How The New Beat Scene Is Changing The Way Toronto Reacts To Music

There is no colour or religion in the new electro beat world. It’s simple: the illest beat gets the most likes. A lot of the time, nobody knows what the artist looks like behind the beat, and it does not matter. Broken record alert: In this day and age, all you need is a mic, a beatmaker, a laptop and an internet connection to produce an album. And an acoustic instrument if ya wanna get old-school and fancy (extra coolness effect. Like vinyl for non-vinyl heads. It’s that vintage feel). It has become evident that we live in a world where signing to a major label is no longer the end goal. The beatmaking self-produced, self-promoting, self-publishing music world took over and knows no rules except “make somebody’s head nod” and/or “make them move up and down, shaking their heads, punching the air, and cross-uncrossing their arms saying “Uh” ”.

Rewind to a few years back: I am from the city now known as the 6. When it was still just Toronto and around the rise of Tdot, I would go to concerts and notice that most of the time, people had their arms sternly crossed, observing, nearly and neatly nodding if they approved, unsure of whether they should dance, and only applauding with minimal enthusiasm. Not that we did not appreciate the songs! Perhaps we of Toronto were just a very decorous crowd; there would be no shock there.  But chances are Toronto just lacked self-esteem and would compensate by appearing nonchalant.

Things are changing. Perhaps it is the Drake effect. Whatever the case, the 6 is on fire and it isn’t fighting over hugging the wall anymore. Nope, now you invade people’s personal spaces and you talk to strangers (though you might still get the occasional “why are you talking to me?” look.) It’s a work in progress. The pyramids weren’t built in a day.
A few weeks ago, I went to a Soulection show case featuring artists Esta (Los Angeles, CA), IAMNOBODI (Berlin, DE), Jay Prince (London, Uk) and Joe Kay (Los Angeles, Ca), live at Studio Bar in Toronto. The show was amazing. We got to see performances by some of the hottest, most relevant producers and DJ’s on the electro beat scene today. What was equally overwhelming, however, was the Toronto crowd: Although I could see the occasional dude standing against a wall, drink in hand, absorbing the scene, most of the 20-somethings in the venue were fist bumping the humid air, singing/rapping along and/or otherwise dancing, sweating and ecstatically screaming. The energy did not weaken once, not until the end of the show at the 2am mark. It was insane. It was un-Toronto-nian. By the time Esta got on stage, we had lost our collective minds.  It was not the first time I had seen crowds wile out, of course. Or turnt, the kids say nowadays. It was more of a realization that this is how it is now.
To add to this music-driven social identity metamorphosis, every time I go to a show by (or playing) Canadian producers, or when I have a conversation about the Canadian music scene today, the reaction that used to be a tad less than excited (we are more partial to our sisters and brothers south of the border) has now changed to swelling pride, open discussions, ideas of collaborations, and escalating passion. We LOVE our Canadian artists, shamelessly.

Some Canadian producers and beatmakers of note:

It is not just the beat scene, mind you, though to be fair that scene in cities like Toronto is making big waves internationally. There are other rising stars,  often with an equally unconventional edge to their genre, driving young Canadian concert-goers to proudly raise the Canadian flag. Those include Toronto’s songwriters/vocalists Daniel Caesar and a l l i e, Vancouver’s artist/producer Grimes, Montreal’s Electro-Funk duo Chromeo and Edmonton’s synth-pop pair Purity Ring.

The Canadian music landscape is changing. Rapidly. Not only as technology has changed everything everywhere, especially the way we make and share music; but also because by not being restricted to what label conglomerates tell us to listen to, we get to choose what is worth our time. We, the people, are deciding what’s hot.  And our choices are telling…. With the new generation of fans’ love shaping music and driving it to the future, it is becoming apparent that there are international eyes now staring at Canadian music production with curiosity, desire, and a brand new stance.
We’re not just “nice” anymore.



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