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TURN UP: Interview with Soca Star Bunji Garlin


Once upon a time, a young girl from a small city in Ontario met a young dude from the heart of Scarborough (in the east end of Toronto). The girl was from a Jamaican family, and the dude was from a Vincentian one – so while they vibed on a Caribbean diasporic heritage tip, two major arguments ruled their relationship: “fry dumplin” vs. “bakes” and reggae/dancehall vs. soca.

While we still argue about the former, the latter has simmered into an appreciation and reverence for all things Caribbean music. Admittedly, I used to be one of those “I can’t stand soca!” types, but life has gotten infinitely better since I righted the wrongs of my ways – and Bunji Garlin, one of my favourite soca artists, is a major part of that turnaround.


Photo credit: Oluwaseye

The Trinidadian soca powerhouse has been shaking up the scene over the span of his nearly 2 decade-long career. Known for his booming voice, lush sound, and sharp lyrics, he’s created a musical movement that embodies the celebration, determination, and creativity of the Caribbean while being recognized by the rest of the world. His 2012 single Differentology made waves, winning a Soul Train award and Hot 97 FM’s Battle of the Beats competition, being chosen by NPR as one of the year’s favourite anthems, and being featured on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. Following that, Bunji released his new album Turn Up on VP Records this September, and is ready to take 2018 by storm, during Carnival season and beyond.

A number of songs from Turn Up have made their way to fetes and Carnival parades over the past year – most notably, the electrifying single Big Bad Soca. With this body of work, Bunji has created a versatile album that satisfies the ears of a variety of listeners, with nods to current EDM and Afrobeat sounds, cross-genre guests like Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, and songs fi di mandem/gyal dem and Carnival purists overall.

In true ‘power couple’ fashion, Bunji’s wife Fay-Ann Lyons is a noted soca force in her own right. VP Records just released the new video for her single High Heels – check it (and a video of the dynamic duo in action at BET) here!

I got to chat with Bunji via email about Turn Up, mainstream industry recognition, musical appropriation, and more – including the simple way that him and Fay-Ann make everything work.

BQ: Was there anything that specifically inspired your creation process with this album compared to your past works?

BG: Honestly, this album I kind of let it take its own course. Sometimes we try to fit music too much into spaces and I felt as though I should let it breathe its own life.

BQ: Ending the album with The Message ft. Damian Marley is such a great juxtaposition with the first song, Turn Up – if you could describe this album as a musical journey, where are you trying to take your listeners?

BG: I myself didn’t have a particular place in mind I want to take the listeners. Let them travel where they want to. Let them feel their own feelings when they listen, just let it feel good overall while breaking barriers.

BQ: You performed at Drake’s OVOFest this Caribana, and this year, Torontonians who are part of Carnival culture felt it was an improvement on his part to have a dedicated Caribbean music night. Do you feel that Caribbean artists are getting the respect they deserve from the mainstream?

BG: I mean, honestly the respect Caribbean artistes are getting now have grown by leaps from way back in one aspect, but the Caribbean sound is gaining more respect at a greater rate than the artistes per se – for example Shabba, Supercat, Buju, Mad Cobra, Ninja Man, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man, also Born Jamericans – we some serious household names on the Caribbean forefront, and every other nationality that’s into other music knows those names no matter what age you are. In this era now what we see happening is the music growing so rapid that people are more into the songs because they feel good – and not necessarily knowing who the artiste is on a household name level. So it’s more of yes than no.

BQ: Lines are being blurred right now between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation with regards to Caribbean music – what do you think is being done well, and what improvements need to be made as far as how artists partner with others or take inspiration from other genres?

BG: I think all the partnerships are working well. I think that if mainstream creatives borrow or directly take from the culture, most cases it comes across as though they invented it – and people would expect that [if] they have the ear of the public that they’d educate the public on where the sounds came from and origins and such. So when that doesn’t happen it automatically registers to the wider world as “they took it and we didn’t even get some credit.”

BQ: You seem to be navigating the journey into mainstream well – Grey’s Anatomy, NPR, BET, and MTV have all given you amazing looks lately. Is this something you’re actively seeking or are they coming to you?

BG: All these mainstream developments, most of the cases they came to us when they saw the movement, and from there we use the opportunities to make other opportunities happen. Part of the mission with us on our team is to keep the culture in their face aggressively as well. The previous approach was most cases friendly, which people tend to discard. What we see is people respond more to bold unapologetic moves. They either hate it or absolutely love it.

BQ: The Caribbean and continental North American music industries are very different, and I think that affects the lack of recognition that most soca/dancehall/reggae artists get from entities like the Grammys. Within your circles, are Caribbean artists seeking this kind of validation, or is recognition from within the culture more important?

BG: Caribbean artistes overall I think have their eyes set on the pinnacle that is the Grammys, but because it is so rare for us it makes us now work on our side to develop us more and for us to accept us as our own people. The reggaetón movement is the perfect example of “we won’t wait for you, we moving and you will hop on.” That’s the phase we’re in now on the soca side. My interactions with my Jamaican musician friends has also allowed me to see there is a reformatting of how many of them write to cover larger audiences because that is the goal of every creative, to spread your gifts further and further.

BQ: What do you think is waiting for you, and for soca music in general in the next 5 years?

BG: I think something special is waiting for me as one of the pioneers of this new movement of soca. Fortune favors the brave and the whole soca world now is newer, more modern and extremely brave. Years ago in the US, soca crowds would normally stay to themselves within the soca events – now they are the craziest partiers in the hip hop events and dancehall and EDM events, which works for us, the artistes. When I appear in one of these events, which is also read for soca still in a sense, the whole scenario goes down better because we have soldiers with us on the field to really drive home the message.

BQ: Switching gears: I’m also a huge fan of your wife Fay-Ann, and love her Instagram! How do you both make life, family, and love work while you’re both so prominent within your careers?

BG: We do almost everything together which simplifies everything.

Follow Bunji on Twitter and Instagram.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

I STAND WITH ISHAWNA: Dancehall’s ‘Equal Rights’ Fight

Ishawna-Bounty (1)
In a piece I wrote last year for The Establishment on women in Jamaica’s dancehall culture, I said the following:

Misogyny, violence, and homophobia permeate [hip hop and dancehall], with the male-dominated nature of each being highly prevalent. Through the transition from girl to woman, I loved my culture, but didn’t always feel like it loved me. Where was the room for women’s ownership and expression of dancehall music and culture? In what ways could women siphon some of the control from men and create space for themselves?

Through my reverence for Carnival and love for women in dancehall who helped pave the way to my own brand of womanism, that positivity is all-too-often interjected by a misogynistic, patriarchal, homophobic poison that reminds me just how much my culture doesn’t love me – or anyone who isn’t a heterosexual, cisgender male.

BFF-bounty-ishawna (2)

Some of that poison permeated the general bashment and bacchanal of my life a few days ago, when I got caught up on the latest gendered controversy happening in dancehall. Long-time artist Bounty Killer issued an Instagram post “warning” to fellow artist Ishawna, demanding that she not perform her new hit single at a Labour Day show they’re both billed on for tonight (EDIT: post has since been deleted, but screenshots live forever). Why would he do such a thing, especially after recently speaking out against gender-based violence? Follow me, camera. (RIP Messy Mya!)

Dancehall artist Ishawna recently released her new single, “Equal Rights,” which explicitly details her preferences for a sexual partner who can provide her the oral satisfaction she desires. Now – dancehall enthusiasts know that discussing the merits of heterosexual sex is not off-limits in the music, and explicit lyrics ensure that the point is not misconstrued. However, dancehall’s (and Jamaica’s overall) patriarchal culture has normalized the permission for male dancehall artists to speak on sex as they see fit, and hypocritically clutches its pearls at a woman doing the same.

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Enter, the current eruption over “Equal Rights.” A significant amount of men (and women who uphold the practice of misogyny for their own myriad of reasons) have condemned Ishawna and the song, seemingly unable to swallow (pun intended) a woman who is calling the shots on her own sexual pleasure – what she’s willing to give, and what she wants to receive.

From the dawn of dancehall in Kingston’s inner-city communities to now, men have detailed exactly how they like sex, how dem bad inna bed, how they (think they) pleasure women, and how they’re “champion lovers” and “bedroom bullies” drinking peanut punch and magnum tonics with the stamina to ‘tan pon it long.’ Anything other than penis-inserted-into-vagina sex is shunned, with an interesting juxtaposition between the gunfingas that fling up when a DJ says “dem nuh bow,” the women who look around the club and see the men who they know are lying, and artists like Vybz Kartel, who openly sing about receiving blow jobs.


Ishawna isn’t the first woman in dancehall to share how she likes it. Lady Saw and Tanya Stephens came before her, and Spice is currently touring Europe, letting audiences know she likes when her partner “stab up mi meat, mek mi tear up di sheet.” It hasn’t been an easy road for any woman in dancehall – but Bounty Killer took it to a new low when he threatened Ishawna and tried to blackball her by refusing to do any future shows with her (actually, not that new – since male artists did the same to Lady Saw in her heyday).

Misogyny, sexism, and homophobia weren’t invented in Jamaica, and aren’t unique to dancehall. However, for the purpose of today’s blog post, I’m going to put the videolight squarely on men like Bounty Killer who exhibit their fragile, toxic masculinity in reaction to a woman making a song for other women. These men stay firmly pressed about what others do in their bedrooms, inserting themselves into conversations no one invited them to, and puffing out their chests to share what they will or won’t do in their own encounters. These men exhibit their innate sensitivities at not being the head of the sexual pyramid, recoiling at the idea of *gasp* reciprocity in sex and pleasure. They react with violence when they feel threatened, when their status quo is rocked, when others dare to love differently from them, when sex isn’t just about getting pussy and getting their dicks wet. These men put their cards on the table, and all of them show weakness. In Bounty’s case, being braggadocious on Instagram and threatening the livelihood of another artist – a younger woman who will do something for the audience that he can’t – is the only way he can scramble to clutch at some semblance of strength. These men and their delayed evolution are a pox upon the richness of dancehall, supported by a society that serves as a Petri dish, allowing their bacteria to multiply.

Call me an overthinker if you want – but reactions to Ishawna’s song clearly tie to other issues across the Caribbean region and diaspora. The Tambourine Army in Jamaica and the #lifeinleggins social media movement started by Bajan women fight against sexual harassment, rape culture, and violence against women. Heteronormativity plays into the rigid gender roles and homophobia that are dangerously rampant across the culture. And though there’s further societal and historical context that can be applied to this entire discussion, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel if we continue to assume that things – and people – cannot change.

All this to say – #IStandWithIShawna and want her to do the damn thing tonight at the show. She’s already responded to Bounty, basically telling him to “bring it on,” so I hope she’s got a supportive circle and audience standing with her – and I hope Bounty is ready to get put in his place and watch how ‘oman run tings.

PLEASURE PRINCIPLE: Female Dancehall Artists, Sexuality, & Satisfaction



Dancehall music.




While both defenders and decriers of dancehall (a segment of reggae music) will likely agree with the first two descriptors, I’d like to make an argument in support of the third.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a home with Jamaican parents, including a dad who, back in his hey day, was the selector (DJ) of a sound system (DJ crew). Coming to Canada didn’t stop his flow, so I came up in the game thinking it was normal to have club speakers, turntables, mixers, microphones, and crates upon crates of records in our basement.

My mom liked the smooth sounds of artists like Dennis Brown, Alton Ellis, and Luciano. My dad ventured between rootsman (Bob Marley and Peter Tosh) and gunman (Bounty Killa and Burro Banton). I grew to love them all. Mom would make noise if Dad started playing his “slackness” – but I loved listening to all those songs that I probably shouldn’t have been.

Sex is not a taboo topic in dancehall music. It surely isn’t today (hello, Vybz Kartel!), and it wasn’t when I was growing up. Male artists did not shy away from discussing their sexual prowess, what they will and won’t do, and the wonders of women’s anatomy, but they rarely spoke about women’s sexual satisfaction. Red Rat chided his bwoy Dwayne about the fact that “yuh caan have a girl and every night she complain” – but I found the male discussion of female sexual satisfaction separate from their own to be lacking. That’s OK though, because in the mode of sistas doin’ it for themselves, women like Tanya Stephens, Lady Saw, and Patra came through.



Lady Saw was just…raw. Nothing I recall about her image during my childhood was anything but. Her outfits, her dance moves, her song lyrics – she was the Queen of Slackness and held her court well. In her track “Hardcore/It’s Raining“, she held no punches about how she wanted pleasure from her partner, and discussing sexuality from a woman’s perspective became her trademark. On the business front, she made waves by fighting gender discrimination – while she would get banned from performing on certain stages, her male contemporaries (who were just as slack, if not moreso) routinely booked stages all over the island. Lady Saw fought for her right to perform and make money just as easily and successfully as men, and in doing so paved the way for other female artists.



One of those artists was Tanya Stephens. There was something about the way Tanya Stephens sang her records about sexuality and satisfaction. “Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet” and “Goggle” were open letters to so-called “bedroom bullies” whose boastful mouths did more work than their penises when it came to sexual finesse. Tanya let these dudes know that they a) weren’t going to chat big without delivering on their promises; b) were going to please her to her level of satisfaction; and c) were going to respect her own sexual power. Tanya wasn’t any man’s sexual prop – her songs turned that idea on its head and put men in that role.



For me, no one really brought feminine sexual energy in dancehall like Patra. In all fairness, I acknowledge that she probably stands out for two particular reasons. One being that she came out at a particularly vulnerable time in my life (that point where you’re an open sponge, soaking up all the different ways to carry yourself in this world), and two being that her introduction to an international audience meant more available visuals than other artists. Patra’s videos were like nothing I had seen – slick and sexy, with enough rawness to tantalize new audiences, but enough authentic winery to satisfy born and bred Yardies. I was mesmerized by Patra’s body-confidence – the catsuits, batty rider shorts, waist-length braids – nothing was dainty on her. Everything was bam/pow/in your face, and I soaked it all up. The way she commanded attention was fresh to me – instead of it coming across in a kind of pandering, please-accept-me way, it was more of a this-is-me-like-it-or-leave-it-but-I-bet-you-love-it way. I took Patra’s boldness, folded it up, and packed it away for a time when I’d be ready to navigate my own sexuality and self-expression.

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One of my faves from Patra – come test mi, nuh!

Patra didn’t just tell you how she liked it, she showed you. Thanks to the videos I’d record on MuchMusic’s X-Tendamix (or BET’s Caribbean Rhythms when we were lucky enough to have it), I saw how she’d sing her lyrics and bite her lip, or stroke her body, or wine her hips. It was all part of a package for me – a package that represented a unique kind of feminine sexual power resting more on the woman’s terms, not merely seeking to please the male gaze.

Now, no genre is perfect. I acknowledge the fact that dancehall has staunchly planted itself in cis/heteronormativity, and there’s much more room and opportunity for discussion around these limitations – even with the above-named artists. Homophobia, paranoia, and irrational shunning of certain sexual practices run rampant in the genre, and that is no secret. [On a side note, take it from me. If you’re in a dance and any song about bunnin’ out bowcat (shunning oral sex) comes on, keep an eye on how many men fling their gunfinga in the air. I guarantee you that a good chunk are lying. Guar. An. Tee.]

Back to the main topic. For all its negativity, its “slackness,” its overt and sometimes crass lyrics, I was able to find a special sweet spot in dancehall, a genre that isn’t above reproach, but one that I dearly love. I’m grateful for the women I’ve named, who’ve shown me a new space in dancehall – an area for women to manage and for men to respect. Listening solely to many of their male counterparts, it’s easy to see why so many view women’s default role as that of passive partner for male sexual satisfaction, only allowed to tun up di ting as much as the man found suitable. Women like Lady Saw, Tanya Stephens, and Patra presented a different possibility – the possibility that women in dancehall could access their agency and not only control but call the shots when it comes to their pleasure. For that, I’m thankful.

Big up di gyal dem.

Bee’s Note: This post was published as part of Blogging While Brown & Rewind and Come Again’s 2014 June Blog Carnival celebrating National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.

GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT: Mrs. Carter Show & Hailo Cab Weekend Recap


In keeping with my 2013 practice of doing things I’ve never done before, this past weekend I scratched another “must-do” off my list – I saw the one and only Beyonce in concert on Sunday!

Now, I’m an unapologetic Bey fan – I’m not going to stab anyone or cuss anyone out on Twitter over her, but I love me some Bey! I had never gotten the opportunity to see her in concert, but once the Mrs. Carter World Tour was announced, I knew this was going to be my shot. Tickets were copped way back in February, and July 21st had been circled on my calendar ever since that blessed credit card payment went through. It was going to be the ultimate girls’ night out – my sister and two of my good homegirls were down for the cause, so we made a night of it and had TOO much fun.

We met up at Hot House in downtown Toronto for dinner, finishing up this year’s Summerlicious series. Summerlicious is one half of an annual food festival in Toronto – for a few weeks out of the season (and again in the winter for its chilly counterpart, Winterlicious), a ton of Toronto restaurants offer prix-fixe menus allowing you to try new eats at an affordable cost. We munched on delicious Caesar salads, surf & turf, swordfish, and cheesecake while we shared jokes and laughs, and left with our bellies full – and wallets only slightly tapped out.



Finally it was time to head to the Air Canada Centre for the show. The air in the ACC was literally electric – you could tell that everyone was excited to be in the house. Luke James opened the show, and he was great! He definitely had me interested in looking up more of his music – vocals were on point, and he had good stage presence. After his set, the lights came back up and we chilled out to a musical mix. Little did I realize, we about to be entertained by a dude in the audience who couldn’t wait for Bey to come out before he started twerkin’:

Shortly after, the lights dimmed and it was show time! For the next 2 hours, Beyonce strutted, popped it, and dutty wined for her life while serving us flawless live vocals. Kudos to Papa Knowles for making Destiny’s Child practice singing while jogging, because Bey hit all her notes while head-banging and bouncing around on that damn stage. I don’t have that kind of vocal control while standing up to sing Happy Birthday, so hats off to Mrs. Carter.


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Did I mention that her dancers and all-woman band were ON POINT? I have girl crushes on her redheaded dancer Ashley and on her guitarist Bibi – but all the ladies (and Les Twins – the only gentlemen in the troupe) were dope. I adored the skill, artistry, passion, and detail that went into the show, and if there was any kernel of doubt about how much I loved Beyonce before, it was obliterated after. She was all that and a bag of chips.

Now, after the concert ended, the fun wasn’t over! The good people at Hailo Cab – the smartphone app that makes catching a cab easy as pie – provided me with some free credits to get home in style!

I was super impressed with the app. After setting up my profile and inputting my credit card info on its secure system, I was able to hail a taxi in 5 minutes simply by hitting a button. The cab number and driver’s name were provided, along with a minute-by-minute timer that showed me how long I’d be waiting. Next thing we knew, our driver Said showed up and it was time to roll. After a clean and comfortable ride, we reached our respective destinations. I had no clue what I was supposed to do next, but Said assured me that not only would payment simply go through directly onto my card from his system, but that my credits would be applied automatically and a receipt would be emailed within minutes.

It felt SO strange to simply stop and hop out of a taxi without a tangible exchange of payment, but Said was right! Not even 2 minutes later, I received an email receipt showing me my fare and the application of my credits. That was it!


All in all, it was a fabulous girls’ night out. If you’re in Toronto, make sure to check out Summer/Winterlicious when hit hits town, and give Hailo a spin if it’s available in your city! And of course – if you can get your hands on Mrs. Carter World Tour tickets, do the right thing and GO!

What was your best girls’ night out? Let me know! 

ARTSY-FARTSY: For The Love Of Art + The Mystic Effect Giveaway!


Do y’all remember the episode of Martin called My (Not So) Funny Valentine? Martin and Gina were celebrating Valentine’s Day, and Gina’s thoughtful gift to Martin was a carved statue of an ass. Not a donkey – a butt/posterior/bamsie/doo-doo maker (just not stuffed inside pyjamas – sorry GFK and U-God). Gina was sharing her love of art with Martin, and while he appreciated the gesture, he was NOT feeling it.

I can relate. When I was 9, I was accepted into an arts elementary school. From grades 4-8, Vocal, Dance, Drama, Visual Art, and Orchestra (I played the recorder, piano, and violin) were regular classes alongside French, Math, Gym, and all the others. We did Shakespeare plays, learned Alvin Ailey choreography, studied art history, and played Mozart and Bach. My younger brother and sister both ended up attending the school as well, so my house was always a continuous hum of violin/tuba/flute practice, with playbills stuck on the fridge and art pieces hung on the walls. My love of art in all its forms grew in those years, but I sadly ended up taking it for granted. Once I left and entered high school, I suffered one of the biggest culture shock periods of my life. Save for the few “art nerds”, no one cared about the things I cared about, and I began to see that there wasn’t much room for the beauty of art in my daily life anymore – unless I created those spaces for myself.

Now, I clearly see and understand my privilege at being able to attend this school (which actually didn’t charge tuition, so I don’t know how they did what they did). I know from talking to friends in high school and university that they weren’t exposed to the kinds of things I was, but most would have loved the opportunity. Even now in adulthood, I engage in conversations with people who wish they could have gone to an arts school – who wish they could play an instrument, or dance, or do a play. My response is, “Well, why the f*ck not?” Like pretty much everything else in life, there’s usually no one stopping you but you. Art has meant so much in my life, and I can only imagine what it could do for others who have been under-exposed to its goodness.

Check out your local dance studios and see if they offer drop-in classes for beginners. See if a university music student will give you lessons on that instrument you’ve been dying to learn. Garage sales and music shops often have decent quality instruments on hand, so you don’t necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg. Want to sing? Join your church choir or check for local singing groups. Drama groups are all over the place for improv or beginners looking to take a few classes to learn the craft. The options are out there – you just have to look!


In just a few weeks, I’ll be co-hosting The Mystic Effect, an incredible event that combines artistic elements of fashion, film, music, poetry, and dance. This will be the kick-off event for Stacy-Ann Buchanan Productions, and it’s going to be an amazing show! The Mystic Effect will expose you to a variety of Toronto’s up-and-coming artists, giving them a platform to display their various creations to the world. It’s also a charitable event, with part proceeds going towards Urban Arts, a non-profit organization that offers art programming to youth in the city. If you’re looking for an event that will scratch your artistic itch (whether you knew you needed it scratched or not), AND leave you feeling good about contributing to the community, The Mystic Effect is where you need to be!

Since you’ve read this far, I’m going to reward a lucky reader with a ticket for the show on April 28th! All you have to do is comment below or tweet me (@BeeSince83) and tell me your favourite piece of art. It could be a Salvador Dali painting. It could be a Wu-Tang album. It could be a piece of clothing, a dance, or a poem. It could be almost anything! Art is everywhere you look, so let me know your favourite expression of art, and you could win a ticket to The Mystic Effect!

If you want to also purchase tickets, please head to The Mystic Effect website for more details! See you on the 28th!

AUTUMN HEAT: Hot Toronto Events On The Cheap

Toronto folk – I’m taking today’s post to let y’all know about a couple of dope events that are coming up in the next few weeks! If you’re looking for something to do, the city has something for everybody!

Dead Wit Laugh – The September Edition

My friends behind Fashionably Late Fridays at Dazzling Lounge are keeping the laughs coming with their monthly comedy show, Dead Wit Laugh. I was in attendance for last month’s special Caribana edition, and I’m definitely going to grab my ticket for this month’s show! On Friday, September 21st, hit Dazzling Lounge for Dead Wit Laugh hosted by Marc Trinidad. Marc headlined the August show, and was BEYOND hilarious and outrageous. This time, he’s holding up the hosting duties and is bringing a few of his comedic friends, so I anticipate the energy and the laughs to be on a hundred thousand trillion! Anyone that Marc Trinidad cosigns is a comedian I have to see. Best part of the deal? Tickets are only $10, and also include cover for the afterparty at Dazzling Lounge with DJ Ideal. Laughing and dancing the week’s stress away? I’m down.

The Curly Soiree

The lovely ladies of I Heart My Hair are holding The Curly Soiree on September 29th – this event is tagged as “Canada’s naturally inspired 1-day event that transforms Toronto into a casually chic atmosphere with a flair of sophistication.” Giveaways, product swaps, hair styling demonstrations, and goodie bags filled with enough treats to show your hair some serious love – you get all of this, plus the opportunity to mix and mingle with Toronto curlies! Guest speakers include Safiya’s House of Kreation, Curl Bar Beauty Salon, and Raw 4 Health & Wellness. Advance tickets are only $12 – head here to purchase and get all the details!

Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture

Ever heard of Manifesto, the non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to celebrating art and culture in Toronto? The annual festival touches down in the city from September 21-23. The full weekend lineup can be found here, but I know I’ll be most looking forward to the Fresh Arts 20 x Manifesto Summit on the 22nd. Panel discussions, keynote speakers, and mentor classes will be taking place throughout the day, and we’ll get to see what people like d’bi young, Shad, Kardinall Offishall, Jully Black, Director X, and Pharaohe Monch (Simon Says still goes hard in the whip) have to say about hip hop, art, and cultural expression. Oh, and a free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square headlined by Pharaohe Monch on the 23rd? I’m in there like swimwear!


 So, there you have it, folks! A few awesome and cost-effective events coming up to get this autumn season started off right! Will I see you at any of the above? Let me know! Have a great weekend, y’all!

IT’S THE WEEKEND: Toronto Hot Spots And Excellent Events

Toronto has got some big things going on in the next little while, so I wanted to drop a quick post to let y’all know what’s happening!

Have you ever had 84.5% proof rum? Whether your answer is yes or no, you should find your way down to Fashionably Late’s Sunset Rum Punch party at Dazzling Lounge tonight! I was introduced to St. Vincent’s Sunset rum, also known as Very Strong Rum (it says so on the label) – this stuff is no joke. If you can drink with the best of ’em, I dare you to take a shot or two. If you want to take it easy and pace yourself, indulge in some of the Sunset Rum Punch that will be flowing at Fashionably Late’s party tonight! Sunset is only available for a limited time in Canada, so come get your fill! A beautiful venue, dope music, and the taste of the Caribbean? What more could you ask for? Let me know if you’re rollin’ – I’ll be there!

Photo source: Now Toronto

This Sunday, I’ll be at Yonge & Dundas Square for NXNE (North by North East Festivals and Conference). In it’s 18th year, NXNE spans 7 days and 7 nights, and consists of showings by up and coming artists, major label headliners, filmmakers, and digital innovators. So, what’s so special about this Sunday? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m all for a free show by Raekwon and Ghostface Killah *swoon*, with Killer Mike as the opening act! Check NXNE’s Schedules and scroll down to “Raekwon & Ghostface Killah” for details. Can I hear a Wildflower and a Cherchez La Ghost?

On Sunday, June 24th, my homie Telisha of Goddess Intellect is hosting the Toronto edition of her Battle Of The Sexes event at Peridot Lounge! The 1st event was held in New York last year, and was off the chain. She’s finally bringing the fun and controversy to her hometown, with Lincoln A. Blades, Stacey Marie Robinson, and Dr. Vibe joining her on the panel. Will ratchetry or reasoning win out? Check the event page for details on how you can purchase tickets to attend or watch via live stream!

To really give you a taste of what this event will be about, take a peek at this short promo commercial! ***SHAMELESS PLUG*** I’m making my Youtube acting debut as Angela! *waits for Tyler Perry to watch and cast me in Madea’s Angry Black Family That Preys Reunion*

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Do any of these events tickle your fancy? If you’ll be attending any/some/all, make sure to stop me and say hi! 


ARTSY FARTSY: Marley Documentary at Bloor Cinema

How was everyone’s weekend? I most definitely enjoyed the holiday weekend, and hope you all enjoyed yours too, long or otherwise! One of the highlights of my weekend? Sunday night, when a couple of girlfriends and I hit up the screening of Marley, the documentary on Bob Marley’s life, directed by Kevin MacDonald.

Marley’s official release date was April 20th, but it didn’t arrive in Canada until this month – first for the Hot Docs Documentary Festival, and then in regular release at Bloor Cinema at Bloor and Bathurst. Because I missed the Hot Docs screening, I made sure, come hell or high water, I was seeing this film this weekend. Ideally, I would have loved to be back in Jamaica, watching the film in Emancipation Park like my blogging homegirl Irie Diva did. However, a beautiful Toronto night with my homies wasn’t so bad either! The ladies and I trekked down to Bloor Cinema, got our tickets and popcorn, and got ready for the show.

I’ve written before about how much I love Bob Marley, his music, and his impact on the world. I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know about Bob, but this documentary opened my eyes to so much more. I won’t rehash the entire film, but wanted to share a few key moments that struck me:

The rejection from his father’s family: Bob’s father was an Englishman named Norval Marley, who left Bob and his mother shortly after Bob was born. The Marley’s remained a powerful, business-minded family in Jamaica. A story was shared about how Bob once went to his paternal uncle to ask for money to buy a car, which would help him distribute his records. He was harshly turned away and rejected by the family, and never received any kind of support or recognition from them. Bob’s song “Cornerstone” was inspired by this incident (lyrics: the stone that the builder refused will always be the head cornerstone…). Norval had other children and families aside from Bob and his mother Cedella, and Bob’s half-sister was interviewed for the documentary. When that song was played for her, and the significance explained, you could see the shared hurt in her eyes. She was also rejected by the Marleys, and made a comment about how Bob was never good enough for the Marley family, but now he was THE Marley, and the world cared not for the ones who rejected him in the past.

Bob’s role as a father: Bob had 11 children in total from 7 different relationships. History repeating itself, perhaps? Ziggy Marley (one of the executive producers of the film) and his sister Cedella spoke of the relationship they had with their father, which seemed strained yet loving at the same time. A lot of what they talked about reminded me of my own relationship with my dad, which brought tears to my eyes. I could especially relate to Cedella, who was obviously hurt – but the love she held for her father couldn’t be denied. I could relate to being the child of a man who perhaps didn’t know how to be a father, or who only knew how to be loving as he was loved. I don’t know…but it hit me.

Bob’s cancer treatment: Bob’s exposure to cancer started with a toe injury, which revealed melanoma. Through a combination of Bob’s own resistance at some of the proposed treatment methods, and a complete lack of attention by the people around him, Bob’s cancer ravaged his body and took him away too soon. I was shocked when Chris Blackwell, president of Island Records, said that he “forgot” about Bob’s melanoma diagnosis. I guess when one of the biggest acts in the world is making money for you, you don’t remember these pesky little details…but anyways. I knew this segment was going to be hard for me, what with my cousin’s passing and my own dalliance with the big C word lately. I can never imagine being in the position to hear “I’m sorry – there’s nothing more we can do for you.” Bob sought treatment from a holistic doctor in Germany after being told Western medicine could do nothing. When the documentary covered the story of how he was again told, “there’s nothing more”, my spirit was crushed. I was reliving my cousin’s battle. I was reigniting my own fear of death. I won’t even lie – tears are welling up now as I write this, so let’s move on…

His passion: I’ve never seen anyone so passionate about what they do. Bob was driven with his music and the dreams he had for it. You could see how the music took over his whole body when he was on stage. I was almost jealous at his ability to just let go and be fully immersed in his gift. Sure, there was a business behind it that he was always aware of and handled in his own way – but that passion for spreading his musical message and helping the world was overwhelming to me. The way he gave of himself was amazing – and the way he was so entrenched in his music was astounding. There was a story shared of how, at Zimbabwe’s independence concert, people locked out ended up storming the gates and rushing in to the park. Tear gas was sprayed and everyone ran for cover, including most of the musicians. However, video footage shows Bob still singing, dancing, hopping around on stage, completely unaware and unaffected by the tear gas. He was there for the people, and he was not leaving. When everyone returned to stage, Bob laughed and said “Now I know who the real revolutionaries are.”

Bunny Wailer: I had to mention him in here – I adore the way he speaks! If you ever wanted to learn about the evolution of reggae music, you have to hear Bunny tell it in this film.

Revolutionary – most definitely a fitting description for Bob Marley. This documentary was the definitive piece on his life, and I can’t wait to share it with my children and their children so they can have a true understanding of this man, flaws and all.

Did you see Marley? If you’re in Toronto, it’s playing at Bloor Cinema until May 31st. It’s also available on iTunes, so get in where you fit in! 

FRIDAY FUN: Fashionably Late Fridays @ Dazzling Lounge

Last summer, a few ambitious folks got together and thought, “What is the Toronto nightlife scene missing?” Events that are not full of posed-up “industry” folks, parties that aren’t geared to the “I stole my 21-year-old cousin’s ID” crowd, jams that don’t end with hotheads scrapping over perceived disrespect…kinda hard to come by in general, but seem to be few and far between in Toronto. I’ve lived here for 5 years, and some say I’ve missed the golden era of Toronto nightlife – but I have to say, the good parties I’ve been to in the city have been GOOD PARTIES. Thanks to those ambitious folks I mentioned (the good people of R Flavour, This Is Your Conscience, and Goddess Intellect), Toronto has another good party series to coincide with the return of the good weather – Fashionably Late!

Summer 2011 found me at Dazzling Lounge nearly every Friday. Dope Asian fusion cuisine, yummy drinks, good company and hype music (shout out to main DJ Kold Fusion) – I had quite the time. I ran into old friends, met new ones, danced to Poison with Robin Givens and got holla’d at by Clifton Powell (aka Pinky from the Friday movies). Let’s just say, every Friday night was an experience.

Starting tonight (yes – TONIGHT!), Fashionably Late will regain it’s position as the Friday night place to be for a cool, sexy, and fun affair. Dazzling Lounge has just revamped its patio space, so I’m excited to do some patio photo shoots with the Toronto skyline as my backdrop! The Fashionably Late team has a ton of tricks up their sleeve to add to your party experience. It’s not just about a drink and a two-step – Fashionably Late plans to fully entertain you with special nights and pre-party happy hour events.

Speaking of special nights – the 2nd Friday of each month will be the Timeline party. DJ Kold Fusion will take you on a musical journey with an old school groove, taking us from current time to the mid 80’s in hip hop, RnB, reggae, soca, house, and anything else he comes up with (people have broken heels to Nirvana thanks to DJ Kold Fusion, so wear your good shoes, ladies!). Next Friday, May 11th, will be the first Timeline jam, and it’ll also be my birthday party! I’m calling it my Bee-Day Party, and I want you (yes, YOU!) there!  My actual birthday is May 10th, but I’ll be ringing in my new year at Fashionably Late on the 11th. If you want to come sip a drink or dance on a table top with me, shoot me an email! Hit me up on Facebook! Tweet me on Twitter! You know how to reach me :) I may be doing my own little event at an upcoming Fashionably Late, so I’ll keep y’all posted on that too…

Catch up with the Fashionably Late news via their Facebook page and Twitter – come shake a leg!

VIDEO VIBES: ‘QueenS’ x THEESatisfaction

“Whatever you do/Don’t funk with my groove…”

One of my favourite writers and Twitter-folks is the incomparable dream hampton. I’ve been following her work for a long time, and haven’t been disappointed by following her on Twitter too! Without sounding like too much of a stalker, let’s just say I love dream. You know she works hard at everything she does (writer/filmmaker/pilot/mother/etc) but she makes it look so effortless. As I mentioned to her on Twitter the other day, she seems live the “entire height, width, and depth of life” – a tweet inspired by her latest job description, music video director. I tell you…this woman does it all, and then some.

Dream made her debut as a video director with an earthy, eclectic video for THEESatisfactions single, “QueenS“. THEESatisfaction is a funky/psychedelic/hip-hop/RnB/jazz fusion duo made up of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, based out of Seattle. Their sound has been compared to Digable Planets, Ursula Rucker, Q-Tip and Erykah Badu, with cultural inspirations like Octavia Butler, Solid Gold, and Outkast. To be honest, I haven’t heard anything that really sounds like what THEESatisfaction is bringing, but I’m feeling it. QueenS is the lead single off of their debut full-length album awE naturalE, and has instantly become my new theme song. I play this track in the morning. I play it when I’m getting ready to go out with the girls. I play it when I’ve been in a sh!tty mood and need a pick-me-up. I’m digging what these ladies are doing, and can’t wait to hear more from awE naturalE!

Now, the video. I fell in love with the visuals that dream concocted. Did you catch that young Whitney pic at 1:30? And those sheer polka-dot gloves at 2:03? With fashion, I’ve been really getting into colour and texture and prints, and this video was giving me everything I needed. Plus, this video (like the Jesse Boykins iii vid I featured recently) makes me wish that someone with a dope apartment would throw a dope houseparty and invite me…hint hint.

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What do you think of THEESatisfaction’s QueenS? Are you feeling the sound? Did you like the visuals? What is your theme song these days?


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