Biography, DJ Culture & Music, events, Music, promoters, Tags, Toronto

FRONTMAN: DJ NaNa IS POISED TO LEAD (Hip hop don’t stop)

EAR2MUCH COLOUR

NaNa didn’t know he’d be a DJ after his debut performance on CKCO’s Big Top Talent some odd 20 + years ago. His love of singing and dancing brought him to “The Big Smoke”. Toronto has done many things thus far, extracting the only son of Ghanaian born parents living in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario and transplanting him to Toronto.

With few urban alternative music outlets for a hip-hop DJ, what more could he do but emerge amongst his fellow artists and assist? As a DJ, collaborative work has its benefits and his move to Toronto provided more than a simple opportunity to escape.

“Toronto is very competitive with many things going on-anything can be done…. it’s a positive place…over the years, I’ve had exposure nationally….” NaNa had visited Toronto as a teenager bringing mix tapes and vinyl back to Waterloo for hip-hop hungry friends. He wasn’t a post-secondary student at the time, but  was doing various promotions and DJ work on University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier campuses.

He noticed that Waterloo’s music scene mainly focused on up-and- coming musicians from the big cities, he asked himself “Do I want to stay here or try to pursue (DJ’ing) out in Toronto?”  In the summer of 1999,he eventually moved to Toronto to attend York University and later graduated with Bachelor of Arts Degree in Cultural Studies.

Over the years dj NaNa has developed a very unique portfolio, lending his DJ skills to various artist projects. Honourable mentions include opening for Questlove, Common, Mos Def, Dead Prez, Saul Williams, working with K-OS, K’naan & Sol Guy during the mid to late 2000s- traveling and collaborating throughout North America as well as South Africa with 2009 Juno nominated Neo-Electronic Soul songstress Zaki Ibrahim.

He has also worked and travelled with D.O., Slakah the Beatchild through North America, Europe and Asia (as a CIMA Canadian International Music Association Ambassador). NaNa was the only DJ to ever appear on Canadian Idol. On Canadian Idol he assisted top 5 finalist Mookie Morris ‘cutting and scratching’ during his rendition of Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ for the show’s sixth and final season.

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Not only has he joined forces with other artists but he’s also lent a hand to worthy causes. (He is now poised to lead the way with his signature hip-hop appeal and persona.) This has made him quite popular with young people within local community settings. He has previously volunteered as a DJ instructor (props) for Toronto’s Regent Park Focus and participated in numerous fundraisers; 4 Unity Parkdale, The Loft Bloor West, WaterCan, and ArtBound to name a few.

NaNa places heavy emphasis on the idea of integrity. He mentions this a few times during our interview. When asked on the importance of integrity he pauses and responds pensively; describing it as “standing up for what you believe in and doing things the right way,” he continues… “going cookie cutter is one of many methods – it’s never been the end all of doing things… taking risks, getting up from making mistakes, finding your niche, being a visionary while branding your own lane is what I’m about.”

In 2004, David Guenette created District Six Music – a collective of artists operating as an interchangeable network of entertainers lending skills and creativity to projects. NaNa, was one of many artists that contributed to this collective – CBC Television and Radio Broadcasting noticed this and produced pieces recognizing each member’s contribution.

In May 2008 NOW Magazine (a publication based out of Toronto like New York City’s Village Voice) placed NaNa as the lone DJ to grace the cover along with five emcees.  As a whole, the featured artists were recognized for ‘Representin’ the TDOT:Surging on the Hip-Hop Scene Ready to Blow Up’.

nana now cover

Whether in collaboration with others or alone dj NaNa is an active member of many music circles. He is open to all musical genres and has a continued interest to create songs, sounds and remixes.  He continues to showcase his skills on mixtapes, guest podcasting or by simply lending his talents to corporate or trailblazing events and venues.

In February 2011 NaNa flew the mother of the late James ‘J Dilla’ Yancey, Maureen ‘Ma Dukes’ Yancey to Toronto for her first ever visit and speaking engagement. Over the years dj NaNa has held residencies in Montreal, Waterloo and in Toronto. His most recent acquired in the trendy Queen Street West area; Brookylnn is where you can find him now every Friday night!

During the course of the interview NaNa talks about the importance of roots from a cultural and musical perspective placing himself separately not only as a DJ but as an artist, DJ, performer, hype man, producer, music supervisor and promoter – but ultimately a DJ.

As a DJ/Producer/Emcee NaNa has released three albums; ‘543’released independently in 2006 (the number five representing where he had grown up; Kitchener/Waterloo’s area code is 519 – four representing his move and transition to Toronto (416) – three for the fact that he is one of three children and birth date July 3rd), the first 100 copies came with a Beat CD showcasing his variety of production styles dubbed ‘The World Inside My Head’.

He was signed by Urbnet Recordings (Classified, Moka Only) for two albums where he released ‘The World Inside My Head Vol. 2’ November 2007 and ‘The World Inside My Head Vol. 3’ July 2008; both received glowing reviews.

In 2009 dj NaNa released ‘Let the Beat Go’ a collaboration featuring some of South Africa’s most prolific MCs; HHP, Tumi and Zubz.  The track is infectious and garnered  heavy rotation from South Africa’s Channel O.
In 2010 dj NaNa teamed up with two-time Juno Nominated emcee/producer Rich Kidd’s and became his official tour and performance DJ. They released Rich Kidd VS. dj NaNa & Rich Kidd VS. dj NaNa 2.

In 2008 ear2muchcollective was created to specialize in coordination and  management of themed events in the Greater Toronto Area.  In 2011 the group The Names are Known with wordsmith I.JAMES.JONES was established as a Hip Hop in exploration; equal parts time capsule, time machine and preservative of the present; yet set to move forward. He’s been collaborative, but the work done behind the scenes- recording, mixing, production are standalone.

So what’s next? What can we expect this year? To reach all parts of the globe, to explore other parts of the music industry. 2014 is off to a great start.  With a well-earned win last month at the Ghana DJ Awards, NaNa was voted ‘Best International Ghanaian DJ’ proof of how far DJ NaNa can go!

He’s got some awesome pieces out right now: The Names Are Known-Man’s World feat. Rich Kidd (CLEAN VERSION), Props (DATS WASSUP) and lastest single for the J(N)AMES Mixtape – CLOSE2U.  Check out other DJ NaNa produced tracks, mixtapes and musings at soundcloud! If you’re not a hip-hop fan you’ll get into it- TRUST me! If you fell off you’ll get back on the wagon! Check him out,

on twitter: twitter.com/deejayNaNa and twitter.com/NamesAreKnown

-shine

Biography, DJ Culture & Music, Establishments, events, House Music, Japan, Knowledge, Movers & Shakers, Music, Osaka, promoters, Reflections, Toronto, Travel

END OF YEAR House Music Series – House of Pela – Afrobeta Bodega Boston

I got a flyer from the SecSeeTemp<3 ladies of house (Brigette,Denise) a few weeks back that read ‘House of Pela’.  It looked like the sticker label for a bottle of hot sauce. Hot sauce ain’t bad….. What’s a House of Pela? What’s an ‘Afrobeta Bodega’?  I asked proud Dominican DJ via Boston all that. So you buy House of Pela products at the Afrobeta Bodega….now I understand. You get a variety of beats, sounds and ideas at the Afrobeta Bodega on the corner all the way from Boston. Sooo…Afro sound, culture, vibe,essence+Beta (first test version)=Afrobeta.

What’s in Boston? I’d visited a few months back to visit a friend working there. I desperately checked all house outlets for shows, parties, events…..maybe it was Winter. Yes, that’s it. No house events happen in Boston because it’s too cold. I checked all my fave ‘selecta’ websites to see tour dates….NOTHING. I took to Twitter -my hub of information and asked a former BET VJ who happens to be a Boston native and she told me:

Free response on Twitter

Soooo to meet a Max Pela from Boston….I had some questions. Where’s the community? Where’s the underground? Who’s the audience? How did Afrobeta start? Why are you in Toronto? Boston seems VERY straight-laced is what I thought….I got schooled. NAGA  has a laid back vibe as a lounge, restaurant and club.  The home of House of Pela is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The home of MIT….the prestigious school. This is always where the underground thrives. Near the schools…the house community must be pretty awesome. Pela sites all kinds of musical influences that he enjoyed in phases- Afro Dominican roots music like Palo, Salve and Gaja from Haiti.

He grew up with rural Dominican cultural influences and he really emphasizes Haitian musical influences which is great to hear considering many of the sociopolitical cultural divides that’s rocked the Dominican Republic for many years. He transitioned from Rock to Old School Hip-Hop to 90s house (this is where it all begins), Tribal, Progressive overall he gravitated to anything with deeper content….

So what does Afrobeta do? Max describes on the site that he is constantly searching ‘ for a specific sound….and has a fondness for non-conventional producers’….what’s non-conventional? He answers ‘anyone can  make music, there many unknowns out there’d like to give them a platform to show what they have….show what makes them unique ; it could even be the old school music production’ I told him that I checked the roster of artists on the site:

All of them have a great body of work. But Marquez- Is the person who told him about US in Toronto! He gave Max the thumbs up and props to come to Toronto! (Shout out to all supporters and enthusiasts of the Toronto house scene!) At afrobetabodega you’ll find live sets, studio recordings, podcasts, news and general musings of  underground house. It’s a work in progress and he mentions that an international expansion is in order.

In 2014 Max wants to make House of Pela a household name and continue to throw successful events. He wants to continue putting Boston on the map. See: TRAXSOURCE. I always ask this because I do feel its important for anyone embarking down creative paths; What advice does House of Pela founder give? – Take risks. ‘If you’ve gotta leave the 9-5 makes sure it’s planned and calculated…..do what makes you happy. If it’s the energy of what you do that drives you, let it be the driving force…there will be times you want to quit…rest assured there will be that one person who will wake you up to keep you going’

House of Pela It’s been fun putting these blog posts out! Follow me in 2014 as I take @theshineprjct  in other directions…. -shine

Biography, DJ Culture & Music, Establishments, events, House Music, Music, promoters, theshineprjct, Toronto, Travel

House Music Series – Nothin’ But a Little Monday Night Reading – TRIBE – Zepherin Dean Saint Brings the Heat with Some Thoughts…..

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After reading so much about his accomplishments and time spent in the industry- the descriptions I heard were all positive. His intense level of creativity…his tenacity for music and his jet-setting Tribe crew….I had questions about what started it all and what keeps the whole thing going…

I hit up the TRIBE website and was graced with some new and current tunes from an awesome podcast and as I scrolled around I saw the growing list of label artists who hands down seem to be one of the hardest working artists collective in house music…I smiled at my fave-Kristel (props), Peven Everett, Tim Regisford, Djeff Afrozila (see July interview) Nathan Adams….the list is growing. As I met up with Zepherin ‘Dean’ Saint last weekend, I understood that he had been travelling extensively…..the kitchen corridor at the new Ricky Ricardo’s became our interview space and I fired away….

I asked him about the artists and why he signed them…. he answered straight with no chaser ‘it’s all soul music, with depth’…..I liked his answer this set me up to understand the way he perceived music……I asked him ‘why house music?’ He had grown up playing a wide variety of instruments (drums and piano) and he adds ‘house music is one of the only genres to encompass all styles sounds under one umbrella’ For what house music represents this is a very unifying answer. What’s the one trend changing the UK house scene today? The new generation is embracing the sound of the 90s and re-working it to suit the modern taste  and style.

What do you think of the South African music scene? Simply put ‘I’ve been visiting SA since the 90s…from then until now they stay hungry (about the music) South Africa had a bourgeoning scene in the 90s they’ve now been able to create something tangible and lasting, they’ve nurtured something that is uniquely their own.’ Similarly he argues that the South African House is differentiated by the drive and hunger of the people who make up that scene. From dance floors to studios it’s all authentic…… Very candid and well thought out!

I asked him how he feels the Miami Winter Music Conference (WMC) had changed in the last 15 years and one of the most interesting answers I’ve heard…He believes that ‘it hasn’t translated into a new audience, numbers haven’t grown or expanded which mean they haven’t connected with audiences’….Could Zepherin ‘Dean’ Saint be onto somethin’?

If things haven’t changed too much in the industry and you have trailblazers carving out their paths where does all his energy come from? How does he keep going artistically? It comes from the various musical genres he can draw from to make good music-no matter what it is. Disco, Latin, African, Caribbean, Tech….. pretty much anything. His comments veer into production styles he says that these genres can allow him to play with musical tempos and make use of some great production software. (He’s a techie)

With all this travelling the team’s been doing where has TRIBE been well received? He lists first and foremost France (See DJOON podcasts), New York, Atlanta, Montreal and Greece (Kefalonia) The energy in those cities is on a completely different level. You can see that the TRIBE family often promote and travel to these places together!  They support one another-this seems to be the formula!
With TRIBE making so many waves this year, what should we look out for with TRIBE in 2014? New music from Miranda Nicole and Stephanie Cooke and a string of singles he’s working on!
Advice he offers to those trying to get ahead and make waves with their music, projects, talent, production, promotion: Believe in yourself, stay focused, keep your passions alive!

Thanks for reading people!

-shine