to finally say that something good has emerged from such challenging times.”

“It’s important that we adapt our ways of working to be relevant right now which is why we’ve introduced live streaming, home recording and mental health support packages for each artist.”

Spike Griffiths

“The new way of working has allowed us to expand outside of South Wales and discover the incredible quality of music emerging from Wales. Obviously, this all made things very difficult for the panel in the final selection process.”

Over five years, Forté has worked with over fifty young artists to build their profile, generate opportunities and provide the necessary knowledge to help propel them into a career in the industry.

We spoke to Spike ahead of the announcement and he told us more about the project and how important the scheme is for you musicians all across Wales.

So let’s focus on the acts from here in South Wales…..

Cardiff based KINGKHAN is an artist that exemplifies what it means to have a DIY work ethic in 2020.

From producing all of his own work and music for other artists, to filming and editing his music videos, Khan is truly dedicated to his craft.

With songs ranging from experimental dance pop all the way through to old school rap songs about skateboarding and growing up on an estate, his style is as distinctive as it is eclectic.

His first EP ‘Lovesongs & Melodrama’ helped him to make waves as an underground artist and showed that KINGKHAN is not afraid to be vulnerable in his lyricism, touching on topics such as heartbreak, drug use and growing up, all over 80’s inspired emotional trap instrumentals. 

With his debut album ‘Happy To Be Here’ coming in this year, Khan is continuing to develop his sound through experimenting with different genres.

KINGKHAN – BALSTOISE

And if you want to see the video, it’s here BALSTOISE

Understandably, being part of the project is a great step forward for KINGKHAN, he told us….

“I feel incredibly humbled to be a part of the Forte Project this year and can’t wait to work with them on developing myself as an artist. No man is an island and I’m excited to see how my career develops with Forte’s support”

KINGKHAN

MARI MATHIAS is a young welsh folk/indie singer-songwriter who brings a fresh contemporary sound to both traditional folk songs and original material.

She was born and brought up in West Wales and has developed her musical style having played with various bands throughout her teenage years, gaining wide recognition in the welsh music scene.

Over recent years Mari has shared a stage as a support for exciting artists such as Gruff Rhys &; Meic Stevens. Her EP “Ysbryd y ty” was released at the beginning of the year, supported by JIGCAL Records having won BBC Brwydr y Bandiau at the National Eisteddfod.

MARI MATHISA – CYSGODION

She is now ready to embark on recording a new project that includes storytelling through cinematic soundscapes, live instruments and layering her folky & haunting voice. 

Here is the video to HELO

She too is thrilled to be part of the project. Mari told us……

“I’m really looking forward to developing further as an artist & create new and exciting music from the experiences and connections through Forté.” 

Mari Mathias

THE HONEST POET is a South Wales based singer/songwriter in Monmouthshire. THP has unique soulful vocals which emanate raw emotion.

Drawing his inspiration from his life, he cultivates each lyrical story from an honest viewpoint. Poetry plays a significant role throughout the entirety of THP’s music, infusing hip hop, spoken word and soul combining with open and honest lyrics. Nothing shows that more than his single ‘PURPOSE.’

Telling us about his single “Purpose”, THP said…….

“This started off as a poem to my fiancé, then was adapted to verses and a chorus. It just goes into detail of how much she means to me and how I have found deep love for someone other than myself. The beat itself was an international link up with another Instagram with a producer that goes by the name of Menno Beck.”

The Honest Poet

MOJO JNR is the alias of South Wales Musician Josh David-Read.

Pairing the dreamiest of summer soundscapes, with husky vocal musings, his canvas of creativity spans far and wide, crafting music that will surely delight any listener.

With a deep and unique approach to indie-pop, composed from the world around him, Josh harnesses a brave expression of his own thoughts, feelings and emotions.

MOJO JNR – MILES AWAY

Utilising a vibrant spectrum of personal experience, he shares his colourful musical universe with the world.

Friends and those he meets along the way may play a helping hand in what finally culminates as Mojo JNR. Yet the driving force, evoking and breathing life into the project, truly is Josh himself. 

Mojo JNR

HEMES is an exciting emerging artist born to both Arabic parents, her love for song writing and poetry stemmed from a young age.

Based in Pontypridd, Hemes has collaborated with welsh duo, ‘Two Of Us’ on Latin inspired track “Casual” as a feature and co-write.

Her debut solo single, ‘Who Needs Love’ was released last October and immediately landed support from BBC introducing Wales in the BBC Wales A- list and the Welsh mix by Bethan Elfyn, as well as support from hype machine blogs such as A1234, Conversations About Her and DiscoverNU.

HEMES – WHO NEEDS LOVE

Hemes’ music is sonically inspired by the likes of Grace Carter, Khalid and Kiana Lede, ‘Who Needs Love’ was produced by welsh producer Daniel Evans (LVR) and infuses Arabian scales with modern day dark pop, her debut sets a scene for what to expect in 2021 as she releases her debut EP. 

Hemes

The other acts joining the project are…….

Last July ADERYN released her debut single Lucozade, which was played on BBC Radio Wales on the Adam Walton show and in Bethan Elfyn’s Wales mix. Adam Walton called it one of his ‘favourite songs of the year’.

Aderyn
ADERYN – LUCOZADE

Hailing out of a small town in North Wales where big opportunities are very far and few between, DEMZIE is here to showcase that with enough passion and dedication you can achieve anything you truly desire.

Demzie
DEMZIE – DOWN (Explicit)

ELINA is a self taught producer and singer-songwriter out to prove that women can be a part of the whole musical process from the lyric writing and melody to the mixing and mastering of the track, since only 5% of the producers in the UK are women.

Elina
ELINA – MY LOVELY

LEWYS Meredydd’s talent was evident from the demos he recorded at just 16, and clearly demonstrated his talent and passion for songwriting.

Over the next two years a great partnership would develop with Côsh and a number of singles would be released which also proved that his music had wide appeal.

Over the past year, Lewys has formed a band, with all members now contributing to the writing as well as playing incredible live shows before they were put on hold.

Lewys
LEWYS – Y CYFFRO

Former acts who have previously benefited from Forté support include Welsh producer EÄDYTH, pop act HANA2K and singer-songwriter Otto, who signed to Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart’s record label in 2020. To find out more about the project, just go HERE.

As for the work of MENTAL HEALTH UK, never has the vital service they provide been so important and necessary.

Whether you’re social distancing or self-isolating you may be feeling anxious or stressed during this time, and that’s completely normal. There are simple steps you can take to look after your mental health and wellbeing. Mental Health UK continue to add and update the information they provide.

Working from home brings many challenges in itself, and the strain on our mental well being is enormous. With new social distancing measures what can we do to look after our mental health and wellbeing?

Take a look at the resources they MHUK have put together, which include some really useful tips and ideas, which we can all follow and adopt. MHUK

Take a look at these pages too which may also help.

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