PhemPhat Entertainment Group, 2020 Recipient

PhemPhat Entertainment Group produces the Honey Jam programme for young female artists of all cultures and musical genres that provides promotional, mentoring, networking, educational and performance opportunities. It is a welcoming, supportive sisterhood and a safe space for young women to be vulnerable, to learn, to build self esteem and longlasting relationships. The initiative was started in 1995 by Ebonnie Rowe.

Founder Ebonnie Rowe gave us some insight on PhemPhat's history, and what's in store for the future.

Original photo courtesy of Storm. Artwork by Amber Williams-King
You created Honey Jam as a way to showcase local female talent. What led you to realize that this was needed in the arts community?  

I realized the need for it because I didn’t see it happening, especially for emerging artists that no-one had heard of and also particularly the hip hop genre which was our focus when we started.  I believe that when you see something that needs doing that you believe in, you should not just complain or wait for someone to do something but look in the mirror and ask yourself what you are doing to be part of the solution. I strongly believe we ought all to take an active part in creating tangible change for things we say we believe in.

Since their start in 1995, how have the Jams changed? 

In 1995 there was no internet, smartphones, digital cameras, social media, youtube, programmes on laptops to produce music, etc. and so the biggest change has come from the technology and the DIY model – giving everyone the ability to promote and give access their music anywhere in the world and to experiment on their own with rough production.  In terms of the actual concert, in 1995 we had no funds to have a house band and the artists had no funds to pay musicians and so they would bring their backing music on cassette tapes which would often get eaten in the machine!  Lol!

Honey Jam involves mentorship and educational opportunities as well as performances. Can you talk about why this is important?  

The programme also involves promotional, networking and special experiences,. It is a welcoming, supportive sisterhood and a safe space for young women to be vulnerable, to learn, to build self esteem and long-lasting relationships.  All of this is important for everyone as a strong foundation to build on as their career grows.

What does the future hold for PhemPhat Entertainment?  

One thing COVID has taught us is that nothing is promised and in an instant everything can change.  So I have no specifics to predict, only that our dedication is firm and unwavering and that we will always exist in some form or other, advocating for and supporting artists.

What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition? 

This is a significant honour to be nominated and then to be on the shortlist of 3 for the award!  It’s a testament to 25 years of dedication and hard work by everyone involved in the programme.  It’s always humbling and appreciated to be recognized.  When you’re doing the work you just have your head down getting it done and you don’t really think about if you’re being seen outside of the circle your initiative serves, so it’s a lovely surprise to know that what you are doing has a wider impact and that you are seen and appreciated for your contribution.