The air is cool, but the stage is hot as several performers from across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and other parts of Canada gather for the ninth chapter of Live at the Square presented by the Manifesto festival of community and culture.
This year’s stage featured the swoons of Savannah Ré and Pluto, lyrical barrages from acts like John River, Wasiu and The Airplane Boys and, headlining the whole affair, the staggeringly vibrant presence of Melanie Fiona.
But, what made this year’s lineup distinctive from some of the previous years was that, just like our beer and maple syrup, it was 100 per cent Canadian.
While Drake may be the 6 God, he rose from a city brimming with silent kings and queens. This covert kingdom stretches far past the borders of Toronto and its suburbs; Canada itself is a potluck of undiscovered talent.
What it lacks, however, is a consistent recognition, especially within a hip-hop scene that has been dominated by our brothers and sisters south of the border. Each September, Manifesto serves as dialogue that speaks to the talent that lives within Canada’s borders.
“Toronto represents [everywhere], you’ve got someone from every part of the world here. That’s what I think Toronto can really show the world.”
As the co-founder and chair of the board for Manifesto, Che Kothari is a firm believer in Toronto and Canada being able to touch others on a global scale.
“By growing up with someone next door to you that might be Jamaican, Trini or from Ghana, India or China there are so many perspectives and really unique voices that are tied to every voice that comes from Toronto,” Kothari says.
“If you look at this stage and the range of people that have been able to hit it and the different types of communities that are here representing themselves, it’s amazing. Toronto represents [everywhere], you’ve got someone from every part of the world here. That’s what I think Toronto can really show the world.”
Nothing speaks stronger to this purpose than the words of the artists themselves. A select few of the kind of performers that have something to offer audiences worldwide and make Manifesto what it is to this day had this to say about their Canadian pride.
“Being from St. Lucia originally and so heavily embedded in that culture and those roots I feel it’s very important to incorporate those different blends of flavour and vibes into the music. Whatever it is, it has to be infectiously Caribbean and honest. I strive to put honesty and thought-provoking lyrics into my music, because I feel like we can only leave here with our experiences, but we can only leave behind our legacy. As artists our legacy is our art. Whether it be the music, a painting, a drawing or a poem it’s those immortal pieces of art that we can leave behind and I take that very seriously.”
THE AIRPLANE BOYS
Bon Voyage: “It’s all for the people, but for one, we’re a diverse duo and Toronto’s full of diversity so we try to take that globally and wave that flag … Toronto is our story.”
Beck Motley: “[The city] raised us. Our form of expression, the women we meet, the struggles, and our family – we’re born here and put on this planet for a reason. Our form of expression is from our environment so we got to give back. That’s how the world works and the energy in it.”
I think a lot of Canadian artists are just people who want to make music. The scene is new, we don’t have the bright lights and the fame like L.A. and the States; we just make music.
What inspired me [about Toronto] at first was actually leaving the city and being in New York for a while. You see how life is outside of Toronto, it’s crazy, it’s like a culture shock kind of. It makes you appreciate what you started with. I started off with no labels around, so everything I do is really honest and that’s the way I’m keeping it. You can start off with music to get signed and make a lot of money, but not have honest music. I think a lot of Canadian artists are just people who want to make music. The scene is new, we don’t have the bright lights and the fame like L.A. and the States; we just make music. I’m just thankful for it. As a Canadian that’s how I represent myself and see myself is honest music and someone who just wants to make it.
We are just the most beautiful melting pot of people everywhere. You can be who you are here, you don’t have to check a box of who you are or what you are or where you come from, it’s all love. One city, one love, I love that. I love being from a multicultural city, it’s influenced my music to never stay into one genre. What Manifesto is doing is so important for the city; we won’t have to leave, because we’re building our own support system.
Photos By. Chantal “Rose” Gregory © Urbanology Magazine