DJ Culture & Music, events, Music, promoters, theshineprjct, Toronto

LUXELIFE SOUND Touches Toronto

A few minutes before I arrive at a Downtown Café last Fall, she sends a quick text identifying herself as the one with the big curly hair! Walked up to the glass doors and yes, she had the massive hair and the warmest bubbly smile. We just dived right in! Cleo Ellis, one half of LUXELIFE SOUND broke down for me how the business came about, and like most of the conversations I’ve had with shineprjct interviewees, it was soooo organic!!!!

With the strong ongoing 2018 theme of women-lifting-women up and the pride I can hear in her voice, this story  is definitely a huge accomplishment. She didn’t expect it to take the direction it did ‘it kinda just happened’ Ellis said.

Originally from Edmonton, she  moved to Toronto from Vancouver  in 2014  to pursue her Masters Degree in Professional Communication and almost immediately started a  volunteer position with Canadian PR Powerhouse Natasha Koifman of (NKPR) during their TIFF IT Lounge. That was also how she met her now business partner, DJ Lissa Monet — and unbeknownst to them both, that was the beginning of Toronto’s first all-female boutique DJ booking agency — LUXELIFE SOUND. JUST.LIKE.THAT.

Cleo Ellis – Partner
Photo: @djpplus

Anyone following Monet on Twitter will notice that she drops needles of wisdom navigating the industry as a tenured DJ and as a woman. She’s one of Toronto’s most well known DJs and has pioneered the way for a host of other DJs in the city, particularly female DJs.

DJ Lissa Monet – Partner

Even further ‘Our DJs are more than just a playlist. They actually have the skill needed to live-spin to the needs of the crowd’. LUXELIFE SOUND’s goal is to set a luxury standard of service for their clients, but also to ensure each and every DJ on their roster is paid their worth and treated fairly — the DJ industry, particularly in the club sector is notorious for these issues.  Cleo takes the time to educate each client on the expectations of hiring a DJ, while making the process seamless and simple on both ends. . One of the most engaging parts of our exchange was her communal ideology. ‘In our world, everyone gets a bag and everyone shines’ (Yeah, baby EVERYONE).

For years she was on the club circuit  and transitioned to corporate events , all while keeping a keen eye on other up and coming  lady DJs in the space. Many of whom  I’ve seen and heard at various events all over the city. The grouping of what is now LUXELIFE’S  roster includes a few definitive selectas from all over Canada. Cleo explains ‘we lucked out in that every DJ on the roster is so different; if the client requires a certain style, WE DELIVER and that is our strength’

Although business is flowing in from all over Canada they are not yet ready to expand nationwide but would like to continue reaching clients from coast-to-coast. “One day we hope to replicate this model on a larger scale in other cities, and maybe even expand to the US — but slow and steady wins the race. We want to be able to have the infrastructure to support a move like that”.

If you’re looking for more LUXELIFE SOUND has a dope SoundCloud channel  right now. Keep your ears open for the ladies at the next private party, it might be yours! Wishing LUXELIFE SOUND amazing success in 2019!

Follow ‘em IG: @luxelifesound

Follow ‘em on Facebook: @Luxelifesound

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.

Dee jay nana

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, Movers & Shakers, Music, New York, promoters, Reflections, Social Media, theshineprjct, Toronto, Travel

House Music Series – Jellybean Returns to Revival – International

Behind the Decks

Trust your instincts. These are the parting words of a talented artist whose career has spanned many decades.

Trusting his instincts has taken him to  places unimaginable. Literally. As a child from South Bronx, NY he says, ‘there were only two options amongst my friends…’ to be a drug dealer or a bouncer at a club…..I wasn’t gonna get into drugs and I was too short to be a bouncer’……that broke the ice! lol

Jellybean enthusiasts kept passing by; uttering comments, props and questions about when he was gonna  hit the stage. I’m not gonna lie-I knew about Jellybean as a kid because of Madonna.  I mentioned that to him-but what is fascinating is the kind of work he’s amassed in this many years, as well as the industries that he’s crossed. It is truly remarkable BUT also makes sense as he’s always ‘trusted his instincts’.

Another thing I noticed about what always came up while he responded to my questions was his need for CREATIVITY and his focus of wanting to simply MAKE MUSIC. Watching the crowd’s response on the dance floor Benitez said ‘is like GM testing cars…..as a creator of  sounds, tunes, records…..the dance floor allows you to see what works, what’s fresh and what’ll sell’

In his earlier years after Dj’ing for friends parties, his phone started ringing and requests to collaborate with big artists (Madonna, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson) to name a few- brought him into the studio. By working in the studio with recording artists,  it validated his production skills and allowed him to reach more people.  He left DJ‘ing for 10 years and produced music and soundtracks for films. This instinctual departure added more to his musical talents and skills.

Studio54 and Funhouse residencies allowed him to flaunt his production skills in the clubs and he would go on to produce (3-4 records a week???? Damn!) The music industry has definitely changed! The New York house scene is a very  different one than it was back in the day- in that it strictly thrived as an underground scene. This underground no longer exists. Perhaps this underground scene now thrives online?

I asked him about his XM Satellite Sirius Radio station that started in 2011. He was asked to program the station because of  his expertise, tenure and experience. This allowed him free reign over the design of the station’s music catalogue.  He plays FULL tracks when mixing on air  and that he mentions, has also lost its way with the new style of music mixing. He’s able to give back and educate new  listeners by introducing Disco and Classic House styles within the programming.  So every time, you tune in, and listen to Studio54 satellite radio, YOU learn something new! And just like that, our interview had to end……

Jellybean hit the decks at Revival  and  the  song he plays that draws me in is Louie Vega’s ‘Brand New Day’ feat Blaze. I almost forgot what I was gonna  write tonight.  LOL

I danced the night away 🙂

-shine

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