Kanya King CBE is the founder and CEO of MOBO.
Founded in 1996, the MOBO Awards is one of the most televised urban music awards shows in the world, reaching in excess of 400 million viewers across 200 countries. The MOBO platform has helped launch and propel many of today’s biggest musical talents such as Emeli Sandé, Tinie Tempah, Rihanna and the late great Amy Winehouse.
The youngest girl of nine children born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, Kanya grew up in a ‘crowded council flat’ in Kilburn, North London.
While her family faced a huge amount of discrimination, Kanya chose to be influenced far more by her father’s advice to ‘be the best you can be’. It was that advice which motivated her to start contributing to the family finances from a young age. It drove her to study English Literature at Goldsmiths College and later, while working as a TV researcher, gave her the courage to take forward her convictions that there was a place for a mainstream British awards ceremony that celebrated those music genre’s originating from black culture that were not recognised at the time .
When she could not find a financial backer or supporters from the music industry, Kanya ‘put her money where her mouth is’ and remortgaged her property to fund the TV production herself. She not only persuaded Carlton TV to broadcast the 1996 event but, also managed to organise and book the talent within 6 weeks.
The first MOBO Awards ceremony starred Lionel Richie as it’s Lifetime Achievement recipient and a soon-to-be Prime Minister and his wife, Tony Blair. Over the years some of the World’s biggest stars have performed at the MOBO awards including: Mary J. Blige, Puff Daddy, Destiny’s Child, Craig David, Sade, R. Kelly, Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent, Rihanna, Tinie Tempah and Emeli Sande’.
MOBO has become much more than just an awards ceremony – it’s now an iconic, year-round, agenda-setting brand encompassing everything from a live tour to a TV channel, while offering training and guidance to several generations of aspiring singers, MCs, DJs and producers.
Kanya King was presented with an MBE in 1999 by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. In 2004, Kanya was invited back to the Palace for an historic lunch with the Queen to celebrate exceptional achievements by British women with the likes of J.K. Rowling and Cherie Blair.
Kanya has also been acclaimed as ‘One of London’s Most Influential People’ by the Evening Standard, and as ‘One of Britain’s Most Entrepreneurial Women’ by Real Business. More recently, ‘Women’s Hour’ on BBC Radio 4 selected Kanya as part of their 2013 Power List of the Top 100, Most Influential Women in Britain and she has also been listed in the Guardian Music Power 100.
In addition, Kanya has received numerous honours for her business and community achievements, including an Honorary Fellowship at Goldsmith’s University and a Doctorate of Business at both London and Leeds Metropolitan Universities. She is also an honoured patron of Music at the City of Westminster College. Kanya is a board member of the E2E Exchange, an entrepreneurial network along with Sir Richard Branson and Duncan Bannatyne OBE.
With plans afoot to expand the MOBO brand and its influence further into international territories and various brand extensions, there’s still more to come. Even after all her achievements, you can bet she’s just getting started.
Kanya King is living proof of the old adage that a genuine leader moulds, rather than seeks consensus. An internationally renowned entrepreneur, Kanya, through her role as CEO and founder of MOBO – displayed the drive and vision needed to help take urban music from the margins of British popular culture to the very heart of the UK mainstream.
Kanya is a very popular and engaging motivational speaker.