Just before performing at last week’s 18th annual Honey Jam all-female talent show, Megan de Lima – her stage name is Megan Rose – learned that she was selected to travel to Barbados later this year to make a guest appearance in that island’s version of the event.
The winner was selected based on conduct, personality and availability. In addition, the 20 Honey Jam participants took part in a “Get Me to Barbados” social media campaign.
“I was absolutely shocked and beyond excitement,” said the 19-year-old jazz and rhythm & blues artist. “I have been to Cuba and the Dominican Republic and heard a lot about Barbados. To be able to go there for the first time is something that I am really looking forward to.”
Honey Jam producer, Ebonnie Rowe, said Megan Rose was shaking and trembling after she learned she was the winner of the Barbados trip.
“It was right before she had to go on stage and she didn’t have any time to recover,” said Rowe. “She is extremely creative and talented not only vocally but she’s a musician and songwriter as well. I think the Barbadian public is going to fall in love with her.”
Supported by Barbadian sponsors, Honey Jam’s reach extended to the Caribbean island two years ago.
“Last year, we partnered with the Barbados Tourism Authority to offer a trip to one of the Canadian artists and thought it would be the perfect tie in not only to have them experience the sand, sun and surf, but also to have the opportunity to perform at the Barbados event,” said Rowe, the president of Phem Phat Entertainment Group.
Starting as a one-off event celebrating the all-female edition of the defunct Mic Check magazine that Rowe edited, Honey Jam has evolved into 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 females featured in the magazine, prompting the name Honey Jam.
“This show is a great opportunity in terms of meeting other artists and networking,” said Rose, who was born in the Greater Toronto Area to Kenyan immigrants. “I made many new friends and had a fabulous time.”
A graduate of Iona Catholic Secondary School, which has a leading arts program, Rose is a third-year Humber College student.
She said her passion for the arts was inspired by close family members, including her father, Viv, who is a jazz guitarist and her uncle, Brian, a pianist who has played or shared a stage with Monty Alexander, Jimmy Lovelace and the late Oscar Peterson.
Rowe, who co-founded the Each One Teach One mentoring program, said this year’s Honey Jam participants stood out because of their enthusiasm.
“It came through in their performances,” she said. “For the audience, a lot of what makes the show great is the connection between them and the artists. They feed off the vibe coming from the artist and they felt it in all 20 who performed. Being the producer of the show and spending almost the whole night backstage, I really don’t get to see much of the show at all, so I rely on the feedback I get from the audience until I am able to see the footage.”
After the first Honey Jam, which was a huge success, the artists asked for another show. Rowe acquiesced and has been delivering a quality product for nearly two decades.
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 since sold over 20 million albums and singles, won 10 Junos, two Grammys, three Much Music Video awards and received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
“We have certainly come a long way on every level,” said Rowe, a 2005 YWCA Woman of Distinction award recipient. “Notably is the preparedness of the artists due to all of the technological changes that have occurred, particularly social media, access to information and also access to tools to record music. We are at the point where we are trying to keep ourselves afloat and attract solid financial support to allow us to continue the initiative and also to be able to work with some of the artists after the show to support their development.”
Honey Jam Barbados takes place on November 23.