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Black Music Month: A re-telling of Black music legacy for Calgary

By Glory Okeleke, June 28 2024—

This month the National Music Centre (NMC), in collaboration with King Eddy, hosted a celebration for Black Music Month. This function presented by the NMC gave centre stage to multiple up-and-coming Black artists within Calgary. With a special curation of sounds, the crowd jived to exceptional tunes ranging from lo-fi soul to hip-hop/R&B to jazz, and even disco and Afrobeats. The program featured performances from Calgary composer Timothonious, Edmonton-bred artist K-Riz, Nigerian-Canadian DJ Jadé and Calgarian duo-act Sargeant X Comrade. 

A favourable anomaly about this event is how the evening also included an open mic for emerging Black talent. This introduced an atmosphere where artists seized the opportunity to flex their skills and receive live industry insight and feedback from a panel of Black music industry professionals, who shared their repository of expertise as independent artists navigating the industry. The panel of Black artists consisted of K-Riz, R&B singer Latisha, beatmaker and vocalist Lowkita and R&B melodist Ethan Cybril. 

Special, groundbreaking and Black empowerment were particular terms used to define the legacy of Black music by some of these artists within Calgary. The desire for Black music to be recognized and reflected as mainstream music was a congenial plea recorded throughout the night. 

“In Western Canada, it should be the norm to see a Black artist integrated into mainstream culture. If a country, folk or pop artist can blow out of Calgary, why not a rap, R&B or Afrobeat artist?” said K-Riz, one of the panelists. 

Another artist, E.N.I, expanded on the virtue of communal ties in creating Black music: “When we as artists can let go of the pride that comes with accomplishing things for ourselves, and make music or projects that include people, that is when we are able to impact people.”

E.N.I., an artist so enthused with passion and aspiration to point out to those who come after him the right path to take, tags himself as a voice for his own generation. 

“I want to get to the point where my music connects all around, I don’t feel like there’s a limit,” said E.N.I. “I want to influence the world and be of use with what I say in my music. I hope to personalize it with everyone else who comes across it.” 

The value of creating as a means of representation is anchored deeply in Black music and Black cultural heritage. In the absence of representation of Black artists within the mainstream sound, those who are emerging will have no one to associate themselves with. 

“Imagine all of us sitting in this room, [and] not having a place to tell our stories,” said K-Riz, as he responded in part to the question of what accomplishing purpose would look like for him in this industry. “It is important to tell our stories, to tell where we come from. And to also tell where we are going, to show people where we also want to go.” 

While creating primarily from a place of love, and living out a reputable story of her faith, TEEINTHEAM (Tiffany), who performed her debut single “Space and Time”, shared what accomplishing purpose as a Black artist for her looks like. 

“Having music in the world that touches peoples’ hearts, music that people can relate to,” Tiffany said. “Because, at the end of the day, we are all human, so for me, that’s the ultimate thing.” 

Such spirit, fervour and drive, are some unmistakable attributes possessed by Black artists in this city. The writing of Black music and its legacy is an expertise that is being harnessed within our very own eyes. While still in its preliminary stages, these Albertan artists forge the path for a legacy of Black music to be housed here in Calgary. 

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