Nestled in the heart of Aurora, ON, in a restored Victorian schoolhouse, stands The Aurora Cultural Centre. Its work engaging and inspiring people through music programs and events makes the centre the talk of the town.

Since introducing music programming in 2011, the charitable non-profit organization has spotlighted both local and nationwide talent. Musicians have attracted an audience drawn primarily from York Region, as well as guests from Toronto’s downtown core – and beyond.

The Aurora Cultural Centre presents all kinds of music, from worldbeat to classical to jazz to bluegrass, for its diverse audience. This includes a yearly series curated by the renowned pianist of CBC Radio’s The Vinyl Café, John Sheard. During the concerts, guests can converse with performers and learn intimately about their art. The centre has hosted countless SOCAN members, including Dan Hill, Russell de Carle and Sultans of String.

“It’s creating a whole new concert experience in the heart of York Region,” says Jane Taylor, the centre’s Program, Event and Communications Manager. “As long as we’re celebrating the Canadian songwriter [and] musician, we can be broad in our offerings and serve our community.”

Adding to the venue’s medley of activities are educational music programs, as is fitting for the schoolhouse setting. Students can connect with musicians such as David Partridge, who teaches guitar at the centre.

In the centre’s efforts to make use of its versatile space, musical activities are often complemented with visual art and architectural heritage. This includes encouraging the guests to look through the centre’s four art galleries after arriving for a concert, or during intermission.

The centre also encourages browsing its gift shop, filled with a curated selection of hand-crafted, locally-made items. The funds raised in the shop support the centre’s operations, so that artists can continue to perform there.

Of course, the centre helps artists by being among the more than 30,000 businesses in Canada that are Licensed to Play music by SOCAN.

“We want to show our community the level of commitment we have to our artists,” says Taylor. “These musicians work hard, and give such value for what they deliver to the audience. We want to let artists know how much we value them, and Licensed to Play is the way to do so.”

For Torontonians, The Aurora Cultural Centre offers a memorable musical excursion just a short drive north of the city. The staff of the centre look forward to continuing to grow both its music program and the breadth of artists hired to perform.

To learn more, or become Licensed to Play, click here.

We meet in a small café on Beaubien street called Le Vieux Vélo (The Old Bike), just a stone’s throw away from Philémon Cimon’s place. The sun’s out, the summer air is fresh, the skies are blue. Philémon is about to launch his third album in the wake of two singles launched in July. One of them, “La musique,” is pretty much a lyrical poem. “La musique est un amour à sens unique,” he sings. “Elle me déchire, m’inspire.” (Loosely translated: “Music is unrequited love, it tears me apart, it inspires me.”) He describes music as a despotic mistress who expects everything and gives nothing back. “That song talks about my rapport with art,” says Cimon. “There’s something pure in unrequited love. I even think that how love is supposed to be. The ones who find reciprocity are the lucky ones.”

Cimon has released three albums in less than five years. Les femmes comme des montagnes, his latest, follows in the footsteps of L’été (Summer), which came out in the dead of winter 18 months ago. It seems that music can also be a muse, and Cimon is clearly spellbound. It’s not yet time to take stock, but when he looks back on his career so far, Cimon admits he’s quite surprised by the road covered. “It’s impossible to know where creativity will take you,” he says. “All you know is it’s taking you somewhere! To me, this third album is the sum of the previous two.”

“It’s impossible to know where creativity will take you; all you know is it’s taking you somewhere!”

Launched independently in 2008, his first EP, Les sessions cubaines was an immediate critical success. Tremendous sensitvity, courageous vulnerability, and youthful spleen, all counter-balanced by the Cuban brass section of the mythical Studio Egrem. Audiogram signed Cimon in order to re-release new and augmented versions of several of these songs. “That record to me is my coming of age,” says Cimon.

That was followed by L’été, an album that took us far, far away from Cuba, and was recorded with musicians from Montréal. “My musicians and I have grown to know each other better now,” says Cimon. “For Les femmes comme des montagnes, I wanted to record a band album. We worked on the arrangements together, I gave them a lot of free reign; now we’re able to go a lot further together. We started rehearsing the new songs and, all of a sudden, I had the urge to go back to Cuba with them. In warmer climates, things are looser. There’s more space for life.”

Cimon got in touch with the Studio Egrem people, the headquarters of the Buena Vista Social Club musicians. The dates were good for everyone; so off he went, but this time with his whole Montréal gang, including co-producer Philippe Brault. Once there, Cimon met once more with his musician friends, and his cousin Papacho, the pianist, as well as the female singer with the irresistible accent heard on the song “Je te mange.”

Cimon is quite right when he says this new album is the sum of the two previous ones: the Cuban brass we missed dearly on L’été is back, so is Papacho’s distinctive piano playing, all wrapped in something sprinkled with a bit of a sixties feel, not unlike the sound of Serge Gainsbourg. Yet there’s enough space to let the guitars rip and let loose in the studio, as can be heard on a track such as “Maudit.” The lyrics are spiffy and they breathe. Cimon is singing is freely and nimbly. Clearly, he’s growing into his own. He’s now allowing himself to sustain notes a little longer, to sound a little harsher, to explore new registers. One really gets the impression the artist has allowed himself a little more licence.

“I had to step out of my comfort zone because I needed to say something different,” says Cimon. “Years go by and one discovers things one didn’t know, mainly because we didn’t need to discover them at that time. Whatever we wanted to express was expressible with the tools we had. On my first album, I was talking to a girl. Nowadays, I’m talking to people at large from my very core, speaking my truths, which happen to be pretty much the same as anyone’s [“Vieille blonde,” “Maudit,” “Ève”], and that requires a vocal language that’s more metaphorical.”

Speaking of metaphors, who are those women he compares to mountains? What does that mysterious title mean to him? “The classics of literature have inspired me,” says Cimon. “Stories about getting to a higher level. In Cervantes’ Don Quixote or Dante’s Divine Comedy, there’s a central idea of climbing a mountain to get to a woman. In Milton, Adam and Eve are in paradise on the mountain before being expelled…”

The album is like luscious, black silk. A delicate weave that‘ll be perfect to wear as a scarf come fall.

At the ripe old age of 22, Kaytranada, a producer from Saint-Hubert, a suburb on the South shore of Montréal, can boast having played in more than 50 different countries, and has collaborated with the likes of Mobb Deep, Mick Jenkins and Vic Mensa, as well as Yasmin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, very recently, for the artist’s debut as a stand-up comedian (in Montréal). He’s scored a major hit with his unofficial re-mix of Janet Jackson’s If, and has been signed to famed London-based imprint XL Recording, who’ll release his forthcoming debut album, 99.9%.

Born Louis Kevin Célestin, Kaytranada arrived in Montréal from Haiti when he was only three months old. Virtually everyone in his family is an amateur musician, and the home’s stereo played Haitian kompa music pretty much non-stop.

“That’s what played all the time at home, but my brother and I just wanted to listen to hip-hop and R&B,” says the young man, who now admits that the rhythms and energy of that music have undoubtedly left their mark on his subconscious.

That’s obvious to anyone who listens; from his early hip-hop tracks to his more recent trap (an EDM take on American aggro hip-hop from the South) ones, it’s hard to find anything with a negative vibe to it. Coming from a strict family, his nights were spent combing the internet for obscure samples rather than going out and hanging out with people his age.

With eclectic musical tastes that range from prog-rock to new wave, he says he’s particularly fond of Brazilian music. “I don’t know how to express how Brazilian music makes me feel,” says Kaytranada. “They mix everything up: soul, samba, bossa nova… Their music truly is feel-good music and their sound is raw; they clearly understand! Plus, Brazilian really is a beautiful language!”

“I was aware people listened to my stuff, but I had no idea it was that much!”

Kaytranada’s first encounter with Québec’s music scene happened through social media networks, where he released beat tapes from 2010 on. He’d already forged ties with the Alaiz collective, a group of up-and-coming figures of the local hip-hop scene, and heard extremely positive echoes about the Artbeat Montreal event that was incredibly popular from 2011 to 2013. Revelers who partook in these regular gatherings of producers even found a name for themselves: the “piu piu,” a term that refers both to the community itself and to the often instrumental hip-hop productions they were so into. Célestin defied the parental curfew and attended the third iteration of the event.

“I knew that all I needed to launch my career was one show,” he says.

It’s also at those Artbeat Montréal nights that he met the rappers from Alaclair Ensemble, who were a major source of inspiration for the young beat-maker, who ended up collaborating with the Ensemble’s Robert Nelson, resulting in 2012’s Les filles du roé EP, still using the moniker Kaytradamus.

Even though he admires the freedom and stage presence of Alaclair Ensemble, Kaytranada hopes to become the Arcade Fire of hip-hop, the artist who’ll shatter the opaque glass wall separating Québec’s hip-hop scene from international fame, while remaining true to his roots. He has no trouble admitting that if he could produce beats for Ariane Moffatt or Céline Dion, he’d be ecstatic.

KaytranadaSince his first appearances on the scene, Kaytranada has become a bona fide local — and international — star. His debut album on London’s XL label (M.I.A., Adele, The XX, Tyler The Creator) is hotly anticipated, to say the least. Célestin titled it 99.9%, “to express the fact that one can never be 100% satisfied with an album.”

There’s also a previous album — Kaytra Thomas — that has yet to be released by the Huh What & Where label, after being slated for 2012.

“When I was still going under the nickname Kaytradamus, I was constantly releasing beat tapes and made a little money from it,” he says. “But at some point, it became an issue between my manager and me because he wanted me to wait for the press releases and all that, but all I wanted was to give the fans what they want!” Kaytranada is a pure product of his era, and between his official and unofficial collaborations, EPs, mixtapes and singles released all over the map, keeping tabs on his discography is no easy task.

Célestin’s ideal goal is to produce other artists; DJ-ing tours are more of an afterthought. Yet he realizes that those tours allowed him to witness what can’t be witnessed through social media. “I was aware people listened to my stuff, but I had no idea it was that much!” he says. “Especially in London [Kaytranada was recently invited to be one of the very few resident DJs on BBC Radio 1], people are real fanatics there. It’s really strange how I simply play a DJ set and people go crazy. Their love for you is much more concrete than what you can perceive on social media. What you witness with your own eyes, that’s what’s real. It gave my self-confidence a tremendous boost,” he confesses.

His upcoming album – slated for a fall release, and to which he’s currently applying the finishing touches – will contain, among others, a collaboration with The Internet, a band closely related to Tyler the Creator’s ODD Future collective. The Internet just released their third album, with one of the songs produced by Kaytranada.

“I’ve never been as proud of a song as this one,” he says. “When they sent back what they’d done with my beat, I told them that it was perfection, exactly what they were supposed to do with it,” he says, before quickly adding, “all I can say now is ‘Watch out! The real Kaytranada is about to pop out!’” And then he laughs…

Kaytranada on Facebook