As part of our International Women’s Day features, we interviewed Suraiya Surajdeen-Charles, an entertainment manager, who not only manages several artistes and producers, but owns her own business, including Mehindi By Suraiya. We discuss how she balances a leadership role in these aspects, and her achievements in the entertainment industry. Some of the producers and artistes she works with include Chromatics, K.Rich, Rheon Elbourne, Zii & ForbesZ.
How do you balance managing multiple businesses and entertainers?
Firstly, balancing a full time job, multiple businesses and multiple artistes has been a fulfilling experience for me. It gives me energy on a morning to wake up and do things that I’m passionate about. I make sure and set aside space and time for each of my artistes, after my 8-4 job and I make sure and schedule appointments for my henna business on days that I don’t have meetings. It’s been difficult and easy at the same time especially when you learn to balance a million things at once without getting overwhelmed. Self care and mental health days are also very important.
My first introduction to the local music industry was through my best friend Sean Khan and Inzey Gabriel. It was realizing the talent that Inzey had that made both Sean and myself say that we wanted to do more for the local artistes of the community. We started off doing shows that covered all genres of music that were being pushed aside by soca music. I eventually realized that I wanted to learn more and do more for the artistes in the industry and started using my networking in the entertainment industry to push their music.
I’ve had many very proud moments while being a friend and manager to the artistes that I manage. One of my firsts was seeing Inzey Gabriel open for Damian Jr Gong Marley at reggae on the bay in 2015. Another was when Chromatics had his first Semi-Final International Soca Monarch Performance last year 2019. Another proud moment was getting a voice note on WhatsApp from a friend in Europe with Rheon Elbourne’s “Build My Dreams” blasting from their radio earlier this month and by radio I mean on their local radio station.
From there I’ve seen all of my artistes grow with more fire and passion especially with the new wave of dancehall. I’ve seen some of them get more creative and step out of their shells to achieve their dreams. My job as a manager isn’t just to make sure the artistes have bookings but to also make sure that their content is being protected, sold, packaged neatly, out fires, be the middle man, to be the organizational person and the back bone that makes them feel comfortable about putting out the music that they do.
I currently work alongside Chromatics on our very own radio show called The Grind which promotes STRICTLY all local music. This was done before by Chromatics 10 years ago and he said the climate of Trinidad wasn’t ready to accept the caliber of music it had then. Then when my own artistes started putting out more music he approached me and he said “let’s bring this show back because it would give the artistes the platform that they need to be heard” and I was 100% behind doing all the ground and behind the scenes work that needed to be done to get our show where it is now. From setting that standard almost a year ago to now the local music industry has grown so much. The artistes were driven to put out more content and producers were being challenged to better themselves and their craft and seeing that manifest and hearing the music play all over the world isn’t just a proud achievement for me, but should be a proud achievement for Trinidad and Tobago.
Which achievements or moments are you most proud of in your career?
Some people come into the local music industry to try and just make money off of the artistes but none of them were willing to do the background work one on one with artistes and producers to get them where they are now. As an artiste and producer manager I can tell you that it is the proudest thing to hear people call out their names on the radio, on social media, posting them up without knowing you’re affiliated with them and my heart literally swells with pride to say “that’s my artiste!” Or “that’s my producer” and no amount of money could ever buy that kind of happiness.
It’s one thing to be successful in the music industry for money and then there’s the other which is seeing your artistes grow and be successful on their own and that’s why I give my all for it every day that I can.
Can you tell us about a female role model that has inspired you?
If I had to say one female person who has inspired me through all this, it would be Kerra Denel. Last year she invited me to be a part of her Caribbean Women’s Power Lunch last year March and hearing her stories about being involved in events, Entertainment and the local music industry was inspiring. Hearing her story, I could have related 100% even though at the point in time I was pushing my henna brand, her passion and drive for inspiring other female entrepreneurs like myself made me realize that I could actually do this. I can run my businesses, help my artistes and do more because I’m truly passionate about seeing it be successful.
What advice would you give young women interested in a career in the entertainment industry?
My advice to other women who are interested in joining the local music industry is really simple. Do it for the love, be smart, learn your COTT laws, learn the industry, be willing to handle anything that is being thrown to you and last but not least DO NOT DO IT FOR THE ZESS. Lol.