To celebrate the release of their album Jazz Futon, Valaire sold out three nights at the Dièse Onze jazz club on Saint-Denis Street in Montréal on Feb. 21, 22, and 23, 2023.

SOCAN was there to witness a moment of pure, unadulterated musical frenzy, during which many friends were on hand to celebrate – both onstage and in the crowd – including Alan Prater, Mel Pacifio and Fredy V.

Purchase or stream Jazz Futon

Check out Valaire’s tour schedule



“I’m trying to enjoy my time off, but it’s not working at all!” says Gayance over the phone, sounding slightly exhausted by the whirlwind pace she’s been caught in since arriving in Brazil. “I’m giving tons of interviews and there’s so much stuff to do!”


“There’s so much stuff to do”: that alone says a lot about what drives this Montréal-based singer-songwriter/producer, born Aïsha Vertus, of Haitian descent, who had to take care of a lot of business to finally be able to release her debut album, Mascarade, a deft amalgamation of jazz, house, R&B, and broken beat.

Her multiple professional lives have led her, among other things, to host video capsules, write articles, give lectures and DJing masterclasses, operate as a music consultant, curate exhibitions, make documentaries, and assemble hip-hop compilations… And all this while travelling all over the world and settling in a few cities – notably Brussels and Amsterdam—where she currently resides, between two trips to Montréal.

In short, relaxing doesn’t seem to be her forté. Mascarade, as a matter of fact, was initiated during an escapade-slash-artist residency in Sainte-Adèle, offered by PHI Centre, during which Gayance was supposed to mostly take it easy. “In my application, I said I needed a place to rest and experiment,” she says. “I absolutely didn’t chill for one second. I just can’t! Doing nothing is so hard… I compare myself to other artists, and I think that if I want to get to their level, I have to produce constantly. I’ve burned out many times!”

Thankfully, during that two-week stay in Sainte-Adèle (during which she ended up getting sick by alternating too often between the pool and the air-conditioned studio), Gayance found ways to calm herself. “I did a lot of mushrooms there, and my friend is a sound healer,” she says. “She uses Tibetan cymbals to create frequencies that help heal the spirit. I meditated with her for about 24 hours, on and off.”

That might be the reason why Mascarade is a more temperate, concise, and cohesive album than what one might expect from such an exuberant and hyperactive artist, with such a diverse range of talents. Just a couple of years after her debut as a producer, which she immortalized on her first EP No Toning Down (2021), Gayance has written the last chapter of this era of her life, with the release of her first official full-length album, on the London-based label Rhythm Section. The era in question started in the early 2010s, when the young artist was barely in her twenties.

“You think you’re invincible when you’re 20. You think you’re beginning your life, but it’s not actually the case. You’re still learning who you are, who your friends are, what your career is going to be. I have a 13-year-old younger sister who’s going to be 20 soon. This is my way of telling her my story.”

Gayance Video Still Mascarade

Click on the image to play the Gayance video “Mascarade”

And that’s precisely where Mascarade stands out from the vast majority of electro or dance releases: the lyrics matter very much to Gayance, who stays far away from boring, repetitive calls to get on the dancefloor. The artist and her collaborators – Janette King, Judith Little D, and Hua Li, among others – offer meaningful songs based on true stories. While “Lord Have Mercy” recounts the sweet memory of a carnal romance, “Nuna Mais” conveys the sharp emotion of anger against a close friend. “Moon Rising (10 Years),” meanwhile, evokes in very few words Gayance’s interstellar ambitions. Paying homage to the memory of the late, great Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the title song celebrates Gayance’s Haitian origins while castigating white supremacy.

Gayance’s direct and deeply embodied poetry is perfectly married to the album’s straightforward, syncopated, twitchy rhythms, whose roots are firmly planted in the broken beat sub-genre.

Sharing her love for this brand of electronic music, created in the U.K. in the ’90s, Gayance connected with Emile Farley – an experienced bassist with whom she worked closely on Mascarade. Alongside them is David Ryshpan, a Montréal-based keyboardist, composer, and DJ who specializes in Afro-Latin jazz tones.

To guide everyone in the right direction, Gayance tapped into her cultural and spiritual legacy, especially that of her late grandfather, a musician she greatly admires. In addition to being one of the pioneers who introduced congas in Québec churches – at a time when the instrument was very much associated with voodoo rites – her grandfather taught her one of the most important things in his life.

“He told me it’s important to be aware of your own intentions. I’m not a Catholic, but I do have a spiritual side. I know that if I say something, [there is a possibility that] it will happen,” says Gayance. “When I DJ, I’m trying to bring people back to partying, but also to the spirit, and their intentions.”

Over a decade after her first steps on Montréal’s underground scene, with clearer intentions than ever, Gayance is taking flight.

Even before they got started, you could say that Toronto R&B duo Spiritsaver had one up on the competition.

Prior to the duo of Zale and Tajudeen releasing last year’s psilocybin-inspired joint “I’m High, Have You Met Me?,” they were – and still are – being mentored by two of Canada’s brightest production gurus, 2023 Grammy Producer of the Year nominee Matthew “Boi-1da” Samuels (Drake,  Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Jack Harlow, Travi$ Scott) and Grammy-nominated producer/songwriter  Stephen “Koz” Kozmeniuk (Dua Lipa,  Kendrick Lamar, Madonna, Nicki Minaj).

Spiritsaver, "I'm High, Have You Met Me?"

Click on the image to play the video for Spiritsaver’s “I’m High, Have You Met Me?”

“We’re really fortunate to be able to push ‘play’ on the music for guys like Stephen Kozmeniuk and Boi-1da,” says Zale. “People who are mentors, and that we work closely with, and get their opinions. That’s like having the top A&Rs to be able to bounce ideas off of.  We’re very grateful for our network, one that we’ve been building for our whole lives.”

Zale’s not kidding when it comes to mentioning lifelong connections, which extends to Nigerian-born singer Tajudeen, whom he met at age 12 at The Lair Studios.

Zale’s built up a bit of a heavyweight track record himself, working in the producer’s chair for such megastars as Eminem, Kanye (now Ye) West, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson, Meek Mill, and Childish Gambino – both individually and as half of the songwriting-production duo The Maven Boys. But he got his start at the age of 13, handling the MySpace page for Boi-1da, creating beats with him two years later, and eventually signing with his production company when he was 18.

“I have a long history with 1da,” Zale explains. “Then I met Koz,  brought him into 1da’s system. At the time, Koz was doing two-a-days, he was doing a lot of synch/advertising music and pop stuff from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Then I’d pull up on him and we’d work until 2:00 a.m. on stuff to pitch to 1da. We got a bunch of cuts together; there’s a whole family relationship there that’s deeper than music. It’s the same thing with T [Tajudeen]:  We’re all friends before the music thing, and it’s more like a brotherhood. Everybody wants to see everybody else shine.”

While Zale and Tajudeen have known each other for a lifetime, their new Spiritsaver project is fresh out of the gate.

“We wanted to control our own destiny,” says Zale. “And we wanted to be able to make the art we want to make. There’s a lot of politics on both sides of the industry, whether you’re behind the scenes or you’re the artist. The difference is, we can take our careers by the horns, and do what we need to do to make sure the music comes out the way we want it to come out.

“We wanted to control our own destiny” – Zale

“When you’re working behind the scenes, you’re kind of giving your art away, and trusting the artist to make the right decisions. Being the artists, we’re able to make the art that accompanies the music.  It’s not just about writing songs: it’s about building a brand, showing the lifestyle, and doing all these extra things that are a lot of fun – photo shoots,  shooting music videos, and making content.”

Tajudeen calls Spiritsaver’s music “destiny-written soul,” and says the chemistry between the two was immediate, as evidenced by their first two songs: “I’m High, Have You Met Me,” which garnered 33,000 YouTube views in a single month, and their current ballad, “Killing Us Slowly.”

“That’s why we gelled so fast: This has been marinating for a while,” says Tajudeen.

Zale says, “I’m High, Have You Met Me?” was inspired by magic mushrooms. “We started writing that song after I had dabbled with a psychedelic experience,” he says. “It’s based on a trip, astral projection (when the soul leaves the physical body). It’s kind of like a rebirth. The experiences you have in that other dimension – and then the re-integration – is what the Spiritsaver project is for both of us. And the name, too.”

Click on the image to play the video for Spiritsaver’s “Killing us Slowly”

“Killing Us Slowly” is  a song about heartbreak, says Zale. “It’s about getting into something too soon,” he explains. “The beginning of the relationship can start fast and take off, and sometimes it may be based more on attraction than the right type of fit. We  wanted to look at a love story from that perspective: Looking at the relationship from outside, as a greater idea of,  ‘We’re both at fault here.’”

Zale notes that the two songs are derived from approximately 15 other songs they have in various stages of completion. “I come from a producer background, so I make the beats,” he says. “I’ll be creating music on my computer with T in the room, and he’s more of a melody guy. So, he’ll start going off on some melodies, and then I’ll start shooting lyrics at him. Then, we start building something freestyle, and see where it goes. We’ll get in a vibe, and once we feel we have something, we zero in and start arranging all the melodies.  Then if there’s a concept there, we figure out the hook, lock it in, and work on the verses.

“We re-write a lot. We’ve probably re-written, like, 10 different versions of  ‘Killing Us Slowly’ alone.  We’re always experimenting and trying to get it right.”

The next step for Spiritsaver is working on their live show, which they’ll debut at some point in 2023. They also aim to release a new song every four to six weeks, and, in Zale’s words, “stay consistent.” “We’re trying to do everything from a place of originality, and a place where it’s not about ego,” he says.  “It’s just about telling our stories, and doing it in an original way that we feel that people can relate to. Music is a way for people to overcome things in their life, and look at it from a fresh perspective.”