Toronto has found a fresh, new sound.
This is not according to what ‘industry experts’ have to say, but rather three local student groups.
Last month, the Black Student Association (BSA) of the University of Toronto (UofT), the United Black Students of Ryerson (UBSR) and UofT Mississauga’s Caribbean Connections (CC) united to showcase what they deemed the ‘new Toronto wave’ under one tagline: uTOpia.
“It’s the polar opposite of the other shows that’s getting done in the city …” says 24-year-old Russ Adade, the creative director behind uTOpia, adding while he does consider an artist’s popularity, it isn’t the only thing that factors into selecting someone for the line-up.
What started as a statement, turned into an opportunity for local, emerging artists in the city to showcase their talent.
Osei, The Native prepped the crowd with his mellow flow. Singer Savannah Ré seduced music fans with her sultry voice. Devontée Woe knew how to turn up the crowd and have a good time. Drew Howard pleased the crowd with his catchy one-liner songs.
John River spit some solid bars about keeping hope alive and paid tribute to late rapper, Redway, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sean Leon even joined in on the fun, giving the crowd a surprise performance on his birthday, entertaining with his mid-tempo honest lyrics, before Ramriddlz concluded the concert with his popular song – which was even covered by Drake – “Sweeterman,” a nod to Toronto slang.
uTOpia wasn’t only a platform for artists to perform. It was also a place to recognize the accomplishments of local acts.
Awards for artist of the year, video of the year, song of the year and album of the year were handed out. Artists nominated varied from the performers of that night to ones who weren’t present at the show.
“We have an idea of what we want for our generation.”
Jazz Cartier won artist of the year and Daniel Caesar won album of the year for Praise Break.
Jordan Evans, Toronto producer and Grammy-nominee, who has worked with Drake, Jay Z and Eminem … received the Visionary Award for the night getting the love and support from his city that he deserves.
Between the performances and the award presentations, attendees were served a representation of their own taste – as like the organizers, the majority of the audience members were students as well.
“It’s about coming from a place where students are really speaking for ourselves,” says M’Kaylah Fridal, 21, who is the president of the BSA. “It’s our age group we are trying to showcase, while other festivals are all about people that are already in the industry. We have an idea of what we want for our generation.”
Perhaps it’s that insider insight Fridal refers to that allowed each performance at uTOpia to flow cohesively like an album – seemingly creating a soundtrack to Toronto’s new wave.
Photos supplied courtesy of Prescylla Mizinga & Video supplied courtesy of 40oz Heroes