I was never just proud but fascinated with this city, the way people talk, the way people carry themselves, the little trends- but my Toronto that I grew up in was always what I wanted to put on the forefront if I ever got the chance.
Juno Submissions are due! You’ve got less than a day left to submit your Underground Single or Dance Recording of the year. You could be the next winner or nominee. Global DJ,Producer and founder of 23by23com, Sydney Blu, took to her platforms a few days ago to remind artists and collaborators across the Canadian Underground Community, that the submission window is still open online until October 28,2022 and must be sent in by 11:59 pm EST. (There’s a $95 fee also!)
Let’s look at this for a minute; The Underground category was never part of the Junos for years and was added last year after Hill, along with very dedicated individuals, lobbied for the upgrade. (Yes, I called it an upgrade!LOL) A few hundred supporting letters were gathered from members of the Canadian Dance music industry to make this category possible.
Hill is passionate about the music and the future of the genre in this country. Hill adds, ‘it’s important for ANY artist in Canada to submit to this category and getting nominated is the best free marketing you can get- plus the category is not judged on sales. The judges are Underground dance experts that are not affiliated with any artists and are anonymously chosen by the people of CARAS/The Junos’
What’s exciting about this definitive categorization of the Underground genre, is how expansive it is and it does include multi-genres within the Underground.
Qualifying recordings for the ‘Underground Single of the Year’ may feature “slow builds, hypnotic and repetitive arrangements that may include vocals, often extended in length, all developed for maximum utility on the dance floor by club DJs. Rather than the only focus being the ‘Dance Pop’ flavour,the Underground Dance category at the Junos also includes:
Afro House (hello?)
Underground House (hello?)
Underground Tech house
Underground Deep/Melodic House
Underground /Traditional Progressive House & Trance and more!
It’s a huge step forward for arts and culture in Canada to finally have the Underground represented at a national awards level. These genres have existed for decades on dance floors across the country and around the world; it definitely makes a way for Electronic Music in Canada and reflects how Canadian sub genres and acts are doing abroad. i.e Jayda G, Kaytranada. Plenty of artists are at work, all year round, all the time- so any music projects you might be submitting to the Junos, is a way to get your work out there (If that’s what you want.) I realize that many feel that once the work escapes the Underground it’s selling out-I don’t see it that way,I see it as a set of larger building blocks for the future. The scene exists, the genre has it’s own flavour and the legends are out there! I see you!
Visit the Juno Awards website to see details for music categories #26 & #46! Your submission alone is making history!
I know this isn’t Canadian content, but this is totally worth noting. Between 1999–2006 is a prolific and momentous time for Modern Black Music. Why? Well, much has influenced hip hop and pop as well as the sounds from well known vocalistic influences of the 60s,70s and 80s. All of this can be heard throughout more recent music. When I say more recent; I’m talking about this year! I could have never imagined hearing what music recorded throughout the early-mid 2000s, would sound as snippets for some of the most recognizable hits in the last three years.
After attending “Crate Stories Live”, an online interview series presented by underground alternative Toronto presenters Little Dojo and The Academy, along with Loop Sessions Toronto + Dan Charnas, Author of Dilla Time, NYU Professor and former A&R rep, talked about his multiple encounters with instrumentalist, master sampler and sound bender, James Yancey aka J.Dilla.
The 2+hour deconstructive discussion with host Arcee, is where author Charnas, brought back memories and tons of meticulous supporting details of the sound technique signature to J Dilla. Snippets of music he’d worked on over the years when he was alive, played throughout the session and after hearing this author’s remarks on Dilla’s work, we find that his work left it’s mark on music production techniques and revolutionized multi-genre sound productions worldwide.
During the pre-pandemic COVID 19 window, I started listening to a slew of tracks that I believe created a wave of the most recognizable melodies from early-mid 2000s and heard many superior voices and hooks that’ll never die. Many artists who haven’t performed in years,(with Canadian dates included) are now touring again. With the stellar ticket sales for live shows in many big cities across North America, groups like Wu Tang Clan +artists Nas, Sean Paul are evidence that the ‘2000s’ sound is still hot. Is it? (I know every generation might say this about the music they listened to during their time but the 2000s were pretty dope!)
Aside from the notable copyright cases and remake similarities, what better way to ‘give flowers’ and avoid sampling mishaps + court case settlements by bringing the artists back! Some of the biggest rhythm +blues, ‘urban’ + hip hop artists aren’t dead yet and with major cases like Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song, ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ sampled for Nicki Minaj on her 2018 track ‘Sorry’ featuring Nas; or the VERY recent sampling issue with rapper Latto’s sample of Mariah Carey’s massive hit ‘Fantasy’ for catchy release ‘Big Energy’. Latto initially claimed she wasn’t familiar with Mariah Carey. I mean, myself as a teen, in the late, late 90s, knows Mariah Carey as THE diva of divas. So for Latto, nee Alyssa Michelle Stephens, born in 1998,to have claimed that she didn’t know about the original hit is sorta understandable and even if Carey has had hits spanning across 30 years; I’m still in disbelief she wasn’t aware…….anyway…
What has spurred the idea of this piece that I’m writing here, is the effect that battle show Verzuzhad on many Gen Xers and anyone who listened to that genre. As I’ve been listening to some of the older stuff and later on taking in some of the newer artist releases, the reworking and/or incorporation of melodies into these fresh tracks can be heard quite clearly and on purpose. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Canadian artist Drake has released a ‘house’ sounding album titled Honestly, Nevermind, which includes some samples from the era I’ve mentioned above. Samples on the new album include Neo-Soul/rhythm + blues duo Floetry’s ‘Getting Late’ (2002) on familiar sounding track Flight’s Booked.
For those who don’t know what Verzuz is, it’s a ‘spin off’ of the battle between two opposing sides (an idea that sprouted from longtime successful Producers Swizz Beats (Ruff Ryders, DMX, Eve) and Producer Timbaland (Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado) who originally (early during lock down) went toe-to-toe in a challenge over their ‘hardest’ and familiar beats and tracks, over the course of their careers. They shared ALOT from their catalogue and as the event grew, we’ve been seeing from then onwards, how many tracks they’d produced and how many artists they collaborated with over the years.
These earlier in lockdown ‘digital battles’ presented a slew of throwback artists, sounds and groups from our childhoods, showcasing the sounds that were attributed to their genres at THAT moment in time. (roughly about 1997–2007ish) Some of the most popular sounds in Black Music, spanning the last two and a half decades, is now added to the already growing original artist features, remakes or samples and in the last 2–3 years, we’re now hearing a shift in the era from which the sounds are being gathered.
Let’s look back for a bit: The very well known rap song of resistance, ‘Fight The Power’ by Public Enemy, used 22 samples from various sources but the effect described in detail was intentionally made in a way to create a dense sonic landscape, to reinforce their message and connect their songs to thematically similar music from the past. Hence the “I” I mentioned in the opening paragraph. That’s the “I” from Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.” You hear it during every “Fight the Power” chorus, but especially in the last few seconds of the song, starting at 3:33, where it repeats. See the article that breaks the sampling pieces here.
Knowing all this detail definitely forces an audiophile like myself to listen to older tracks a little more. (and I wanna add, I love samples!) With the quote I pulled from the article titled‘The Evolving Art of Sampling’it makes me wonder what the evolving art of ‘sampling’ looks like today. And in support of this piece, it looks to me as if the next stage of sampling (besides beats and loops) is bringing the live artist back into the mix again. Many of the artists are still here and we’ve actually encountered many of them on those VERZUZ presentations. Here are some of the tracks that I listen to where the OG artist blesses a new track, replaces the sample or lends a completely new sound material for the audience. This brings me to mention DJ/remixer and Twitter sensation @loneamorphous who starting showcasing popular Hip Hop and RnB ‘mashups’ of artists from the early mid 2000s and they sound really good!
So look, here’s a thought: Until the industry figures out how to make block chain and music platforms more equitable for artists, I think you should go ‘head and make a playlist and re-listen to some of your old faves and new gens rock out together!
I’m sure there are many, many more tracks like these coming, especially after summer 2022:
Artist performing with the OGs
Nicole Bus – You (Ghostface Killah Remix)
Latto, Mariah Carey – Big Energy (Remix (Official Audio)) ft. DJ Khaled
Lucky Daye Earth Wind and Fire You Want My Love Collaborative single a reimagining of R&B band’s 1976 hit “Can’t Hide Love”
Gwen Bunn ft. Faith Evans – Between The Lines (Official Music Video)
Be Like Water – Stevie Wonder, PJ Morton, Nas
G-Eazy – Provide (Official Video) ft. Chris Brown, Mark Morrison
Fat Joe, Dj Khaled ,Amorphous – Sunshine (The Light)
Why Don’t We – Sans from Amerie’s Why Don’t We Fall in Love
I’ve been working with the Songwriter’s Association of Canada since last Fall. It’s a smaller but VERY influential NPO located in Toronto with connections to other Canadian music creator advocacy organizations. I was motivated to work with them once I found out about their nearly 40 year history and it’s founder Terry McManus. McManus, a longtime songwriter and educator founded the org to fight for the compensation of Canadian artists as songwriters.
Prior to the early 80s, Canadian songwriters didn’t receive royalties from their music. Terry McManus (one of the early influences for SOCAN among many other organizations founded in Canada,) along with other very influential people in Canada’s music industry, created an association that would move forward to develop and protect the creative, business and legal interests of Canadian music creators. ‘With over 1,000 current members, including 200+ professionals, S.A.C. offers a suite of invaluable digital services and provides education and community for songwriters, lyricists, beatmakers, sound designers, topliners, instrumentalists and song collaborators’.
Please read more benefits of S.A.C. as an organization and the value of obtaining a membership with them here. S.A.C. is undergoing a multitude of changes behind the scenes so stay connected to them across all socials. If you’ve followed any projects and work I’ve been doing over the last decade-I’m passionate about Canadian music and underground culture; especially musicians and artists that are often not seen or highlighted due to heavy competition and very limited chances for media exposure and discussion. I really enjoy this stuff and talking about the music!
For Black History Month this year, along with the Operations Coordinator (Natalie B) at S.A.C., we designed a four week panel where I dug through many of the artists I’ve loved and known for years! I’ve watched their careers grow and wanted to talk to them to find how they were ‘doing it’ in Canada. I also wanted to showcase what making Black Music and creative material was like pre-BLM 2020 while looking forward into the future. With another lockdown imposed after Christmas, it caused a blockage and dramatically changed the budget and programming style we were hoping for.
Even though it was harder to navigate the discussions, the transparency we had in these conversations were invaluable. I urge you- if you’ve got an hour at a time over the course of the next few weeks, listen in to what Black Music creators and writers have to say about the industry in Canada. The struggle isn’t over for any type of artist and creative globally, but what Black Music creators and writers had to say about jumping over hurdles to remain in the music, arts, culture sphere is admirable.
I had a great time putting this program together to showcase Black Canadian Creators and an even better time asking artists questions about topics rarely discussed on a public platform. Here’s the the link to the Songwriter’s Association of Canada (YouTube):
A little side note here: I’d like to thank all artists for joining me to discuss the industry in Canada. It’s through discussion, that greater insights are made and change is possible!
This is the last and most profound lesson I absorbed during my time in Japan. It’s something that I hadn’t expressed verbally but more so- an observation and a feeling. Whenever I do talk about Japan with folks who’ve never been to Asia, one of the many remarks made is that ‘it must’ve been a cultural shock to live there’ and although it sounds correct it isn’t. The culture shock hit me when I returned to Toronto. It took some time to process the difference and it also took time to flow again with what I’d known my whole life. For example: how to navigate where I was headed (on public transit and professionally) once I got back. I had to learn how to reject what people around me suggested I do.
Let me tell a story as I did with the first 3 travel stories for context. Every morning, when I first arrived to Osaka-I’d take the train to work. When you (a foreigner) arrives to Japan, you stand out (you’re not them.) It takes awhile to get used to, so the people around you seem like a blur because it’s a new environment. I’d head into the office (a whole multimedia centre) to teach English modules by webcam (pretty much what Zoom is like today!) *13 years ago we taught by webcam…..anyway during breaks, between classes, lunch hour, no show classes and finally at the end of the day- I’d sit around the centre talking to other instructors, operations staff and sometimes even the cleaning staff. Lemme focus on the cleaning staff. You know the saying we see often: “speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” I discovered comes from Albert Einstein. I think about that quote a lot but I think about it in reverse. It’s hard for me to explain this in a way that doesn’t sound short sighted.
As teaching staff in that office we did our best to keep it tidy and clean up after ourselves-it never seemed disrespectful against the cleaning staff. After seeing 2 cleaning staff members almost everyday and talking to them here and there within the office space; there’s an observation I made as I navigated the city for my next 2 years there. Folks in all areas of the society worked hard, happily and with purpose. Please click the link that follows later in this paragraph. I use the term ‘happily’ very carefully. I observed the way different societies placed types of work in categories and then I observed those that actually worked those jobs; they worked with a kind of esteem I’d never seen before. I also looked at (the way workers interacted with each other), the people in the cities they worked for as well as public exchanges and cultural interaction between them) It was different.
One night, I observed two city workers on my way back from a DJ gig, both were bowing to each other after their shifts. It was something I’d never seen before. I looked at the way a city like Toronto places heavy importance on the status of an individual whether it be the ‘look’ and ‘show’ of class, wealth, clout and/or intelligence or the outward keeping of appearances to exude (being worthy of respect solely based on luxury, materialism or race) and then the hush, hush nature of being support staff and/or performing ‘blue collar’ work. Here’s a very unique thing to keep in mind also: the education process is quite intense in Japan- so no matter what your future looks like, by the time you choose a career path (most young people would have studied ALOT.) Everyone is well learned and fierce with the books.
So let’s step away from my intricate observations for a moment. This is the transitional part of myself I want to share here: One morning I was on the train-a few months before I ended my contract and came home. The train was packed. Typically, you will see on TV around the world what Japanese urban centres look like during rush hour. I used to hold the bar tightly preventing myself from tipping over on to other passengers. As I stared out the window on the train I felt someone looking at me. I was so used to it by that time: being taller than most, having dreadlocks and then later a little afro (I chopped them off) and the the obvious just being black…..anyway
I looked to my right and then my left and saw a couple standing together both smiling and waving at me. For a second I thought they looked so familiar. They waved and greeted me. I then realized who they both were, dressed to the nines and headed to work. I didn’t recognize them because I’d only seen them in their work uniforms for almost three years. I didn’t know they were husband and wife-she had a beautiful Prada jacket, handbag and hat-he was decked out in a beautiful and VERY expensive suit. I don’t know why it hit me differently at that moment. But the resonance for me hit in waves and it said ‘it’s necessary to have self esteem with whatever you do-no need to be fake about that shit, provided it’s safe, legit and works for you, NEVER FEEL ASHAMED for where you are NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO.’
I know it sounds like a judgement against them (the cleaning staff couple) for me seeing them dressed up and then later dressed for work-it wasn’t just seeing them at that very moment that made me think like this, but a series of events and observations of them at work that led me to embrace this message strongly. It prepared for the next decade in Toronto with no shortcuts. It was a culmination of things: I was headed back to Toronto with all types of plans for the way I wanted life to go and leaving the Canada I once knew and returning after sometime. This was a very much a ‘from the ground up‘ process. I’ve worked at many places to get by, to get through school again (Humber PR) and to literally, make it! And even when I was made to feel like what I was doing was beneath me at many intervals in the last decade; depending on where I was whether it be around certain groups, environments or classist circles that for some reason attempted to stamp that permanent mark of ‘less than’ on my back or forehead, I constantly reminded myself about what I had come to know after setting foot back in Toronto. I understood a resonance I described to you up top. Teachable moments are often more of a sense than anything else so please excuse how this message rolls out.
Looking back at the last 12-14 years, I realize there’s so much I had to learn by going through all types of experiences to get what I wanted and it wasn’t easy. I don’t think I would’ve had the grit I have today to sustain my goals if I hadn’t been through as much as I did. So after all this extra descriptive language and explanation, I formally re-discovered ikigai a few days ago. I also realized that what I’m trying to carefully explain here is ikigai in action. It’s definitely a strong cultural mindset. Even though I embraced hard work most of my life with diligence. I worked jobs in spaces and places I never thought I should or could do-THAT was my cultural shock. Here’s a paragraph that explains the concept and how it should ideally work:
‘Pride and camaraderie are more difficult to define and obtain. These two values are different in that they depend on each individual person’s character and needs. They arereliant on the relationship between the employee and his or her job (pride) and the relationship between the employee and his or her coworkers (camaraderie). What each person needs to be proud of their job is personal and unique and it’s crucial to ensure that everyone is in a role that satisfies their goals. The quality of relationships between coworkers depends on the personalities and different preferences each person has as well as the ability of the team to match them. Pride and camaraderie can be related back to the concept by ikigai when you think about appreciating others for their personal reason for being whilst valuing yourself for yours. This will create a harmonious work environment composed of successful individuals.’ See more about this concept.
Naturally, it was easier for me to work retail, wash n fold laundry service, cashier, bartending or server jobs after experiencing ikigai. No shame in the game-you learn a multitude of things and are exposed to dynamics you’d never see, know or understand otherwise. It’s humbling yes, it might even feel like punishment. But having a sense of pride, esteem and full comprehension of all angles of work makes you know shit very well. So, this wasn’t something I picked up in one trip-but over the course of my stay in Japan. It’s something that’ll always be a part of me. I know how to put in the elbow grease with no complaints-I know in my mind where I’d like to be. Lastly, I judge no one.
If you’ve caught the first 2 stories the running theme is the direct experiences with racism. They were the most profound because I had never encountered those types of scenarios in that kind of way until the moments thy happened. I assure I’ve got so many others this music one is good!
It was the first and last time I was to experience this legendary place. A friend of mine was dating a New Yorker at the time and her first trip to see him in person after he was in Toronto for Caribana earlier that year in the summer. He was trying to impress us but my Hip Hop loving self was more impressed than she was about what we saw that night. We took the Amtrak during the winter of 2000-possibly November or December. If you’ve ever taken the train cross country Canada or anywhere metropolitan North America- you’re aware that the journey is long, the route is scenic and you really need a good wash when you arrive to your final destination.
He kept driving further into Manhattan and eventually we ended up in front of this:
As I heard the bass, I realized we were hitting up a club! A club? I was dressed undoubtedly for winter long distance travel with the beanie/toque and cable knit sweater. Ladies, you know how you want to look when you head out on the town. He assured me that there was no dress code but on the real though when you hear the beats of the latest Hip Hop you naturally wanna look lit. Some bouncer opens a little shutter just like in the music videos. He identifies himself and we are led up some stairs. Who’s cutting, scratching and talking to the FULL HOUSE of people on the dancefloor? Can you guess? Funkmaster Flex. I was floored, honestly. IT sounded like a live mixtape. The vibe was so hype! I just recently found out that it closed in 2001 and that Hip Hop parties were never given any priority except for Sundays but wow…lit on a random Sunday? In 2000,I had never seen that many people in one room devoted to Hip Hop. Toronto’s got Rebel and back then Guvernment BUT I heard shit that I’d never heard on any radio or club EVER again even 20 years later!
Have you heard of the legendary Tunnel Nightclub before? Until that Sunday night we arrived I had not. Instead of heading to our guest house destination her guy arrived at Grand Central Terminal at about 9:30pm! He was usually very impulsive and in this case, it was very successful…kinda…..I was so mad that I had a bulky sweater on and I couldn’t take the beanie off my little TWA (teeny weeny afro) because it was crushed on the sides 😂 but I was so shocked to be standing behind one of the dopest Hip Hop DJs in New York! HE was werkin’.
Here I was; dressed like RnB singer Case (look him up) after a 10 hour train ride feeling so dressed appropriately for winter. I was away from home in a sweater and beanie/toque but I DID shake his hand and danced the night away! It was by far one of the best impromptu outings I’d ever experienced during my travels. Every city has it’s sauce and this to me, was the epitome of the Hip Hop era at that time. Unforgettable.
so what’s the lesson?: some of your best moments are the ones you aren’t dressed or prepared for.
After last year’s multiple closures in the hospitality and venue space industries things became a little quieter than usual around the 6ix. Usually, right after the holidays as is often what happens after Christmas and New Year’s. I know this as I’ve worked at many of those places over the years. As the sun set on many of the city’s favourite places-recent memories included: Raw Artists, his signature anonymous (House of Balloons) ‘Weekend’ presentations before he became the mega star he is today- Now that I think about it over the years, I’ve even been to a few NXNE festival presentations or showcases there too!
Just a few short days ago Work Late dropped the announcement that the former Mod Club is renamed Axis and also re-opening! It’s an exciting new chapter as this corridor of College St. has so many historic spots! This piece was supposed to go out a few days ago and as I was excited to see that an old venue is re-emerging anew- my hope for the future, as with many venues and venue owners in this city, is that they would take a more open-minded approach to hosting events and artists outside of the genre they were most comfortable with and used to.
What I intended to write in this piece is that I felt Hip Hop and Underground genres should be given more of a closer look- considering how many Canadian acts have gone out to do great things on global charts and streams (the lockdown shows this) We are all very aware at this point that Canadian artists and acts can and do pull a crowd at many venues around the world.
The Axis Club then goes on a few days later to release this line up for the All Axis Festival next month! A full 2 in 1.The two-day hybrid event will featuring both IRL performances as well as pre-recorded streams via Happin, a ticketing and live streaming platform with artists Savannah Ré, The Dirty Nil, DijahSB, Dylan Sinclair and more will perform at the newly renovated venue. And who is actually more?
On September 9th along with 2021 Juno winner Savannah Re there’s 3409,Dani Doucette,DJ Shub,Dylan Sinclair,No Tourists,TRP.P,Villabeatz. And the following night- GRAE,Korea Town Acid,Olivia Lunny,Orson Wilds,Peter Serrado*+more
Happin,a Toronto based tech and ticketing company is working in collaboration with Axis Club and the Unison Benevolent Fund (a music industry charity, providing emergency relief to the Canadian music community in times of hardship for about a decade now) to deliver an amazing streamed and IRL experience for this event. Things have changed and they are combining the two performance options together. I like this.
This is one of the great ways to restart this city’s nightlife in a completely new way! For more details contact (Stay Out Late) and check https://theaxisclub.com/ for details on their next club/concert nights. The future of nightlife in Toronto is looking up. -theshineprjct
The definition of ‘if a remix was a true remix. All tracks were really good! You guys dropped this at just the right time. You know that tail end of summer?…..Flowdan’s flow is tight ‘I can smell what they’re cooking and I can’t overlook it! This is it! From UK Bass Master Roska, to local label Bare Selection’s come up king Wize, sub-soca legend Marcus Visionary (Inner City Dance) have you seen him live? I went to a Roni Size/Marcus Visionary party and my God, it was wikked and lastly local Cassius by way of Berlin and new with Bare Selection but knowledgeable in UKG as well as bassline Lijah (Bristol) ALL dropped a little something for us.
Here’s something worth noting: as new and underground sounds become more en vogue , Bare Selection is stepping forward and building up the scene. You know adding legs and deeper roots for Toronto’s underground community. I think we can FINALLY say that Canada (starting in Toronto,of course) is finally sustaining and creating a solid scene that is here to stay! So many pockets of subculture right here in the city and so many names, brands, events have their own distinct style. Bravo, Electronic & Underground Toronto! Yasss!
The one fave that stuck out the most on this Aug.6 re-release was ‘Plans In Motion’ why? well, the UK funky, drill and leftfield bass sounds (like any brand new track,) can and I’m sure, DID move waistlines in the 6ix-I’m sure of it, easily. Actually-tracks like these can and do appeal to multiple crowds. These tracks dropped at the perfect post Caribana ‘hotter than a devil’s balls’ time frame; when we reminisce about how summer went while still enjoying it.
This heat dropped at the perfect time. I had to replay them both a few times to see where/what was different and how it moved me.Plans In Motion was already loved by crowds, both here and across the pond. The newer improved versions though,give it more life! Wize definitely has the Toronto and London crowds in mind with the heavier (grime sound) while Visionary kept it a little more soca (sub-soca to be exact.) These sounded carefully crafted,and still all the way bashment!Let the tunes hit your ears and hips for these potential final weeks of outside (I hope not.)Keep an eye (and both hips) out for more fire drops from Bare Selection.
What a time to be alive! 2020/2021 was one for the books in all areas of life-but for House Music, i’ll say bravo, bravo! I spent most of the lock watching DJOON and Detroit Movement lives and caught all kinds of dope shit that I would’ve planned to see at festivals. .
I don’t know about you but…these tracks moved me! Time is an illusion so I’ve mashed together last summer and some of this summer’s finest that I play for my own ears and soul. As I presently have them all and more on rotation, let me preface this by saying that with many shifts in pace and modes of socialization gradually changing, music has re-emerged as the pillar of strength that carried us through that was seen on programs like Verzuz as well as dedicated channels and pay per view events.
I’ve taken in so many live sets online of which I wouldn’t be privy to unless I’ve seen those artists live somewhere, somehow. I’ve taken in tons of material that I don’t believe I would’ve heard if these artists were on the road most of the year. Thanks to Twitch, YouTube and other online platforms I make sure to factor in new and existing artist lives-I check for hot new drops and I am steadily listening to while I work.
Here are some of my top Global House & Tech track favourites! As much of a House and Deep House Lover that I am, I do listen to music outside of my faves and have stumbled on some good, good stuff. There’s some Canadian tracks squeezed in and around on rotation here goes:
Like a Fool Fred Everything Lazy Vox Crazy P – 15 Years of Lazy Days
This is what I remember hearing so often at Li’lys in Toronto! 2021’s Lazy Vox version of Like A Fool is a smoother and groovier collaboration with Crazy P. I call this a more buss down version of the earlier release in 2015. It’s subtle but waaayy heavier! One thing I love the most is when a Montreal DJ/Producer like Fred Everything puts his spin or re-interpretation on already really good tracks. Just when you think it can’t be made any better….This track sounds like what he usually puts out. It’s honest, raw and right in the centre of that pure Deep House scale. 2015’s Mercyless feat.Wayne Tennant has that same bounce. I couple this up with his Madhouse Records release Imagination & Determination. It’s soothing to my ears and soul. Keep them coming!
Stay Inside (Girls of the Internet Extended Remix) JT Donaldson, Liv.e, Girls of the Internet Classic Music Company |
I think upon hearing this I really didn’t mind being inside at all!!! Soulful vocals like this were definitely heard across most 90s tracks for them to be a certified bop; this revival is a solid new classic. This is what I was saying earlier about songs being created at the time for that perfect moment in history- it feels very authentic. I don’t know how else to say this; but black female vocals are unmatched. This is smooth and renews a place in time for 2021 and beyond! Accolades for the both of you putting something as dope as this! More please! https://bit.ly/3eV6sph
China Charmeleon – I Want My Soul – Tribute To George Floyd (My Father’s Records) Stay True Sounds
Soulful and timely for the year that everything changed. His death touched many around the globe including our brothers and sisters in Africa South. Something special about 2020 and 2021 brought forth cuts like this. This tune has the signature classic sound that moves us House heads. This is fresher. This track brought me to look a little deeper at China’s pre Stay True Sounds discography and remixes. China literally lights up any previously released track in a multitude of ways. We see that in Sculptured Music’s fire track re-do of Sad To Think. Check out China’s set at Djoon’s presentation of the Stay True Sounds roster to capture a more direct taste of his kind of vibe! https://bit.ly/3kQo3Cu
Boiler Original Mix Sydney Blu Release: Conviction I love to dance and this is it for me. It took me a minute to release that this was a punchier and persuasively Housier version of theUndr The Radrrelease in 2020. This track is an example of a period in time where Dance music had some very lit energy! The vocals are catchy and this to me stood out on the Conviction release. This goes with me to the gym, this sits with me as I work! I have to add in that she is also Canadian! You can hear this album here at this presentation from earlier this year! Mr. Afterparty presents Sydney Blu – Conviction Album Set https://bit.ly/3l64ir1
Devotion by Fred P devotion W&P by Fred P
A good friend put me on to his music years ago as he ventured out to Berlin from the U.S. years ago -and his sound imprint has only gotten clearer and deeper over the years. I’m a huge fan of Fred P’s Private Society on Bandcamp and look forward to all the new vibrations he puts forth on this platform quite often. His genre is described as ambient, electronic and it really does sound like this. Devotion is that perfect background music used to gather inspo to create masterpieces and is one of 7 beautifully crafted cerebral tracks released a few months ago. I look forward to anything under Perpetual Sound. How distinct is he as a DJ/Producer? Have a listen to this Fred P remix for Electro Pop artist St. Vincent featured on Nina Kraviz presents release compilation from 2019. I love to chill and lounge with some wicked thought provoking tunes and Fred P did THAT! (listen to the original as well!) He changed that tune into a whole other genre in his distinct style! https://bit.ly/3iLzKaV
I’ve loved Portia Monique’s sound for quite sometime. She captured my ears in (2013) on The Layabouts – Colours of Love. In addition to that I stayed listening in (2019) on Ralf Gum’s (Go Go Music) album Progressions with sneaky link track After Midnight and right now, this year with Who You Know and Flower. This song intends to nurture the soul and it does just that! The most beautiful tracks are the ones with the strongest messages. She can effortlessly ride these beats so if you’re more into the beauty and strength of vocals-check this out and take it in. Her voice is gorgeous and her sound is unforgettable! She knows her voice (lyrically and soulfully)-you should get to know it too!
The Way (Jazzuelle Darkside Remix) Luka, Jaidene Veda, Jazzuelle Re:Vibe Music (Afro Creations Vol.10 Compilation) – Spotify Reunited again and it sounds so good! Three artists on the House/Deep House circuit that I absolutely enjoy listening to when they collaborate with others but together-is some synergy. One signature style/sound I’ve come to recognize about Luka is what I personally call dark and jazzy which is rarely captured ensemble in ‘House’ anything. I first took notice on 2 out of 3 of them collaborating on the 2013 release Overstanding with the We Go Deep label remixed by sir lsg & Anthony Nicholson. Jazzuelle definitely demonstrates the deviation from his signature futuristic sound on his own projects. I love to hear it! https://bit.ly/371nQUW
Listen, I could go on and on but these are just a few of the things I listen to- maybe I’ll check in with some stuff in the fall or winter! Enjoy being outside and keep dancing!
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!
Saying the phrase ‘getting your edges snatched’ sounds pretty intense but for real though- you really don’t want that at any point during your healthy hair journey. The idea is to nurture the hair, keep it hydrated and healthy right? I’ve talked about Ayurveda a number of times on this blog so we’re at a point where I’ve incorporated this into all areas of my life and it’s actually replaced most of my hair care. With more time to do my weekly routines-I mean, I’ve always cared for my hair and it’s undergone plenty of phases but one of my biggest focuses after the first lockdown last year was moisture and hydration.
For those of you who are familiar with the hair type classification chart created by Andre Walker (Oprah’s Hairstylist), Many say the chart doesn’t matter but in some instances it helps. I know now my hair is type 4 and low porosity. The porosity is a huge deal because for years I wore braids (I love them, this is my favourite look!) I still wear them but I realized that my strands needed ultimate hydration that would retain the new hair after all the growth/gains. Also, I’m VERY focused on my hair and keeping its thickness! As we age, hair does go through some change and I’m not there yet; BUT it’s better to take care of the hair as naturally as possibly with the most benefits. I’ve got thick strands and as I’m ‘low porosity haired’ natural black hair enthusiasts call it. Hair length is definitely a last result for me BUT thickness, (intact edges and minimal heat damage are my focuses!)
I found both (Curly Proverbz) Farida Sharma and Khadija Dawn Carryl of (Henna Sooq) I perused quite a few You Tubers and stumbled on both their pages I had always bypassed. I think what got me was the fact that they promoted Ayurveda and that they both promoted curly, coily, kinky natural hair and it was pretty thick!!!
I watched her mention of amla and fenugreek which I had used for face masks in the past and for cooking too-but she kept referring to them as game changers. She then showed her before and after pics-mind you it’s been 10 years to see her full transformation. The results are amazing!! So with more time to explore and no need to rush my weekly schedule, I dove right in!
She talked about onion juice (sulphur based) which I was not a fan of, but the detailed content was what got me into that! She talks about tea rinses from chamomile to lavender to green tea (I had always seen tea as an ingredient for hair colour change in the summer (but I found out it eliminated shedding!)
I opened my cupboards and found Yerba Maté and coffee grounds which had been collecting dust in their bags for a few months. Apparently they’re DHT blockers and great for the scalp and follicles. She then spoke the praises of Henna! I was so hesitant about henna because of the dryness I’d experienced previously not knowing there were new and updated ways to use henna!
I’m writing about herbs now that summer is here! All the fresh herbs work really well during the warmer months and I can’t wait to mix more of them to try out what works. I found out that there are many herbs I’ve known before but didn’t know all their names and functions. If you’re ready to get your kitchen messy while you cook too: here you go!
Here are someof the tools you’ll need to get started:
A fine strainer, vinyl gloves, cheesecloth, mason jars, ceramic bowls with plastic spoons (henna shouldn’t be used in metal as it could cause a reaction on your scalp and skin)
Henna (Neutral) It doesn’t dye the hair. It does strengthen the strands. (Your hair should be handled with care after an application of henna as the hair strands really get reinforced.) An excellent deep conditioner of your choice is required.
When you choose a henna shade to colour your hair, aloe vera powder, juice or puree is required to give your hair the moisture it needs while colouring or covering greys. It really works!
Tea Rinses – Green, White, Black, Nettle, Chamomile, Lavender (Mostly either eliminates shedding and/or strengthening or moisturizes the hair across the board.)
Roots – Garlic, Burdock Root, Garlic, Onion
Ziziphus which is dried red dates a staple I used to drink in Japan! (if you find it in powder form, it can be added into pastes OR as whole dates they can be brewed into a tea!) VERY GOOD for moisture and curl pattern formation.
Essential Oils – Rosemary, Sage, Peppermint, Clove, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Orange, Lemongras (Good for the scalp)
Moisture – Raw Organic Honey, Shea Butter, Aloe Vera Juice or pulp, Cactus (Nopales, find at a Mexican Grocery Store.)
Oils – Olive,Jojoba,Hemp,Coconut,Carrot,Avocado,Sunflower,Almond,Castor (Jamaican & Regular) *there are many more that are so ideal but it really does depend on your hair type and preference-what works for me may not work for you!
I tried henna a few years back to colour my hair when I didn’t need colour and now during quarantine, I started seeing greys! Yeahhhhh they’re here now. I had seen Mums and Aunties of friends with orange strands (henna dyed greys) and not liking what that looked like…….so I took my time learning how to set it up and mix the pastes. You can also buy the henna pre-mixed (Vatika) so you won’t have to wait for the dye to release for hours before application.
Henna mixed with indigo which gives a dark chestnut brown colour and wow-it looks good. I’m gonna play with what gets hair a lighter brown for a more sun kissed look! We’ll see what happens. Hair YouTuber Farida has a system where you pre make these deep conditioner (I call them hair hockey pucks) they’re frozen pods. It takes some time to prepare but making enough of these to last 8-15 weeks saves so much time. Here’s a little secret: I go to the discount racks of my local grocers and buy old avocados and bananas the riper the better and whip that shit up-however many pucks that makes, I’ll make 30 or more! My hair is getting thicker so 1 puck is no longer enough so I use 2 now! Look at that-Everything needed in your conditioner base all from your fridge and pantry! Avocado, banana, plantains, hibiscus (sorrel),kale powder, herbs- I mean the list is endless. My hair is eating GOOD! 🙂 I have a bit of an apothecary on my shelf now with all the herbs and counting because it works!
I made my first set of pucks and of course I didn’t expect Rapunzel hair overnight but what I did get was incredible hydration!!! I realized that my low porosity hair needs a deep, deep conditioning EVERY WEEK! Not just deep conditioner either-I needed all those ingredients mixed with a rich conditioner (MANUKA HONEY & MAFURA OIL INTENSIVE HYDRATION CONDITIONER or JAMAICAN BLACK CASTOR OIL STRENGTHEN & RESTORE TREATMENT MASQUE or Aussie Moist 3 Minute Miracle) on high heat. I had a bonnet dryer attachment that I used sparingly and started using it every week with my henna hockey pucks all mixed with castor oil, more herb powders and plenty more Jamaican Black Castor Oil…..my God! Really, I get it now-it’s a game changer!!!
My hair changed!! Shrinkage was tighter, curls were tighter, my hair got darker, shedding was minimal to none and it was growing alot even after my only trim of 2020! Heat damage from silk pressing was visible on my ends and my roots on those same strands were growing in thicker. The thicker roots became so apparent that the ends looked very thin and lifeless-so I’m really taking time with the ends and gradually trimming them off at home! We don’t have a choice right? I think this homebound haircare routine is teaching me how to really delve deeper into holistic beauty practice. Another thing I’ve found also is that many of these ingredients are found in Africa and India as well….most tropical countries actually have most of these plants so as I pick up provisions in any tropical market, I find many of these ingredients at a much cheaper cost. Even with the prices going up this year. (Jojoba is expensive now yooooo!)
Prices are going up on everything so I traded out tons of products for the herbal counterpart. Also, I bought my first massive stash of things late February 2020 and most of them have just about finished this month! For shit you use weekly 1 year plus is a long lasting period of time to have these kicking around!
I started taking Ashwaganda tincture internally and realized I can also use it on my scalp too! Ashwaganda happens to be one of the herbs used in the hair teas and hair pucks. So my goal was to get into adaptogenic herbs that can be ingested to balance hormones and sleep deeper as well as get it onto my scalp and strands.
During the last quarter of lockdown, greys started popping up in the middle of my head and a few light strands on my temples. I debated for awhile whether I’d be using drugstore boxed dye or getting it dyed at the salon. Lockdown made the decision easy. So this is where I am now I started looking into henna. For anyone who’s tried henna only a handful of times, there are so many methods to protect the hair from drying out. Aloe vera juice, powder or pulp is excellent in the mix (I’m re-iterating here again okay?) You know those snatched edges that often referring to on social? Amla powder is amazing for it! That dehydrated look when the hair dries out after a wash n go or the frizz that pops up after a humid day with a low bun looks very different these days with Amla involved. Another thing too……I started making my own hair oils because many of this mass marketed companies put the cheapest oil as their base with the herbs (mineral oil anyone?) That ‘s the worst for Black hair and skin!
Darker colour wheel – Browns and Blacks
Lighter colour wheel – Blondes, Light Brown
Many of the henna sites recommend adding lemon to the mixture-please don’t use lemon on anything! It’s not great for afro hair! This stuff is designed to strengthen, thicken and grow the hair! The strengthened strands are enough! Also too-you can’t go blonde with henna if you’ve got darker hair but you’ll see a lighter hue than you’re natural colour!
This is another option in case the salons don’t open for awhile longer in Ontario. Henna (good quality kind), brahmi, moringa, triphala, burdock root, neem, ashwaganda, castor oil, shikaikai, fenugreek, amla, tea rinses (black, green, chamomile, nettle, lavender) all these items are mentioned above; check them out to see how they’ll benefit you and your hair! I also ask myself if I can/will be able to eat any of these items for everything else. Many of them work well in foods too! Lavender lemonade anyone?
The key to making all this work for you is to pre make everything you’ll use because 1) it gets messy 2) It takes time 3) It is best to buy the herbs in larger sizes. (the amount of tablespoons you start putting into your concoctions because the stuff works so well, will have you finishing a 100g bag quick!)
The Afro/Indo connection:
Coconut milk, moringa, cloves and neem all come from both continents and are widely used in body, food and haircare. These ingredients are excellent starting points for mixing herbal ingredients together. I have always been a big supporter of Ayurvedic herbs for years but not to the extent that I discovered this past year!
I started mixing herbs into my regular hair conditioner alone and found some of the recipes on their YouTube channels. I found that I really liked AMLA, Fenugreek and Henna. I also found that nourishing masks (pre poos) before an actual shampoo really strengthens my hair and strands. I can see some new strands coming up within a few weeks of use. Another observation I’ve made is that when I use the herbs with heat its sooo good for 4C hair. I use an extension with a blow dryer weekly for optimum results. I’m looking to invest in a hair steamer though. It is summer and of course it is hot; but even 20 mins instead of a full hour under it; changes the hair tremendously.
Just want to note that not everything works for everyone but this is something worth trying once you see the transformation. If I do a follow up article I’ll show my before and after in a few more months. Hydration is really what took me by surprise here. Good luck on your possible holistic hair journey!
You could be making green sauce, pasta sauce, tea rinses or hair juice (to replace plain water.) That’s the best thing about natural anything!