A new bursary has been established to honour of acclaimed Kenyan-born Scottish musician, singer, poet and writer Beldina Odenyo.

Beldina, who also performed under the stage name Heir Of The Cursed, passed away in November, 2021. Her work explored the differences and kinship between her dual Kenyan and Scottish heritage through words, music and visual art. 

The Beldina Odenyo Bursary has been established by Glasgow-based songwriting collective and music production house Hen Hoose, which was formed by Scottish musician Tamara Schlesinger in 2020 as a response to inequality within the music industry.

Hen Hoose unites a rich and diverse array of wonderfully talented, award-winning female and non-binary artists, writers and producers collaborating on the creation of exciting new music across multiple genres.

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A much-loved and missed member of the Hen Hoose collective, the bursary made available in Beldina’s name will provide support and mentorship for an unrecorded artist, including studio sessions to record a debut track and help to plan its release. 

Open to female and non binary musicians with no previous studio experience based in Scotland, the bursary represents a unique opportunity for Scottish talent to learn from members of the collective, while breaking down the barriers faced by many performers “caught up in the hustle” of trying to share their sound. 

Made possible by The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award shortlist prize fund that Hen Hoose received for their 2023 nomination, the bursary will be awarded by Hen Hoose founder and director Tamara Schlesinger and Beldina’s sister, Leah McAleer, who hope to honour the memory of the leading musician.

Speaking about the bursary, Beldina's family said: “Music was Beldina’s soul and solace. In the midst of dangerously underfunded creative industries we hope that this bursary will support and sustain another struggling artist to find and form their song, and connect with the incredible Hen Hoose collective.”

The Herald: Hen Hoose members (left to right) Cariss Crosbie, Tamara Schlesinger, Elisabeth Elektra, Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi, SHEARS, Carla J Easton, Jill Lorean, Djana Gabrielle, who are part of the 23-strong collectiveHen Hoose members (left to right) Cariss Crosbie, Tamara Schlesinger, Elisabeth Elektra, Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi, SHEARS, Carla J Easton, Jill Lorean, Djana Gabrielle, who are part of the 23-strong collective (Image: Demelza Kingston)

Applications are open until May 27, with interested artists being encouraged to submit details of why they would benefit from the bursary, along with a rough demo that showcases their music. 

The bursary launch comes as Hen Hoose gets set to offer a range of new music activities having received support from The National Lottery through Creative Scotland, which will enable the project to run as a not-for-profit organisation for the next two years.

Over the next two years, Hen Hoose will run a range of new events and expand its offering to artists beyond its core collective, introducing audio production courses, songwriting camps, mentoring sessions, and panel discussions, as well as releasing new music through collaborative songwriting projects and live performances.

The main goal of the new activity is to offer wider opportunities for female and non-binary artists in Scotland, who are not currently collective members, enabling them to further develop, connect and collaborate through a number of different schemes.

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Tamara Schlesinger explained: “Hen Hoose was a lockdown project that has become so much more, and the funding from Creative Scotland will now allow us to make a real impact in the music industry in Scotland over the next two years.

"It will ensure that we can create a wide range of opportunities for female and non binary artists, composers and producers.

“The stats speak for themselves – only 20% of artists signed to major labels, and 17% of composers registered at PRS, are women. So, we hope to shine a light on the talent that we have here in Scotland, while also creating pathways into the industry and making a real difference for local artists.

"We are excited to be able to widen the opportunities that we already have in place in Hen Hoose, and to offer artists the chance to collaborate, develop new skills, and expand networks. Plus, we will continue to produce more exciting music within the core collective.”

On June 5, new seven track multi-genre EP Hen Hoose – EP 1 is set to be released, featuring collaborations from artists such as The Anchoress, Jill Lorean, Shears, BISHI, Inge Thomson, Djana Gabrielle, Lucy Parnell, Kathryn Williams, Elisabeth Elektra, Ray Aggs and many more.

The first of three EPs to be released in 2024, the debut collection works to highlight the talent of the core Hen Hoose collective, showcasing an incredible range of music and production skills.

Applications for the Beldina Odenyo Bursary can be made through the Hen Hoose website. Applications close on Monday, May 27. Visit henhoose.com