The Canadian music landscape has never sounded so exciting. Issues of gender, race, sexuality, identity and ability still require a tremendous amount of learning, and have yet to be truly considered in many important music spaces. But it’s also a time when those issues are starting to crack through the foundation of old structures that have protected some, and kept others bound from self-expression and support in their journey. Real change, if we are to get there, involves every level of the industry including media, audience, grant jurors, labels, booking agents, promoters, and festivals to be on board. In my heart I feel that this change is starting, but it is just the beginning. We have never had so much access to such a rich tapestry of lyrics, melodies, instruments, and languages, shared with us through the many identities that are drawn to expression through music. It is a truly exciting time to witness (and hear), and I look forward to seeing the deeper, more long-term possibilities these changes will open up. The following artists represent the complexity and powerful range of voices in a (mostly) Canadian landscape. Hear them live at Venus Fest this year, September 20-22 at The Opera House, in Toronto.
Tei Shi – Keep Running
Colombian-born Valerie Teicher is the force behind Tei Shi, emerging into the music industry only a few years ago with the distinct sound of her emotive voice over carefully hung grooves. Music fans with a stunningly far reach have been following her ever since, and awaiting her second LP which is due this fall. She is an inspiration to women and women of colour, and approaches her career with the commitment and integrity of a true artist.
Charlotte Cardin – Main Girl
No one could have anticipated the immediate and overwhelming response to Charlotte’s handful of singles and EPs in the last few years, although it’s not surprising when you hear her music. Filled with honesty, the depth of a woman’s experience, and the subdued cool of an August night, Charlotte Cardin has found her way into the heart of every Canadian music fan, and earned a place on some of the biggest festival stages in the country.
Han Han – World Gong Crazy (ft. Datu & Hataw)
Celebrated as one of Toronto’s most talented rappers in the game right now, Han Han raps predominantly in Filipino and is known for her live performances incorporating stunning movement pieces by Flipino-Canadian dance troupe Hataw. Haniely also works as a nurse, and is an involved activist and member of the local community. It’s been a few years since she released her last album, so fans are on the edge of their seats awaiting her new album due this fall.
TRP.P – Love, Calm Down
Originally known as 1/4 of Toronto rap collective, The Sorority, and independent producer and beatmaker Truss, Phoenix and Truss are now TRP.P – one of the hottest up and coming R&B groups in Toronto who are about to release their debut album. Their lyrics speak of caring and reciprocal love that uplifts around them, over deep grooves that pay homage to nostalgia-tinged legends like Ashanti.
Riit – Qaumajuapik
Riit, hailing from the beautiful and icy Panniqtuuq, Nunavut, brings a warmth and elegance to her songs that has her poised to shake up pop music in North America. Incorporating throat singing and Inuttitut lyrics alongside skillfully crafted synth pop, Riit’s highly anticipated debut album brings the listener on a deeply honest journey through her experience in Nunavut of intergenerational trauma, residential schools, sexual abuse, and isolation. But there is hope in her words as well, a hope possibly carried through her own career as an emerging young musician and the possibility of what lies ahead.
Too Attached – GratefulToo Attached is a project between Canadian writer, professor, model, and musician Vivek Shraya, and her wildly talented beatboxer/producer brother, Shamik Bilgi. The pair’s debut album, “Angry,” was critically acclaimed as one of Canada’s most radical, boundary-pushing and important albums, and was later nominated for the Polaris Prize. Like Shraya’s writing, the album is a boldly stark exposure of the hypocrisy behind many ‘inclusive’ spaces, and an honest perspective on what it would actually entail to create such places.
The Vaselines – Son Of A Gun
The Vaselines hail from a period in the music industry where women on stage were painfully sparse, even more so than today, and especially in the punk and grunge scenes. Known as Kurt Kobain’s favourite band (and singer Frances McKee as the namesake of his and Courtney Love’s daughter), The Vaselines were widely under-appreciated at the time of their initial emergence. Fast forward to 2019 and hear how the group has sustained an incredible and impactful career that has lasted more than three decades. They continue to be an inspiration for women in alternative, edgy music communities, and hold a special place in the heart of every grown up punk.
The Weather Station – Thirty
The video for “Thirty” depicts The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman baring her deeply emotional lyrics before a nondescript and indifferent crowd of men. It proves to be a highly universal and relatable symbol for the experience of women everywhere, as well as a nod to the reality that women in music work ten times as hard to get half as far as men. But the lyrics also reveal a cyclical nature to our experience, and offer the possibility of hope for something new as the years pass.
Dorothea Paas – Container
Every time I hear Dorothea Paas sing I immediately think “voice of an angel,” and it’s not hard to see why. She represents the strength and incredible talent of the DIY music community in Toronto, and as such, the power of underrepresented voices who are slowly carving out space where they can. Dorothea’s songs speak of a vulnerability that is hard for most to admit, leaving the listener haunted by soft, arching melodies.
Fiver – Hair Of The Dead
Simone Schmidt (the storyteller behind Fiver) spent two years pouring over case files of people incarcerated at The Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane between 1856-1881. “Audible Songs From Rockwood” is the result of their research; 11 songs that imagine fictional field recordings from that time. Schmidt is no stranger to this approach in their work, as they have been at the forefront of several of Canada’s best folk projects over the last two decades, and with each one they give voice to the silent and forgotten ones who live in the margins of society and are cast aside. This, to me, is the true spirit of folk music and a tradition that Schmidt carries well.
Playlist curator: Aerin Fogel, founder of Venus Fest.
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More LiisBeth Playlists!
LiisBeth playlists are also available on Spotify. Link to Aug 2019 playlist here: at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4uBcUcWLEhEdf5rh3yU1XG?si=0uGsJKeOQYyyd0Oo1Zrj9Q