This Weekend in Toronto

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Take refuge from the tundra full of lovers and basketball fans with three great downtown Toronto art festivals.

Wavelength Music Festival
Wavelength is a Toronto born music collective. For 10 years Wavelength was a weekly Sunday night concert series in Little Italy. After a couple venue changes, Wavelength today is an online community, monthly concert series and two annual festivals.

This weekend features 20 bands playing in downtown Toronto from February 12 – 14. You’ll hear a range of melodic electro music – variations on shoegaze, soul pop, folktronic, prog rock and more. Get ready for vibes and good times. They even have a school bus from one venue to the next on Saturday! Get an all access pass for $39.

For those not in town this weekend you can still soak up vibes from Wavelength #ICYMI gallery at the Markham House City Building Lab. It’s a revival of Wavelength: Past, Present and Future featuring posters, artwork, show photos and more from the decades long history of supporting independent musicians in Toronto. On until February 21.

Toronto Black Film Festival
This festival started in 2013 after 8 successful years of the Montreal Black Film Festival. It is committed to creating “cool, international, independent, politically incorrect and eye-opening” programming.

Special events include marking 50 years since the Black Panther party began with screenings of Black Panther: Vanguard of the Revolution. On Saturday radio station G98.7 will live broadcast from Carlton Cinema about realities of the film industry. For more industry talk, check out the TBFF Black Market for panel discussions on filmmaking with Trey Anthon, creator of ‘da Kink in my hair, and award-winning filmmaker Clement Virgo.

This festival gives a voice to black filmmakers that, as we know, often get snubbed from establishment. So check out the schedule and celebrate entertainment that actually reflects our world!

TIFF Next Wave Film Festival
Next Wave is all about young filmmakers. There are free screenings of films from around the world showing what life is like as a teen and young twenty-something. There is even a Netflix-binge-worthy marathon of Angsty and Awkward films. Or Check out the full schedule of free films.

Next Wave encourages new talent, too. Last week they hosted a 24-Hour Film Challenge and there is a screening of the films on Saturday.

High school bands will compete for bragging rights at Battle of the Scores. They’ve had three weeks to compose a score for a short film and will compete live on stage Friday night. There’s plenty more to soak up at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this weekend.

Get out there! See some art!
You can tell your friends Toronto has more than basketball to offer the world.

Photos by Jamieson Williams

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Black Power & Performance

Art festivals are a great chance to get behind the art and understand the artists’ process. At Kuumba, audiences learned the process behind the festival. I said before that Harbourfront does a great job of bringing international artists to Toronto. According to the panel of Black Like We this weekend, Harbourfront does a poor job of bringing Toronto’s own communities to the stage.

‘When I am out there I see a lot of beautiful dark-skinned women doing all the heavy lifting of organizing our community. I’m looking on stage and I see three straight dudes and a light-skinned girl.’

The last audience comment really dug in. Two panellists admitted they’d tried to give up their seats, but either the host wouldn’t budge or their contact couldn’t (or wouldn’t) appear at this event. It was a cool moment because the panel and audience talked it out , concluding that there needs to be a structural change to bring more black and African Canadian voices to the forefront of Toronto’s art scene. One panellist suggested it’s time for straight cis men to move to the back of the fight and let other faces come forward. As a white audience member, I hear this and know it applies to me too. It’s time that black women, trans people, queer communities and more become visible.

There was a long discussion about how using African American/Canadian is about establishing history beyond a Eurocentric worldview. But an audience member rejected using a qualifier in front of “American” or “Canadian”. Black establishes something else, too- participating in the 20th century Black Power movement or claiming certain rights & social status. I’m in neither category but I do advocate for individuals’ right to name themselves, choose their identity and be proud of it.

Major pride beamed during the RISE Edutainment showcase of young Toronto artists. Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (RISE) is a leadership and community arts program in Scarborough that hosts weekly open mics on Mondays. They start sign up at 6:30 and regularly have around 100 people. So get there early. 

RISE’s showcase featured quick performances of theatre, dance and music. I just about fell in love watching Aaron Ridge strum his guitar and get hyped when his slap knocks echoed through the Brigante Room. Aaron’s Soundcloud features a blend of R&B, soul, folk and rap tunes. Go listen and prepare to be blown away.

RISE commits to “making positivity cool” and giving a voice to the voiceless through art. I think Harbourfront can learn something from their philosophies of edutainment and artivism to engage communities and give young black artists power and voice.

Kuumba was terrific fun this weekend. I still like the Harbourfront because it’s always bustling with a variety of Toronto’s population. I’m glad there are critical conversations happening and constant self-checks from audiences and organizers alike. My hope walking away is that the next generation of festival organizers and corporate sponsors actively work at changing the whitewashed structures of arts programming. There needs to be a diversity of funding, context, format and staffing – not just in the artists being showcased. I hope to be part of the change.

Here’s one of Aaron’s songs to give you a little taste.

 

Kuumba Black History Festival

ESTRO! GEN!
ESTRO! GEN!
ESTRO! GEN!

Anne-Marie Woods had the audience in stitches chanting during the opening of Black Like She at Kuumba on Friday. In her fourth time ever doing stand up Woods performed a medley of song, dance and monologue. A highlight was when she pulled a guy onstage for a club scene. Despite the mild evening and being indoors he was fully outfitted in a parka and toque, and the audience could not keep it together. Woods could only get out, “Did you recently move to Canada?” We were in tears.

Cultural clashes, age, sex, jail, parenting….nothing was off limits for these comedians.

Black Like She featured 5 black female comedians with the aim “to let you know that there’s no such thing as an angry black woman, just a funny one!” The crowd was packed in Harbourfront’s Brigantine Room for the two hour comedy special. Zabrina joked how amazing it was to see everyone line up EARLY for her show, thanks to its $0 ticket.

I have to say what a treat it is to access Kuumba programming for free. Harbourfront Centre in general does an outstanding job bringing international artists in town and making it easy for public to access arts and culture. Kuumba is the longest running Black History Month featival in Toronto. I’m looking forward to the market and fashion-art exhibit this evening. From education, to performance, to shopping and food – Kuumba has something for everyone.

Check out the full schedule.

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