DJ Culture & Music, House Music, Information, Knowledge, theshineprjct, Toronto

The Canadian Underground Scene & Industry Writing: Through a More Colourful Lens

What will it take for underground music publications in Canada to start seeing it more broadly (you know, a little differently?)

Another perspective never hurt anyone…….

The BLM outcry phase of 2020 permeated the globe and touched all socio-cultural, political,entertainment and justice areas among many other sore spots in our collective human stories. As we can all recall, it touched the world so profoundly that many large capital cities all held peaceful and profound rallies to support their awareness of the fact that humanity hasn’t always been kind to Black People from the onset of human recorded history. I myself, cried seeing these rallies because as a Black Woman with African roots born and raised in Toronto, I have experienced my brand of adversity in the creative space where I reside. #torontoishome

Although ‘performative ally ship’ and ‘inclusivity’ are now common buzzwords that appear more frequently in conversation; the tidal waves that this topic made across the music industry, I believe is one that has catapulted Black Music’s value to an even higher degree across the globe. Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two Black music industry executives at Atlantic Records and Platoon (Apple) organized #TheShowMustBePaused (where corporate colleagues spread the word across social media for many to change their tiles black in efforts to) ‘hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable … It is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.’ The Underground is more known for its DIY promotion, rugged venues and a more grassroots development so it’s hardly comparable to the ‘wealth’ described in Thomas and Agyemang’s quote. (But stay with me here.)

As there are so many factors that make up the scene globally- all segments of the scene could equally contribute strongly to the industry in a much different way than how it was usually glossed over in the past.

I’m not calling any existing publications out at all. But this time-into the next decade; let’s start reporting about it from a different lens. Let me explain what I mean: As multiple newsrooms, print magazines and newspapers have folded up and as brick and mortar facilities have gone digital, and some others have completely abandoned publications because print has dried up in the last recent years, reporting from a different lens as I call it; is what needs to happen as publications realize that their scope has been limited. And as freelance writers and previous journalists now have the flexibility to write differently-I think it’s time to look at other genres of Underground Music and have it written and reported from the lens that understands it. You know, a first person/first hand perspective i.e. not limited to but from the culture, by the culture. It might not be written from a lens that is widely embraced or be completely understood by a publication’s readership but it may attract more readers and build a wider audience.

The more frequently and out of the comfort zone the writing is,I believe the readership becomes accustomed to MORE (the community develops from coast to coast) and with the global lockdown and public venues bringing DJ based entertainment to a halt, this is the Underground grassroots publications and supporting media’s cue to start looking outside their bases to rebuild and bolster the culture’s roots.

At the top of 2021 it’s okay to still keep BLM in mind and recognize all Black artists that have contributed to the scene but let’s put this into practice. And for publications that have writers outside the scope of what they’ve always covered, it allows the publication to research more about the genre i.e. Afro House, Afro Tech and other subcultures as well as upcoming new talents and of course-OGs in Canada who have paved the way. It has become increasingly difficult to capture movements and trends because they are so hidden and that is also the beauty of the Underground!

What brought about me writing this piece is that on the ‘Urban’ side of things-now called Progressive R&B and Melodic Rap (the term’s been abolished) countless publications that downsized their teams following last year’s lockdowns did have many Canadian Writers on their U.S. rosters and many writers and creators faced lay offs. Others faced a shortage of pitching opportunities with changing publication staffing and release dates/times. I do imagine a revived industry across the board where Black perspectives are valued and sought after instead of diminished and diluted.

I’m not saying that publications should loosen up their pitch guidelines and points of consciousness to change the trajectory of a magazine or publication’s legacy. Nor am I saying that publications should loosen their standards to accept any old kind of writer. What I am saying is by having more diverse writers in all genres and writing methodologies, the cultural landscape is better. Black humour,Black expression and Black experiences are eye-opening and stylish at best.(Everyone knows this!) Canada has plenty to offer the global scene (look at how many Canadian DJs,Vocalists and Producers we have? I can make a huge list here there are many!)

The discussions about European and American dominance over what encompasses the real Underground, who founded the genre and what the scene and industries should look like has come up a few times a month on and offline across social platforms but still, a little more quiet in Canada. So here are some questions: What does the industry look like in Canada, how many Underground publications exist here in this country? How is it reported? How many publications have gone digital? How many are still in print? What’s the readership like? Who are the fans? And does the writing reflect the Underground (House,Tech,Deep,Dub) scenes across the country at all levels? What are the regional publications in Canada? How do publications view themselves in the greater environment? To that I answer- it can and should look like whatever it wants to be with a few small changes I’m proposing here:

· Working with writers who write differently, express uniquely and come from different parts of the cities across Canada, it’ll prevent the slow death the scene is experiencing as one chapter of nightlife is ending.

· Connect people with things that make sense. By bringing in more diverse writing into the fold with publications that already exists it offers guidance to its subscribers at home and beyond, with heavy emphasis on Canadian representation first and foremost.

Editors: Be more open-minded to the style of writer you can and should accept. Why? The more open minded you are to the types of topics, writing styles and point of views- the more colourful the industry will be: Paint it Black if you will. Although publications that have celebrated many great years of readership and tremendous levels of success and ‘tradition’. By changing the flavor of writing, its stance and its bird’s eye view will garner more attention, more success, more fans and greater influence. I would even argue a better industry and scene in Canada. Think about it! The Underground is the IT factor for a reason-it sets trends in advance of a few years before it becomes common to everybody else and that is a HUGE accomplishment. And what is IT that I refer to in the title up top? The Black Experience. It’s fun, it’s juicy, it’s dynamic. It exists!

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