Named by BBC as one of the 100 most influential women in 2017, and featured by Forbes among its ‘30 Under 30’ Asia list along with nine other Pakistani individuals in the following year, Momina Mustehsan is a singer, songwriter, philanthropist, and a household name that needs no introduction. She rose to fame and went viral overnight after making her debut on ‘Coke Studio Season 9’ and performing a rendition of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Afreen Afreen, with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
Momina is a prominent celebrity who is also known for promoting various causes such as education and mental health. She is particularly vocal about women rights and feminism, and is also active in humanitarian work. She has recently been featured as EQUAL Pakistan’s Ambassador for the month of September, a global music programme that is committed to raising the volume on women artists.
Speaking at the occasion, Momina said, “It’s my honour to be representing the women musicians of our country in September. Pakistani women in music are resilient - they manage to bring their own seats to the table despite limited opportunities by proving their abilities to extents that cannot be ignored.”
“Platforms like Spotify are crucial for that. They serve as equalisers to tackle systemic inequalities historic to conventional broadcast. The programme helps extend a seat to a global table, with the purpose of passing it forward for others to join,” she added.
Momina’s melodious and soul stirring song, Tera Woh Pyar (Nawazishein Karam), is featured on the EQUAL Pakistan playlist and Global, increasing the discovery of her music around the world.
The music streaming app recently debuted ‘Spotify Talks’, a digital series covering hard-hitting conversations, with the first episode dedicated to celebrating being a woman artist in Pakistan. The first episode was hosted by Anoushey Ashraf, joined by the multi-faceted stars including Momina Mustehsan, Natasha Baig, Zoha Zuberi and Rutaba Yaqub.
The episode titled ‘Women in Music’ shed light on the challenges women artists face in Pakistan while also reflecting on how the space for women in music has evolved over the years. Sitting down for a candid conversation, these torch bearers for the achievements of women in the audio industry of Pakistan, shared glimpses of their journey and how the music streaming app has played a role as a platform powering their discovery and elevating their work globally.
“Music is the most intimate form of storytelling - every person has a unique experience of reality. Amplifying female voices and giving them their due space to express makes the world wholesome as it allows us an insight on half of humanity’s thoughts, stories and emotions first hand, instead of through another’s perception of their truth - no matter how sincere the attempt.” stated Momina when sharing her thoughts about the programme.
“Previously, in the music industry, people were able to find an audience for their work through a whole process of marketeers essentially going through your creative work and then deciding what would be most lucrative for their channels or their broadcasting companies. Because of that process, a lot of voices were just lost. But platforms like Spotify take out those voices from the middle, gather audiences from all over the world for them, and then allows everyone to share their audience without having to go through the weed out process because there’s enough cake for everyone and that’s very commendable,” she shared.
Fame doesn’t come easy for anyone and it was heartening to see Momina sharing her own experience of struggling with her choice of pursuing a career in music.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for what came after I went viral as I thought that no one would pay attention to it. I think everything comes with a cost. And yes, it was very hard to deal with it initially, but looking back at it, I don’t think there is a hard way or an easy way to learn something. Every learning experience comes with some kind of process. And either you are able to deal with it or it takes you a little longer to try and figure it out,” she reflected.