“It’s my duty to let people know what I think is great in general, as a DJ. And now as a producer, I can take that to the next level, where I can actually make songs with these artists and I can put them on stages with me – because I was just looking at myself like a conduit to be able to connect things and people.”

4KORNERS, Ogwula

Click on the image to play the 4KORNERS video “Ogwula” (feat. EverythingOShauN)

Kirk St. Cyr, better known as DJ 4Korners, is talking not only about his role as a DJ playing music in clubs around the world, but also as a fully-fledged artist who’s just released his debut album. Much like the releases of many other Canadian DJs in the present day, 4Korners of the World not only highlights his songwriting and production skills across a variety of music genres, it also incorporates the constantly evolving roles a DJ increasingly takes on in addition to their foundational, well-honed, and essential skills of rocking a party crowd.

4Korners of The World mashes up a number of different genres, incorporating musical styles that range through afrobeats, hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music, into a seamless extension of his sets as a DJ. Recruiting a number of newly emerging artists from across Canada, 4Korners of the World is a truly eclectic mix.

“The reason why I chose these particular artists is, number one, they’re all dope,” says 4Korners. “Second, because of the concept of the album, I specifically sought out people from the diaspora, and first-generation Canadians of other-worldly descent. I think that we carry a unique experience. I think we see the world in an interesting way, we see Canada in an interesting way. And I believe that that really comes through in the music.”

For 4Korners, the album is a logical extension of the music he plays in clubs, and at basketball games as the official DJ of the Toronto Raptors. As his brand game is strong, 4Korners recently launched an artist showcase called Wonderful in Toronto. “The mission is to showcase emerging and established BIPOC artists, celebrate our music and cultures,” says 4Korners about the combined concert and party showcase.

Another DJ determined to showcase new and emerging artists is Toronto-born, Los Angeles- based DJ Rosegold.  “I do love to introduce new artists and new music that I think that no one knows about,” says the DJ, born Dahlia Harper. “And I do it selectively, by putting in a new song… sandwiched in between two songs that I know everyone in the club knows, no matter how old you are, how young you are, what your race is.”

“As a DJ, it’s my duty to let people know what I think is great… as a producer, I can take that to the next level” – DJ 4Korners

Describing her sound as  “the music that you didn’t know that you wanted to hear,” DJ Rosegold has manifested her eclectic disc jockeying on her Rosegold University: Homecoming EP, where she pays homage to her reggae roots, and her forthcoming music, expected in early 2023.

Not only does the music she produces herself showcase musical styles from across the diaspora, it’s also evident in the eye-catching merch from her Rosegold University line that she recognizes the importance of branding in a social media age. This has led her to DJing events for Barack Obama and Lauren London, among many others.

However, Rosegold wishes that such an emphasis on branding wasn’t necessary. “Now, it’s like talent isn’t the main thing that people focus on, unfortunately,” she says. “So, for me as a DJ, the majority of my bookings are from word of mouth, or people finding me on Instagram. My bookings are heavily reliant on what my brand looks like on social media.” Rosegold has adapted to this reality and turned her confident, driven personality to her advantage, creating a talent agency called House of Milo.

But at the end of the day, whether you’re a DJ or an artist, it comes down to bringing your inimitable style to the music. Junia-T’s 2020 Studio Monk album was short-listed for a Polaris Prize, a couple of years after his stint as a DJ for Jessie Reyez on her first global tour. He initially made some noise as an MC, and now identifies mainly as a DJ/producer, so Junia-T has some insight into the mindset a DJ brings as an artist.

DJ Rosegold, Chantel, Come Closer

Click on the image to play the DJ Rosegold video “Come Closer” (feat. Chantel)

“I keep them one and the same,” says Junia-T of his approach. “Not every DJ is like that, but I like to play the same way I select music for a project. I like to just play the stuff that I really enjoy. I don’t care if people know it or not, because it’s a test of my taste.”

DJ Rosegold mirrors this attitude. “The thing that I think is so cool about me crossing over into production is, I know what goes. By that, I mean that I know what the people want to hear in the party,” she says. “Because I see the reactions, I see what gets people excited, and I put myself in the shoes of the partygoer… So that’s kind of how I fuse the two together, and that’s why I’m really happy that I started first in DJing and then going into production –  because I was able to really identify what it is that people want to hear.”

For 4Korners, who grew up in a Trinidadian household in Toronto, and enjoyed a childhood where he loved everything from soca to funk to rock, there’s a similar mentality when looking at the fluidity between being a DJ and an artist.

“It was only natural that I played all the music that I love, so it’s always been a wide variety of things,” he says. “Now that I’m a producer and an artist, and I’m making the music that I play, it’s just the same thing. I have so many different types of music, and there’s so many sounds from so many influences, that it wouldn’t be me if it didn’t come out like this through my music. There’s no way I can do one specific thing. It’s just not who I am.”

As the year comes to a close, Lionel Kizaba will go on his holiday break with a sense of accomplishment. “This year has really been the best year of my life,” he enthuses, pointing out the 30-odd concerts he’s performed, in Québec and elsewhere in the world, over the past 12 months, as well as the Nov. 18, 2022, release of Kizavibe, his new electronic Afropop album — co-written and co-produced with his partner in crime, Gone Deville. 

Kizaba, Soso

Click on the image to play the Kizaba video “Soso”

For the singer-songwriter and drummer from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 2022 ended as it had more or less begun: with an invitation to the Mundial Montréal/M for Montréal Festival. He explained where the starting line of this creative cycle was: “The Mundial concert in 2021 set the table for the year to come, which I ended with a big concert at the Society for Arts and Technology [SAT] for the album launch,” as an after-party for M for Montréal. 

 “The festival director, Sébastien Nasra, had seen my concert at Mundial, and he said to me, ‘I thought you played African music, but it’s pop!’,” hence the invitation to the following year’s edition of M for Montréal. The director’s observation illustrates just how far pop music from the African continent has come in recent years, by shedding the divisive and outdated “world music” label, and finally being recognized for what it is: damn good, danceable, modern pop that deserves its spot on the world’s biggest stages, as Nigeria’s Burna Boy did last summer at Osheaga, or as fellow Nigerian Wizkid will do on March 18, 2023, at Bell Center. 

Kizaba wades in those very waters, cooking up a stew of pop, rap, and danceable electronic music, spiced with rhythms of his native Congo, chiefly soukous and rumba. “I put a lot of work into this,” says Kizaba. “I wanted to take the Congolese sound to another level by combining it with other musical styles. I wanted to offer diversified musical influences, because I don’t want only Congolese people to attend my shows, I want everyone to attend, all of Québec, the whole world. What I’m proposing is the whole universe!” 

Kizaba, Ingratitude

Click on the image to play the Kizaba video “Ingratitude” (feat. Luciane Dom)

That universe begins in Montréal — literally: it’s the title of the Kizavibe’s sweet opening song, a love letter to his city, he says, “to the vibe here, to the artists I’ve met here, like brother Pierre Kwenders,” a Congolese at heart, also featured on the dancehall duet “Bella”. “Of all the cities I’ve visited, I say Montréal is the best — it has the best vibe, there’s so much music to discover, it has an incredible togetherness. I needed to pay tribute to all that.”  

Kizaba created his 2017 debut album entirely on his own. “For this one, I really wanted to be able to rely on a second pair of ears.” he says. A friend put him in touch with composer and DJ Gone Deville (Pierre Belliveau), who was looking for a percussionist to accompany him at an event he was organizing. They clicked right away. “Pierre told me, ‘Lionel, I’m not letting go of you, I’ll follow you anywhere you go!’ He let me hear some beats he was working on, I chose a few more from his bank and that was the basis of the album,” recorded in Montréal and partly in DRC. 

 Gone Deville is also the technical director for Kizaba’s concerts, and they spent 2022 playing in many different time zones: “After my concert at Mundial Montréal, I was invited to play in a lot of big concerts — in the United States as an opening act for Lionel Richie, we toured Louisiana, Great Britain, Italy, British Columbia. . .” The coming year will also be bookings-rich with the tour resuming on January 12, 2023, including a presence at this year’s edition of the prestigious WOMAD festival in April in Chile. 

Ray-On, Ludivine Lavenant, Iohann Martin, Mitsou Gélinas“Iohann and I have been working together for more than 25 years alongside our screen composer partners,” says Mitsou, right off the bat. “With the three acquisitions we made [Harris & Wolff, Maisonnette and Ray-On], we wanted to offer a service under the Ray-On banner.” Ray-On offers unique music services for screen productions, including original music composition, music research and supervision, rights clearance, as well as access to a pre-cleared music bank of more than 3,000 works, mainly from Québec and Canada.

Iohann Martin, who co-founded Dazmo (25 films, 15 TV series) with his business partner Mitsou a quarter of a century ago, already had business ties with Harris & Wolff, specialists in music placement. He sniffed out a good opportunity to diversify his music production activities.

“We were thinking about offering a complementary service for music that fleshes out a scene without necessarily being connected to the narrative framework of music, simply to add ambiance and colour, a complement to the soundtrack,” says Martin. “There’s a will to maximize the artistic potential to produce music that fits in a genre that I call musical nuance.

“While we were working on the music for the immensely popular TV series La Galère, the Dazmo team took full measure of the challenge. We had to write three or four songs per episode on top of the soundtrack itself: it was a very tall order.”

Once the purchase of Ray-On was realized, the musical offer was now complete. Its catalogue of pre-existing music includes an intuitive platform that editors, directors, and producers can access directly, but also, as Mitsou points out, “with a selection of local artists whose works are renewed frequently.”

The soon-to-be-aired series Mégantic is the collective’s latest accomplishment. At its core, Dazmo is a team of composers — Sari Dajani, Rudy Toussaint, Pierre-Luc Rioux and Ioann Martin — and is now under the guidance of Ray-On, the organization that supervised the whole musical aspect of Mégantic, thanks to its new music supervision service.

That brought sync and rights clearance into this new environment. Ludivine Lavenant is very proud of this unique and diversified catalogue of Canadian and Québec composers. One artist she’ll be promoting to the Netflix, Disney+, and the rest of the competitive music-placement world, is newcomer Olivia Khoury, “who’s doing Bon Iver-style jazz-folk”— in the hopes of placing her music in series, films, and ads.

“It’s really an efficient way for musicians to get their names out there,” says Mitsou. “We want to democratize and promote our music supervision service, because it’s not very well-known in Québec. For Ray-On’s clients, we’re a one-stop shop, an opportunity for productions to have integrated services. A song sync in a TV series or a film can have a major impact on an artist’s profile. Music supervisors are curators, they gloat when they’re sent new, original music that’s not yet on the market. That’s the edge of pitching music that will be released in three months — offering a song by someone who’s very well-established isn’t as important to them.”

“When we started in 2013, we were often asked for existing music,” explains the experienced gatekeeper of sounds. “A sound bank of 3,000 musical works for TV, movies, and advertising — with a search engine to satisfy the needs of the client with variables like singing by a male, a female, or a choir, a specific bpm, etc. — did not exist in Québec.”

As Mitsou explains, “Promoting our composers through our platforms and supporting a new generation of local talent is one of our goals for the next few years. Right from the start, I gave myself the mission of promoting more female composers and producers.” Then, she says, with a sparkle in her eye, “Music is just as important as lighting in a visual production! You just need to know how to use it well.”

Ray-On, Ludivine Lavenant, Iohann Martin, Mitsou GélinasSimon Bourdou works closely with Mitsou, soliciting contracts for members of his team of composers at Ray-On in the endless jungle of global visual productions. He spent five years with the M for Montréal and Mundial Montréal organizations before getting on board in 2017. “I’ve always been close to emerging artists. Discovering music is the essence of my work,” he says, a few SOCAN Awards adorning the wall of his office in the background, notably for the Canadian series How It’s Made.

“Directors and producers tell us what they need, music-wise, and we then recruit the team of composers who fit the best with the music they’re looking for. We realized that the biggest export and revenue potential for our artists truly lie in AV,” says Bourdou.

Among the composers on the Ray-On roster are rapper and producer Boogat, composer Mathieu Vanasse, Latin singer Ramon Chicharron, jazz guitarist Benoît Charest (who gave us the soundtrack for the movie Les Triplettes de Belleville), Carole Facal’s electro-pop, and promising singer-songwriter Naïma Frank. Almost all of these artists have songs hosted by Ray-On that have been synced.

Mitsou can list the most successful musical placements achieved by Ray-On without batting an eyelash: Emily in Paris and Tiny Pretty Things (Netflix), Soulmate (Amazon Prime), Woke (Sony Pictures), to name but a few, as well as clients from the advertising world such as Nike and Red Bull, a Ubisoft videogame, Crew 2, for sync and rights clearance, Xavier Dolan’s film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, the Canadian comedy Wong and Winchester…

Ray-On is a promising company, especially since it has reached its full cohesion in a single year. Mitsou is the artistic director, a pivotal role in creating the right connections with producers, directors, and artists.

“I must say, Mitsou is passionate about discovering artists,” says Martin. “If your curiosity for new music is waning, you can always count on her to help you discover a ton of new stuff!”