Spek Won isn’t new to this. While he dropped his debut album Sofa King Amazing earlier this year, Spek Won has been making progressive sounds as part of Toronto’s creative music community for several years now, building up his reputation in collectives like 88 Days of Fortune. So while his album features some organic instrumentation and approaches, it also explores some vividly futuristic directions that much like his production alter ego Marty McFligh, take things back to the future. MNFSTO.COM caught up with Spek Won to discuss his music and approach within Toronto’s burgeoning reputation as a progressive sonic hub. – Del F. Cowie
Spek Won will be appearing as part of Manifesto at Future Sounds on Friday, September 18th with Adria Kain, a l l i e, Clairmont the Second, City Fidelia and Birthday Boy.
9pm – 2am
Daniels Spectrum (Ada Slaight Hall), 585 Dundas St. E.
$20 Advance Tickets
Follow Spek Won on Twitter at @spekwon
On Sofa King Amazing your production alter ego and one side of the album refers to a Back to the Future character [Marty McFligh]. Do you feel like there’s a futuristic approach to what you’re doing?
I feel like there’s definitely a progressive thought process that goes into the writing and the concepts. I do my best to try to mould and put together. I come up on hip hop and music during a time when you didn’t have the influx of music through social media and what not so it was almost like you had to stand out. Me, personally when people tell me my music sounds new or futuristic, I feel like it’s more that it sounds different because I still hold on to the mentality that I have to do my best to sound like me, which is different than a lot of the paths people take. Because I feel like there’s the dominant culture that’s in Toronto right now which is I guess you can call it the OVO Sound, that it’s like it’s heavy it’s like a machine, concrete and steel. The majority of artists from Toronto in Canada and worldwide are adopting that OVO Sound, whereas there are many of us in Toronto and worldwide that are adding to what I like to call counterculture. And pretty much it’s just the culture that doesn’t oppose the popular sound but it is at the other end of the spectrum of what the popular sound is right now. So I guess I’d rather call my music counter-culture to whatever’s popular as opposed to futuristic. I guess if you call it futuristic, OK, I guess it’s futuristic.
What are some of the things that you feel have been happening for a while in Toronto. You were a part of 88 Days of Fortune collective for example.
I feel like 88 Days of Fortune definitely added to the artistic state of what Toronto has become and has been becoming because it was an alternative to the straight-forward, ‘just get on the stage with the MC and a beat [approach]. It was, like, ceremonial when you came to one of our shows and we had so many aspects to it , we even had so many types of shows we hosted parties, we hosted shows we hosted all kinds of things. 88 Days of Fortune definitely did their part for that. I feel like there was also a certain moment of time where Toronto producers were just killing it. And I mean we still are but there was a certain moment in hip-hop where every beat you may have heard it may have been someone from Toronto whether it was 40, whether it was Boi-1da, whether it was Rich Kidd, whether it was T-Minus, whether it was LordQuest. I feel like that also added to the progression to this ‘future’ sound that we have coming out of Toronto. There was a producer era where a lot of producers were just going heavy.
Ever since allie released her Strange Creature EP in 2013 she has explored a sound that is at once familiar and adventurous as well as being traditional and refreshingly new. Her emergence and aesthetic, rooted in soulful music has come alongside a definite sonic shift in R&B, yet she has managed to add her own inimitable and distinctive creative approach. Working collaboratively with other Toronto-area artists like Elaquent and 2nd Son who are inherently wired to push rhythmic boundaries of their own, allie has been able to issue tracks like “Cross My Mind” and the SOCAN Songwriting Prize-nominated “Private Island” that boast immediate appeal while traversing eclectic sonic paths. Having just released “I Can’t Wait,” a sumptuous collaboration with Birthday Boy, allie spoke with MNFSTO.com to discuss her sound within the context of Toronto’s creative community. – Del F. Cowie
a l l i e will be appearing as part of Manifesto at Future Sounds on Friday, September 18th with Adria Kain, Spek Won, Clairmont the Second, City Fidelia and Birthday Boy
9pm – 2am
Daniels Spectrum (Ada Slaight Hall), 585 Dundas St. E.
$20 Advance Tickets
Follow a l l i e on Twitter at @alliemoves
Since you’ve started have you noticed more of an interest from the R&B coming from Toronto?
For sure, for sure.
Why would you say that?
There’s something definitely happening here. It’s hard to define it. And a lot of people are calling it a sound. I think that’s a little too limiting a term because there are a lot of different sounds going on that are super diverse. But I think that there’s just a lot of talent here, a lot of people are like pushing and taking advantage of the fact that there are a lot of people watching right now. And I think there’s a really different feel of community for me right now where I think in Toronto where a bit of the divide on the music scene and right now it just feels like everybody is supporting each other like coming together to make some dope shit.
What are some examples of the things that are particularly impacting for you in terms of the collaborations happening in the community?
Well, like I’ve just been working with a lot of people from Toronto lately and like I’m working, obviously I’m doing some stuff with Birthday Boy. I’m working with River Tiber, there’s a bunch of different people and it feels like the scene has really opened up for me cos when I started I was working with a lot of producers that weren’t in Toronto kinda right off the jump and that was a bit tough ‘cos it was a lot of internet stuff and we couldn’t actually get in a room with each other. I was really missing that personal connection so that’s kinda been the best part of it for me to be getting in a room with people and to be actually working with close friends I can build relationships with.
So you recently dropped “I Can’t Wait” with Birthday Boy, that’s the only song you guys have worked on, right?
Yeah, that’s the only thing that we’ve put out. We’re working on some other stuff right now. We’ve both got a lot of projects on the go, but I’m working on my full length, he’s working on some stuff for that. And then as I said River Tiber and 2nd Son [who produced allie’s debut EP Strange Creature] and then there’s just a lot of people in the scene that I’m really looking to right now for inspiration and also right now that I would love to work with, like Harrison, bizZarh and it’s cool because they’re all friends so it feels really natural and organic and I think that’s a lot of the reason people are looking at us right now, ‘cos it is actually organic, you know? It’s not forced. It’s not contrived. It’s a bunch of people who are actually friends who are really supporting what each other are doing, working together and I think that makes it something special because, I don’t know there’s a genuine quality on the scene right now that probably a lot of other cities don’t have.
You’ve said there’s a lot of eyes on us right now a couple of times. What do you think has been a main contributing factor to that?
The really obvious one is the Drake effect [laughs]which everybody talks about a lot. And now The Weeknd is like making this big move. So people are paying attention ‘cos of that, but I think that it’s more than that. I think it’s not just the music scene, it’s the city itself is really growing and changing and turning into something really completely new and in all facets of the city, so I think that it’s just natural that the music scene is having this evolution and that people are like more interested in what’s going on in Toronto and also more interested in the artists that are living here and working here and coming out of here. It’s cool because for so long as a Toronto musician you really had to leave and this feels like really the first time where you can lay down roots here and do your thing. You still have to leave, but it just feels very different to me right now.
Taj Francis may be one of the most imaginative, gifted and versatile artists creating contemporary visual art today.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Francis began drawing as a child, going on to train at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts where he fine-tuned his multidimensional talents.
Creatively fuelled by music, Francis’ work captures lush, evocative worlds and enigmatic characters brimming with sensual spirituality and this compelling mix is garnering him exciting collaborations. Francis recently joined his passions of music and art through stunning videos for his “TENFOLD: Opus” audio-visual project including collaborations with Green Lion Crew (“Temple” ) and Proteje (“Who Knows Dub”).
Today, the full-time artist, illustrator and designer’s work can be found across diverse mediums such as websites to custom artwork on shoes and clothing, as well as this year’s Manifesto festival. – Introduction and interview by Chaka V. Grier
Taj Francis’ art will be on display with many other artists’ work as part of the Manifesto Festival at the Common Art Ground Art Show on Sunday September 20 at the Super Wonder Gallery at 876 Bloor St. W. PWYC + All Ages (3pm – 8pm) /$5 + 19+ After 8PM. Buy Tickets. Join Event . Follow Taj Francis on Twitter @tajfrancis and visit his online store tajtenfold.com .
How early in your life were you aware that art was a passion that you wanted to follow?
Pretty early, I actually can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. I did get a lot more serious about it after high school.
What themes did you originally explore in your work (as a young teen)? And has those themes changed as you’ve gotten older?
I spent a majority of my time creating comics, and trying to mimic Japanese manga. A lot of my drawings from childhood were kind of fantasy themes. I wanted to create graphic novels, really. I honestly don’t see it so much as change, as it is all those things culminated to the path I’m on now.
Very dignified and gorgeous women seem to comprise many of your images. Is this a coincidence? Or, are women a particular visual theme that inspires you?
It was probably a more just a coincidence at first. But I’m someone who likes to create what I don’t really see represented, even unconsciously so. I didn’t really see women of colour portrayed in art that often. At least, not in the way that everyone else gets portrayed. It’s not even that deep or edgy, it’s just the idea of kind of normalizing these images. People appreciate it, because people like to feel a connection to art, to feel as if they can see themselves in it, or relate to it. Everyone should get that chance I believe.
There’s a beautiful image of Nina Simone with piano keys in her hair that I was struck by right away. When you’re drawing icons (like Miss. Simone, Ms. Lauryn Hill etc.), whose images have been so coveted by other artists, are you looking for a new angle to capture them with? Or does the image just come to you organically and that’s the way you express it?
I’m very intent on capturing them in a new angle. Both of these women have a very strong impact on the culture, globally. They pioneered a lot of what we get in the culture and music today. If I create an image of someone, it’s not just me drawing him or her for the sake of likes, or hoping that they, or someone, tweet or share it to get a look. I’m trying to honour what this person has done through my own art, so it’s not something I do often.
Music seems to play a big part in your visual inspiration? Is music as much as a creative catalyst in your work as it appears to be? If so, can you explain why?
Yes, in a way. There are particular kinds of music that create certain moods and tones that help me visualize ideas. Or sometimes it’s a particular lyric, or line from a poet. It’s just one aspect in a series of things when I’m creating.
You use mixed-media to create your work (pen, ink, brush, digital and spray paint). How do you decide what tools to use when you’re creating a piece?
No deciding factor really, I just create with what’s available or with what I feel to. At the end of the day, they’re just media. So I’ll use whatever I think will best fit what I’m trying to convey.
How long does it take you to complete a piece like “The Upsetter, Lee Scratch Perry,” which won you 5th place in the international Reggae Poster Contest (RPC)?
Funny story about that, I thought I was too late to submit (I didn’t realize the call submission got extended). So I just did it anyway, figuring I had nothing to lose, and if it were too late it wouldn’t matter, it was fun creating it. I think it took me about a day or so to do.
Your new online store is rich with such bold and striking images — it’s as if you could climb through the computer screen and enter a lush alternative universe. How exciting and/or daunting has taking this step been for you been?
Thank you, it’s super exciting. I love the idea of being able to make my work available to as much people as possible. I didn’t want to go the route of using a third party website to distribute, because I wanted to have control over how it was presented and how people access it. I didn’t want to be in competition with other more popular art, I wanted to bring the people to me. This is something I’ve been planning since late last year (like many other things). I spent these past months working on several things, setting up this store being one of them. I wanted to make it as accessible as I could. So to get to have it out now is great!
How does it feel to be collaborating with Manifesto this year?
I love the idea of community building through the arts, so to work with Manifesto this year is awesome. We could really use more things like this on a whole, so I’m really excited about the collaboration. Much love to Toronto.
There’s a lot to learn from the 100 Miles Brand. They’ve been in the Toronto street wear scene for over 20 years and are still relevant today. The 100 Miles Brand proves to be more than just a t-shirt brand by having a clothing line that’s available for men and women. They are heavily influenced by hip-hop and urban culture, but stress the importance of shining a positive light on it. – Written by Samantha Singh / Interview by Cassandra John
What’s the story behind the name 100 Miles Brand?
It came to me 23 years ago when I was in my university lecture at Ryerson, and the professor said to us to look at your life and find something that inspires you. It just happened to be the TTC bus strike. I was in front of the 100 miles kilometre sign and I was like, “100 km, nah that doesn’t make sense…100 Miles!” From that everything came into place. I came with a concept where 100 miles symbolizes the world, the fact that we as people go through a lot of struggles, so we have 100 miles to go in everyday life.
What was it like creating a line in 1992? In this day and age there are so many resources available for people wanting to start a line, I could only imagine the resources or the lack of resources there was back then. Could you walk me through the process?
The process back then was the Yellow Pages and your feet! Basically being a minority, a lot of people didn’t take me seriously [and] being young were some of the obstacles that I faced. I had to be mature to get what I wanted without being so demanding. It took a lot of research, trial and error. No one was there to say, ‘Hey! Get more followers or hash tags!’ There was none of that. It was pretty much you believing in yourself, or having a small team of people that saw your vision and wanted to help in terms of getting it to the next step in the career or just the vision. It was a lot more difficult, a lot more footwork, people closing the door in your face. It’s not like now, where it’s a buyers market and everybody wants a piece of something.
Your brand has been worn by some of the most influential people in hip-hop, both alive and dead. Explain what that feeling was like.
I would say surreal, humbling, to say the least. From Tupac, to Biggie, to Wu-Tang Clan, living legends like EPMD, KRS1, A Tribe Called Quest, just to name a few. It’s been a blessing and an honor as a Toronto clothing brand and as a member of Toronto to have people globally recognized now to wear our clothing. To feel recognized in the sense that Toronto is a fashion capital, in my eyes at least, a place where people do respect the fashion job of our city.
The heights that you’ve take 100 Miles Brand to, most people can only dream about. What’s a takeaway that you can share with the Freshest Goods audience?
I would say believe in yourself. Always have faith in the powers above, and stay humble. Don’t let it get to your head, things can happen. As much as you feel that you’re in control, there are other energies and people that are also in control or assisting. You’ve got to believe all the time strongly in yourself, believe in what you’re doing. Do it for the love of it, don’t do it because of money or you want to get famous, do it from the heart.
How has the 100 Miles Brand managed to stand the test of time? What are some of your secrets?
Smiling, laughing, enjoying, just loving every minute of it. Loving the customers that are buying our merchandise or even rooting us on. It means a lot to myself and the rest of our company, getting the positive encouragement and even when we get criticized we prove that we’re taking it in a positive direction. Just building with our consumer base, now it’s global and just spreading the love that to me, that’s what it’s about. Trying to stay positive and staying creative and not leaning towards trends, but always trying to lean towards fashion.
Meet the Team is a short series of posts that will be introducing the public to the 2015 Manifesto team- the people who are running things from behind the scenes.
Jade Jager Clark joined the Manifesto team this year as the in house dance programmer. She first came to Manifesto to promote one of her many dance events, and was later contacted by Managing Director Judi Lopez to discuss her participation as the Dance Programmer for the 2015 Festival.
Jade is a passionate artist; a dancer at heart, she started Jade’s Hip-Hop Academy in her home city of Brampton in 2006. Since opening, she’s taught over 2,500 kids how to pop, lock, break and krump, and has provided dancers for almost 300 events including Unity Festival, and TV appearances on Breakfast Television and TVOkids. This past summer alone her group has performed over 18 times at PanAm and Para Pan Am, as well as YTV Beach Bash at Canada’s Wonderland.
To learn more about Jade’s Hip Hop Academy, head over to http://jadeshiphopacademy.com/
See her also on Twitter @Jadeshiphopacad and Youtube
Artscape x Manifesto x The Remix Project x IREMEMBER
In Partnership with The Ada Slaight Youth Artist Mentorship Program
In Conversation with…
Chronixx & Zincfence Redemption
“A Community Youth Gathering”
Moderated by Donisha Prendergast | Hosted by Big Norm
Reggae star Chronixx has re-energized today’s reggae sound by taking it back to its roots and pumping the heart back into the music. With songs like “Rastaman Wheel Out,” the classic “Here Comes Trouble” from his 2014 album Dread and Terrible and “Who Knows?” his hit collaboration with fellow conscious-raising reggae artist Proteje, Chronixx’s distinctive voice and positive ideals have quickly made the 22-year old a worldwide force. A young man with an old soul, he continues to cultivate his gift by linking the present with the past by connecting with reggae legends like Sly & Robbie, King Jammy and Leroy Sibbles.
Following in the footsteps of his father (reggae artist Chronicle), Chronixx was known as Little Chronicle growing up and was surrounded and mentored by several legendary reggae musicians like Gregory Isaacs. Chronixx began his career working behind the scenes providing vocals and production assistance for artists such as Popcaan and Konshens but the death of his brother spurred on his emergence as an artist in his own right leading him to release his debut EP Hooked On Chronixx in 2010.
Hosted by Donisha Prendergast, a founding director of Manifesto Jamaica, this In Conversation With… event promises to offer an intimate and revealing conversation with Chronixx about the inspirations and influences in his life and the message in his music.
Event attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods, school supplies, projectors and small cameras to be donated to The Homework Centre in Jamaica. THC is a small Community Space with shady trees located in the heart of the streets of concrete houses in Westchester, Portmore. Once a broken playground and old barbershop is now filled with books, documentaries, musical instruments and other information tools for all ages, collected from years of book drives at events and from our travels around the world.
Friday August 21, 2015
230PM – 4PM (Doors – 2PM)
Daniels Spectrum – Ada Slaight Hall
585 Dundas St. E., Toronto
This event is FREE with registration and seating will be first come first served, with seating preference given to YOUTH aged 18 and under.
About Donisha Prendergast
Donisha Prendergast is a global citizen who has been on a journey around the world since birth it seems. As a child touring with Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers she witnessed how Reggae music was able to challenge social boundaries and even national borders with a true message of Love & Justice. Born and raised in Jamaica, this ‘80’s baby’ also saw the rise of dancehall and other sub-cultures driven by music. As a healer and community organizer she has put hands and heart into building a school for girls in the Mara Masaai region in Kenya with Free the Children, she has marched through the snow for justice with the Idle No More movement and the Indigenous youth and ancient elders of Canada. Donisha’s commitment to global community work includes her healing works with the youth of Tivoli Gardens Film Club, who she has been mentoring since the Incursion of May 2010 among many other projects as a founding director of Manifesto Jamaica.
About Manifesto’s In Conversation With..
Manifesto’s In Conversation with…series features intimate live interviews and audience dialogues with a diverse range of artists and leaders in their field. The talks provide an opportunity to go beyond the public performance persona of artists and creatives to explore these artists’ stories, career development experiences and valuable lessons.
We thank and acknowledge the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Artscape, The Remix Project, IREMEMBER and the Ada Slaight Youth Arts Mentorship Program for making this event possible.