Two decades have elapsed since annual concert showcase Honey Jam was brought to life by Ebonnie Rowe and PhemPhat Entertainment.
For its 20th birthday, an audience of assorted individuals from across Toronto packed the city’s Mod Club earlier this month to witness a truly inspiring celebration. A diverse line-up of women took to the stage, demonstrating creative flair in everything from rapping and singing to DJing.
To commemorate this year’s milestone, Urbanology Magazine spoke with a wide range of individuals, all connected to the event in different ways, and asked them what type of impact Honey Jam has had on the Canadian music scene over the last 20 years.
Director X: “Honey Jam’s just a great showcase for female artists. It’s something that has the right class level, the right organization and everything’s hitting on the right spaces – it’s great. I’d love to see it become even larger in the city and larger around the world, but it’s ahead of its time so now the world’s just catching up.”
Chloe McKenzie (Event Manager for Honey Jam): “Over the years Honey Jam has really created a place for [female] artists in Toronto to have a home – a place for them to be showcased, nurtured and to be looked out for. It’s pretty much a male dominated scene [for] instrumentalists and vocalists so it’s nice for these ladies to have an outlet that’s all their own.”
Becca TG (Artist): “This is my second year; I did it last year so I came back. Honestly it’s such a great organization and the Honey Jam concert gives so many young female artists the opportunity to just sing. I’m from Montreal, it’s a small town so I don’t get to do many performances, but it’s an honour to come here and be a part of this, it’s like a family. You have all these pre-show events that you go to and you get along with everyone; it’s really amazing.”
There’s a sisterhood there with all the women who’ve been through this initiative together … It’s beautiful to watch; it’s almost like a cultivated artist residency. – Sarah Taylor
Vivian Barclay (Chairman of the Board for PhemPhat Entertainment): “You could look at it both ways. Some people will say it hasn’t changed much in 20 years and you could also look at the flipside and say we’ve been so consistent in the message that there’s amazing talent across the country, that it should be showcased and that there should be a space for women in all aspects of where they are in the business.
Sarah Taylor (Former MuchMusic VJ and Host of Honey Jam 2015): “It’s so inspiring honestly; I’ve seen a lot of live showcases in my life and this one’s different all to its own. There’s a sisterhood there with all the women who’ve been through this initiative together. I don’t think it’s just a showcase; it is really like a huge learning experience for these women who are being mentored and learning about their craft, their careers and who they are. It’s beautiful to watch; it’s almost like a cultivated artist residency.”
While Honey Jam thrives off the collective effort of an extremely hardworking team, it’s important to highlight the Queen Bee of the hive: Ebonnie Rowe. Considering Rowe’s birthday took place just a day before this year’s Honey Jam, it seems only right that she is celebrated for all she has done for Canadian women and her contribution to the city of Toronto.
Jesse Ohtake (Programming Director, MANIFESTO): “My first Honey Jam was back in 2000 when I first moved here. Ebonnie was always a very present person, a very informed person. She kind of knew all the people that I knew and I started seeing her and knowing her because of that and the main thing that I give respect to her for, beyond Honey Jam, is her ability to run a tight ship, be strict and be a good businesswoman. So I think, beyond the 20-year anniversary, I’m very impressed that she’s been able to establish herself and then pass that on to all these younger women.”
Amol Gupta (Owner/Founder of Standout Entertainment): “It’s quite a challenge to go through the whole process of elimination, there’s so many talented people out there and just making a nice showcase for everyone where there’s exposure for the people you’re picking. Putting it all together is not easy and she does a great job executing it.”
When females come out and see a showcase of other females who are out there really working, it inspires them to do more, push and be better especially when sometimes our environments bring us down. This is a place where everybody’s uplifting each other. – Dynesti Williams
Melissa Megan (Artist): “She’s been so honest with us about what to expect when coming into this industry. That’s something I’ve really valued about this entire experience is Ebonnie has always been upfront and honest, preparing us for the realities of going into this industry. I think that’s something that all of us will be able to carry forward regardless of what path we go on. She always says to us she’s our Mama Bear, but she’s always going to be honest for us.
Dynesti Williams (Artist): “[She’s taught us to] just be a boss unapologetically. She’s an entrepreneur; she’s going out and working hard and she’s doing this respectfully, bringing together real women who don’t have to fake and be something they’re not or fit male standards. When females come out and see a showcase of other females who are out there really working, it inspires them to do more, push and be better especially when sometimes our environments bring us down. This is a place where everybody’s uplifting each other.”
Photos By. Janelle Scott-Johnson © Urbanology Magazine