By RON FANFAIR
The annual Honey Jam female talent showcase has opened doors for several Canadian urban artists, including Nelly Furtado and Jully Black.
Not only did singer/songwriter and record producer Furtado stand out as the only White performer in 1997, but she impressed Chris Smith of The Philosopher Kings, as well as the group’s lead singer, Gerald Eaton, who approached her to work with him. Smith became Furtado’s manager and she has sold over 20 million albums worldwide, winning six Junos, a Grammy and an MTV Europe music award.
Black, who was raised in the Jane & Finch community, made her first major concert appearance at the inaugural Honey Jam in 1995. The rhythm & blues singer went on to capture a Juno award last year, and collaborate and write for several notable artists, including Nas, Missy Elliott and Sean Paul.
“There are other artists that have performed at Honey Jam who may not have become internationally known but have done good work, such as opening acts for high-profile artists and doing soundtracks for film,” the talent showcase founder, Ebonnie Rowe, said at a recent press conference.
The 14th annual event takes place this Sunday, August 16 at The Mod Club, 722 College St., starting at 8 p.m.
Rowe started Phem Phat Entertainment to help organize Honey Jam and provide educational and promotional opportunities for aspiring female artists.
“When you are not known, nobody is really willing to give you a chance and certainly not a platform to showcase your talent,” said Rowe, who was born in Montreal to Barbadian parents. “The artists don’t have the money and they will not get the support from a club owner and nobody will come to see them because they have not heard of them.
“What is great about Honey Jam is that it’s a package deal. While somebody might not come out to see the individual artists because they have not heard of them, they will come out to a one-stop show that involves seeing about 20 amazing artists doing their thing. They will attend for that package. All the artist has to do is come out and do a great show and they will receive all the benefits, including exposure.”
The 17 artists selected to showcase their talent at this year’s Honey Jam took part in a professional development seminar at the Harris Institute.
This year’s stellar field includes singer/songwriter and spoken word artist, True Daley, who is making her first appearance since 2003.
Daley spent the last four years teaching English in Taiwan, where she hosted a children’s show on national television and was a morning news anchor on the nation’s only English radio station. She also performed for the country’s president, Ma Ying-Jeou, and opened for Missy Elliott at a concert at the World Trade Centre in Taipei in September 2006.
“The time I spent in Taiwan was very challenging, though rewarding, but nothing beats the Honey Jam live showcase for female talent,” said Daley, who was born and raised in Montreal and came to Toronto 15 years ago. “It’s the best promoted and organized show I have been involved in and every time you do a Honey Jam, you will make a connection. It has put me in touch with record labels and producers and provided me with an understanding of how the industry works.”
Daley began her artistic career as a rapper – Royal T – and host of a hip hop show on McGill University’s CKUT 90.3 FM radio.
“I was surrounded at the time by males, the majority of whom didn’t mind if I assisted them in their career whether be it by singing or hosting an event,” said Daley, who took part in the first Honey Jam. “They, however, did not take me as seriously as their fellow brethren and I felt unwelcome most of the time. Honey Jam provided that space for me where I felt very comfortable.”
Natasha Waterman has also been a regular on the Honey Jam circuit since debuting in 1998. The former Toronto club MC, known as Mother Nature, has evolved into a dynamic singer/songwriter, producing songs for Canadian Idol contestants, Kalan Porter and Melissa O’Neil. O’Neil is a self-taught pianist and guitarist whose first album, Perfectly Imperfect, was released last April.
“I am proud to know that I have been a member of the impressive list of alumni to have performed on the Honey Jam stage,” said Waterman. “That’s been an achievement for me.”
Unlike Daley and Waterman, multi-talented Saidah Baba Talibah is making her first Honey Jam appearance.
“I have known about the showcase for sometime, but I have chosen to do it now because I am ready to step on that stage,” said the Canadian Idol back-up singer.
The rest of this year’s Honey Jam contestants are Alysha Brillinger, Eve and The Ocean, Jaclyn Kenyon, Janelle Monique, Jessica Cho, Leah Daniels, Lori Nuic, Lynzie Kent, Shianne Phillips, Shugamai Johnson, Tara Keith, Trish, Yeti Ajasin & Lady Son, and Kgomotso Tsatsi, who is affectionately known as K.G.
Tsatsi is a classically-trained pianist and self-taught guitarist who began to write her own songs at age 13. She finished in the top six in the South African Idol reality show in 2003 before coming to Canada with her family four years ago.
Tsatsi released her six-track debut album, The Art of Love, last year and is currently working to complete her university degree and establish a music career.
The Honey Jam showcase was intended to be a one-off event celebrating the all-female edition of the now defunct Mic Check magazine that Rowe edited in 1995.
“The party featured some of the women we had in the magazine and we called it Honey Jam,” said Rowe, who co-founded the highly successful Each One Teach One mentoring program. “Everybody who attended loved it and at the end they turned to me and asked, ‘When is the next one?'”
The price of admission to this year’s show is $20 in advance at Toronto Women’s Bookstore, 73 Harbord St., and $25 at the door. Part of the proceeds will go towards YWCA Toronto projects for women and girls.