Cuzzin Charlie, Friyie and Jessie Reyez shine at 106 & York

“Clap! Clap! Clap!”

“Why you not clapping and why you not clapping?”

Cuzzin Charlie shouts out to Toronto’s York Woods Library Theatre auditorium, which is packed with people enjoying the annual 106 & York urban arts showcase. He opens his performance with back flips and maintains his high energy through to the end of his set – dancing around the stage, spinning, doing the splits and rocking the mic James Brown style. His performance is not solely antics, but heartfelt as well. He makes his rounds up the stairs into the audience – his first stop to kiss his son.

Charlie is just one of a line up of performers to grace the stage. For many of the performers 106 & York marks their debut in such a large venue. The showcase, held in the Jane and Finch community of Toronto’s west end, represents something positive in an area often plagued with a negative reputation.

“… When you have a pulse of what’s going on in the community—you have awareness, you allow yourself, to seek knowledge of what’s going on, whether it’s negative or positive. As well you have the opportunity to celebrate. Celebrate people.” – David Delisca

“[Supporting the arts is] a necessity,” says local artist David Delisca. He isn’t performing tonight; he is here purely for support. “It’s a reflection of what’s happening in the community—local community, world community so when you have a pulse of what’s going on in the community—you have awareness, you allow yourself, to seek knowledge of what’s going on, whether it’s negative or positive. As well you have the opportunity to celebrate. Celebrate people.”

The evening’s program ranges from a hard-hitting presentation on sickle cell disease to a soulful original from Jessie Reyez who stuns the audience with her song “Mama” performed on acoustic guitar. Other performers throughout the night include Eden, Tanisha Clarke, Just John, Veronica, and the seemingly crowd favourite, head honcho Friyie.

Friyie, formerly known as D-Money Chaser, steps on stage and informs everyone, “We about to turn up.” Although the audio for “Head Honcho” is unreleased as of that night, the crowd still seems to know the lyrics. People pop up on their feet, bounce rhythmically to the beat and declare their position as a boss a.k.a. head honcho. Friyie’s track “All I Wanted Was a Chain” continues on the momentum and has the audience chanting along.

The night closes out with a soulful R&B performance from Zino. He serenades Eden, one of the other performers from earlier in the show, while females in the crowd giggle and swoon.

Words By. Rebecca Akrasi-Sarpong + Photos By. Christina Inniss