On International Women’s Day, hear from Tabi Gazele about empowering female musicians

Family and heritage 

Tabi Gazele was born and raised in Australia to Nigerian parents and is in little doubt over the impact her heritage and family have had on her passion for music. 

Nigerian culture is very much about using music to celebrate life,” she explains. My father was also a self-taught musician, so I just got the taste for performing by seeing how beautiful it can be to share live music with people.”

Tabi has older siblings and remembers playing music with her brothers and sister growing up, always trying to emulate them. I’m the youngest but never felt I could sing as well as my sister, so I was putting in a lot of effort into music.” This interest blossomed into a desire to write her own songs and eventually she completed a music degree in Australia.

There is so much support from Help Musicians that goes way beyond financial gain, their support touches so many different things.

The performance side of music was what truly excited Tabi however and after university she spent three and a half years touring internationally as a backing vocalist for signed artists in Australia. Following this experience she took the plunge to move to England and focus on writing and recording her own music.

Currently based in Manchester, she has spent the last few years forging her own path as an independent artist; finding avenues to pursue music, working with producers and writers, and generally trying to discover her place in the musical community.

Introduction to the charity 

Tabi’s first interaction with Help Musicians was in 2020 helping a friend send in an application for support. It was not long after that she submitted her own application and although she was not successful first time around, persevered and was eventually supported.

Help Musicians played a massive part in me being able to record my album, which will be out in 2024. The support allowed me to create work of a high standard and also capture some amazing visual content too.”

The charity’s support has pushed me onto different platforms. It allowed me to play the BBC Introducing Stage at Henley Festival, performing songs from my album. Help Musicians have had a real impact on my career.

Tabi is unequivocal about the impact of our support and has had many exciting opportunities as a result. It was my album and the promotion around it that lead to me performing at the Dubai World Expo for five weeks. In that time I was able to do fifty shows to new audiences.”

Alongside her album, Tabi has been able to have some vocal mentoring as part of the charity’s support, as well as physical health support with our preventative hearing protection.

Music Minds Matter 

Tabi has also been in touch with our mental health focused sister charity Music Minds Matter in the past. Initially she was concerned about a friend of hers who was experiencing poor mental health and wanted to gain some advice about how she should approach the situation.

There was a time when one of my friends was experiencing depression and I didn’t know how to help. I was concerned because I knew my friend should have reached out to the Music Minds Matter helpline to talk about what they were experiencing. I rang the number for support on what to do as a friend of theirs.

After ringing the Music Minds Matter helpline, she was relieved to speak with someone on the end of the phone who was a trained counsellor and able to offer practical advice. It was so helpful to speak to a professional and have them explain the situation. They guided me through what actions to take and that experience was extremely helpful.”

Tabi continued to lend her support and shared the helpline with her friend so they had the number in case they wanted to reach out in the future. She believes making steps like this are important if the stigma of asking for support with mental health is to be broken in her community.

Being African and a Black person, mental health support is not necessarily something we are used to. There can still be a strong resistance to reaching out but knowing that some of us have made contact and been supported helps to remove that barrier.”

When one person can speak about the effect the support has had and break any kind of stigma, that’s really important. I’m part of a group that shares information with each other and says you should speak to Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter, they could help you.

Butterfly Future: More Than Music 

Tabi’s experiences and frustrations within the music industry have lead her to establish Butterfly Future, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to breaking barriers for the underrepresented and underprivileged through music and sports. One of Butterfly Future’s initiatives is More Than Music, a ten-week online wellbeing programme for women working in the music industry which is fully funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

More Than Music aims to provide women aged over 25 with the information and resources to help them sustain their career, avoid burnout and offer signposting to other community support.

The word wellbeing is commonly associated with mental health but Tabi hopes her programme will demonstrate that wellbeing is more nuanced than that. Mental health consumes a lot of the wellbeing space but that is only one part of it. I am an independent artist in her thirties and there are many different parts of my life that are changing.

I love music but I’m always asking myself can I actually stay in this career? Is it sustainable? To approach that question you need to have your wellbeing in place because if you are burnt out, everything’s going to look gloomy.”

More Than Music is necessary because the system is broken – our programme is about offering community support so that women don’t feel isolated.

As opposed to many other industries, Tabi knows first hand that the music industry can be a very challenging environment to work in. She points out that whereas people are rewarded for the years they put it into a job, with music this is not always the case.

The changes that happen to women ageing in the music industry could be that you might want to have kids or family responsibilities. Your priorities change. A lot of these changes should be celebrated and supported, but instead they’re punished. Women’s careers are just put to the side because people don’t want to deal with having to support women as they progress.”

Tabi is running the event for the first time in 2024 and is really excited about the programme’s potential. She has women joining online from across America, Tunisia, France, Australia, South Africa, Dominican Republic, UAE, and all over the UK.

What inspires Tabi is the fact that if you disregard the location of where people are joining from, their stories follow a similar pattern. She is most looking forward to joining and participating in a safe community and meeting like-minded people. If I can do my little part in providing an outlet or a signpost for people to just know what else is going on, I’m happy.”

More Than Music is an answer to a lot of initiatives that are aimed at helping individuals in the music industry but have a maximum age of 30. It’s almost like there’s nothing else available because if you’re still emerging and you’re over 30, you may be perceived as expired goods or that you should have it all together by now