By RON FANFAIR
It started as a one-off event celebrating the all-female edition of the now defunct Mic Check magazine edited by Ebonnie Rowe. Fifteen years later, the Honey Jam showcase is an eagerly anticipated summer event for young women aspiring to showcase their artistic talents in myriad musical genres.
The 1995 celebratory party spotlighted some of the young females featured in the magazine, prompting the name Honey Jam. The event was such a success that the artists left asking for more.
Rowe acquiesced to the requests, and has been delivering a quality product over the years.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said last week at a party to announce this year’s 17 performers. “I tried to retire after nine years, but that did not work. It provides a platform for unknown artists to show what they have. If they are going to have a showcase on their own, very few people will attend because they are unknown. That’s how this business works.
“What is great about Honey Jam is that it’s a package deal. While someone might not come out to see the individual artists because they have never heard of them, they will come out to a one-stop show that involves seeing about 20 amazing artists doing their thing.”
Rhythm & Blues singer Jully Black, who was raised in the Jane & Finch community, made her first major concert appearance at the inaugural Honey Jam. Two years later, singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado stood out as the only White performer. She has sold over 25 million albums, won five Junos, a Grammy, a Brit and an MTV Europe music award.
Furtado is also giving back to Honey Jam by way of sponsorship through her label, Nelstar Music.
“I have lost money putting together this show and that’s no longer an option,” said Rowe. “That’s why it’s so great to have the corporate support of Nelstar and Slaight Communications.”
This year’s stellar field comprises sisters and University of Toronto students Qwyn and Kyla Charter who will perform on their own and the dynamic inspirational duo Veronica Broomfield and younger sister Carleen who are longtime members of Etobicoke’s Church of God founded nearly three decades ago by their deceased grandmother Rev. Ioline Broomfield. They recently released their first CD, Revived.
“We have been immersed in gospel music for much of our lives and we thought this is the right time to come out and perform on the Honey Jam stage,” said Veronica, an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board and a former Harry Gairey Sr. bursary award recipient. Her sister, Carleen, is a Peel Region case worker.
Qwyn Charter, who has always had a passion for music, played Dionne in the musical, Hair and she appeared in the Hart House Theatre production, Jerry Springer The Opera. Younger sister Kyla is a singer/songwriter/guitarist.
“We would have competed as a duet if we knew we could have done so,” said Kyla. “Regardless, we will bless the stage individually with our musical gifts.”
This year’s Honey Jam takes place on Sunday, August 15 at The Mod Club, 722 College St., starting at 8 p.m.