By Claudia Cheung
According to a report by Women In Music (2015), 89% of women who work in Ontario's music industry are White - only 11% identify as BIPOC.
VIBE 105 recently interviewed three talented local female musicians from the GTA— Faith Nolan, iaamSaam and Joni NehRita— to share their experience of Canada’s music industry.
© faith nolan/ YouTube
Faith Nolan is a social activist born in Nova Scotia with a mixed African, Mi'kmaq, and Irish heritage. Nolan describes her music as people's music, where she wants to uplift individuals for the social good. Her music is mostly inspired by social and revolutionary movements. She considers Angela Davis her hero and inspiration for one of her albums. Davis once brought Nolan to prison to perform and that inspired her to come back to Canada and sing for the women in Kingston Penitentiary.
Nolan describes her experience performing in prison as truthful and emotional. Sometimes the audience would cry, and Nolan would cry too. She says music helped them cope in prison. She would sing a song to the inmates and encourage them to make up a verse to continue the lyrics and chant it together until Nolan's next visit. It helped them put their mind into a good space.
Nolan does not think it is hard to be a Black Lesbian musician in the music community. She would laugh at people who thought her less capable because she is Queer and Black.
"If I believe that, I would be so down, sad and unhappy," says Nolan.
© iaamSaam/ YouTube
iaamSaam is a hip-hop singer, songwriter and producer living in Mississauga. She had been in music for seven years and the first time she got into the studio was during her senior year of high school.
"I was always in choir and musicals. I am one of those people who likes documentaries about music. I love to learn how music is made," iaamSaam describes.
"Not every man that speaks loudly knows what they're talking about. You have to know what you're doing and trust your instincts," says iaamSaam— Mississauga based Hip-hop artist.
iaamSaam thinks the Black Lives Matter movement impacted the music industry as a real step forward to be able to continue to speak truth to power. She notices some organizations are making initiatives by putting more resources into Black music to create more spaces for Black women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. She thinks the industry is making progress, but is still in the beginning phase.
In 2021, iaamSaam plans to release her solo EP and a collaborative EP. She plans to put out a lot of music, as she had been quiet for a long time. She wants to get into spaces where she is just creating and sharing.
© Joni NehRita/ YouTube
NehRita has been making music for 22 years. Her music is mostly soul-infused with jazz and Afro-Caribbean rhythms.
NehRita says that her passion for music is too strong to ignore despite her parents’ resistance. "They wanted me to get a ‘real job’.”
After a year of studying history and political science at university “to please [her] parents” - NehRita ended up leaving university and studying jazz at Humber College.
Invited by a social justice group, while in her 20s – she started to write music supporting activism, advocacy projects and rallies.
According to NehRita writing music on these topics helps her solidify the relationship between art, activism and social justice.
In terms of gender equality in the music community, NehRita notices some shows in the city, or province, are performed by White males - who according to her - “put little effort into the performance”.
"People of Colour need to work five times as hard to get the same opportunity, and I think that needs to be worked on," says NehRita.
Nolan advises aspiring artists to read more books and love themselves and their people.
Have independence and realize you can do [it].
"Nelson Mandela once said the thing that people are afraid of is actually how much they can do.”
According to iaamSaam networking is important. "People who don't see what your potential is are simply lacking vision. So know [when] to stay, when to receive help and when to walk away."
"There's a lot that you have to compromise to do music as a full-time profession," NehRita mentions. “There’s a lot you don't see behind the scenes. Make sure you really want it. Understand a little bit about production and instruments even when you are not amazing at it. Understanding the basics of musicianship is helpful."