After a self-titled EP (2019), Innu singer-songwriter Karen Pinette-Fontaine, known as Kanen, released her debut album, Mitshuap (house, in Innu-aimun) in the spring of 2023. She’s since endeavoured to get on any stage that will have her, to shine and fill the space with words from her home, Uashat mak Mani-Utenam.

KanenKanen’s songs are a never-ending process of discovery, and she’s learned the language of her ancestors in order to sing in it.

“I didn’t think I had such a personal bond with the territory,” she says. “But as it turns out, in the Innu language, the way you perceive the environment exists grammatically, if you will. There’s the inanimate and the animate. That which exists and that which is immobile. There’s a lot of life in the language of where I’m from… It’s like a movement, a breath.”

Artistically, she feels at the heart of this constant discovery: “My identity as an Innu woman, the territory where I live, my militancy, politics…,” says the singer-songwriter. Musically, Kanen refuses to stand still, and nourishes herself with anything she can get her hands on. “My two producers [Simon Walls and Jérémie Essiambre] opened a lot of doors for me that I didn’t even know existed, and I can now go much further than I thought in my compositions,” she says.

Anyone who’s enjoyed Kanen’s songs and onstage movement on the festival circuit in the summer of 2023 can attest to one thing: everything you hear on her album comes out onstage with the renewed energy of a fighter who demands to be heard.

“I think this physical expression of music makes me feel good and proud,” she explains. “I love expressing myself, but it doesn’t come easily. Music has made it easy for me to say stuff. I write, compose. and sing.”

And onstage, Kanen’s singing becomes a thousand times bigger. Her desire to take every person in the audience by the hand, to invite them into her story, becomes real. Night after night, she plants her roots knowing that she has to take over the space in the nicest possible way. “I hit my target,” she says laughing. “I take a bit of home with me everywhere I go and share it, like I do with my stage musicians. It magnifies the message, the singing, and the ideas.”

Kanen, Mitshuap

Select the image to access the YouTube video playlist of the Kanen album Mitshuap

There’s no doubt in her mind that Indigenous languages need to be learned and expanded if they’re going to survive, and the current trend is palpable to Kanen. “We’re in a good zone,” she says. “Learning is the hardest part, but I think we’re allowing ourselves to multiply the ways we can learn. People take classes and understand what Indigenous languages can bring them, and how they can say things differently.” And obviously, she perceives music as a vehicle for words that need to be heard. This is how she can do her part.

What Kanen needs is to write is an Innu dictionary for herself. “I have to bend over backwards even to write a simple sentence,” she says, laughing. “I did take Innu-aimun lessons, but it’s never enough for everything I’d love to say. There are words that describe a vision or a state of being. I want my lyrics to be very descriptive. I often wonder where my subject is at once I’ve completed my sentence. It really is a lot of work.”

She does confirm that mixing French and Innu was essential for her first album. “It would be far from being released if I’d restricted myself to Innu,” she chuckles. As a matter of fact, it’s by looking at what she’s writing that she’s able to understand where she stands in her learning process.

“The next album certainly won’t be 100% in Indigenous language, but again, it’ll reflect where I’m at. It’s been so long since I’ve created something,” she admits. “But before that, I want to learn new instruments and come out of my Mitshuap cocoon. I have a few texts here and there… It’s simmering slowly.”

In the meantime, she pumps her fist in the air, dances, sings, and smashes guitars onstage. “There’s a quiet strength inside me that I know will take quite a while to let out,” she says with a laugh.


As has become our habit, we present six young beatmakers who’ve seen their stars rise over the past few years and who are, in 2023, changing Québec’s musical landscape in the fields of hip-hop and electronic music.

Chase Wav

ChaseWavSome of Québec’s greatest producers – Kaytranada and DaHeala, to name just two – were successful internationally before being properly recognized for their talent at home.

It feels like the same phenomenon is about to happen to Chase Wav, an artist from Montréal who just secured one of the year’s biggest placements. One of his compositions turned into the hit “Silver Platter,” a song by some American singer named Khalid that ended up on the soundtrack of a low-budget independent movie barely anyone has heard of… Barbie.

Chase Wav partly owes this placement to another Montréal producer, his friend Jay Century, who’s become acquainted with the American sound engineer and producer Denis Kosiak, Khalid’s right-hand man. “Jason played online games with Denis for about a year,” says Chase Wav. “And their relationship developed to a point where Jason introduced him to his music and mine. Then, at some point, someone said to me, ‘Hey! Khalid recorded a song with what you sent!’ When I hear stuff like that, that sounds too good to be true, I’m very cautious. It was quite the rollercoaster ride, but it worked out in the end!”

Far from shunning Québec’s market – he’s composed for several local artists, like Zach Zoya, Naya Ali, and Kallitechnis – Chase Wav has known for quite awhile that the future of his is in the U.S.

He had a very early start, at the age of 12, encouraged by his dad, an R&B producer. As a youngster, he had access to lots of instruments and recording gear. His style has evolved considerably, as has his musical universe, and network of contacts around the world. After accompanying Montréal producer and singer Yonatan Ayal (of R&B duo Chiiild) to Los Angeles, he quickly connected with American artists, such as R&B singer Amber Mark and rapper DRAM. In 2016, his participation in OVO’s (Drake’s record label) famous Battle of the Beatmakers contest also allowed him to establish his name in Canada.

Several major releases are coming for Chase Wav in the coming months, notably with Amber Mark and American singer Victoria Monét.



Photo: Nader A

Funkywhat had an epiphany about five or six years ago, while paying a visit to a friend of a friend — a music lover whose apartment walls were covered with vinyl records, while there were MPC (a production control tool) and drum machines strewn about. “I saw him grab a vinyl, chop the break and sample it,” says Funkywhat. “I’d always been interested in doing that, and now, finally, someone was doing it right in front of me.”

It would be the beginning of something big for the Lebanese, Moroccan-born Montréal artist, who’s the main sonic architect for indie R&B artist Magi Merlin (Bonsound). The sound he unleashes in his productions for the singer (as well as with other artists such as Béli, dope.gng, and Kaya Hoax) stems from a lifetime of exploring different musical genres. That started with what his parents listened to, including the “big American soul” of James Brown, The Temptations, and Ike & Tina Turner, as well as Arab music, notably that of Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum.

Funkywhat also owes part of his musical upbringing to his uncle, who introduced him to the guitar at an early age and, incidentally, to some of the most influential American artists, like Jimi Hendrix, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Sly and the Family Stone. It’s through his brother,  the rapper Busy Nasa, that he honed his knowledge of more modern rap and R&B sounds. “I started by listening to A Tribe Called Quest, The Game, Biggie,” says Funkywhat, “but it was when I discovered the hip-hop sounds from the South, and their experimentation with funk and soul, that I suddenly wanted to create beats.”

The budding beatmaker took his first steps in the world of composition during the mythical Loop Sessions, where all the key producers would gather to create, exchange, and share. After one of these evenings, he befriended another producer, Senz Beats, who gave him a faulty MPC. Using this partially functional piece of gear, he carried on his musical development for awhile.

This evolutionary path is constantly driving him to unusual and innovative areas, especially in the realm of R&B, a playground where he can experiment by flirting with house music and hip-hop.



Photo: Rondo Banks

Born in Martinique, Majosty is a music lover, first and foremost. He thoroughly analyzed the R&B, funk, and soul sounds of the ’70s before he started making his own music. But his palette is much wider than just American music, and one can hear it in his current productions. “I was deeply influenced by the music scene where I came from in the Caribbean,” he says. “Stuff like Jamaican dancehall, zouk, compa, and artists such as Kalash, or Admiral T.”

Majosty arrived in Québec for the first time in 2013. He spent three years studying administration and communications before returning home. That’s where his future started to look clearer. All of a sudden, those countless hours spent listening to music were converging towards a single goal. “For a whole year, I spent at least 10 hours a day tinkering with Logic. It’s not super-healthy, but it helps you evolve.”

He came back to Montréal with a whole new idea in mind. He enrolled at Musitechnic to learn the ropes of sound recording. This allowed him to meet many contacts, and especially local producers who were starting to make a name for themselves, such as KNY (of Banx & Ranx fame) and Neo Maestro (known for his work with Rymz).

Majosty has since fine-tuned his style by exploring the various musical genres about which he’s passionate: all the contemporary varieties of rap, afrobeats, synthwave, and, of course, R&B. Working alongside leading up-and-coming artists such as David Campana, Odreii, Nissa Seych, Shah Frank, and Naomi, he’s bringing new colours to Québec’s pop scene.


BirdzonthetrackHad Birdzonthetrack followed the path that was set out for him, he would have gone to the music conservatory. His mom had enrolled him in piano lessons when he was six, but after a whole childhood of tinkling the ebony and ivory, the artist, who comes from Montréal’s East End, felt he’d had enough. “I was growing tired of it all,” he says. “It felt too calculated for me. It left no space for my creativity.”

He turned to beatmaking during his teens. He watched YouTube videos where the American rapper Future shows how he makes beats, and that became a huge source of inspiration. When he started Cégep in 2017, he installed FL Studio on his computer, and started composing his own music – inspired by other producers with popular tutorials, like Alex Beat Genius.

The first artist to whom Birdzonthetrack mustered enough gumption to send a beat was none other than White-B. The promising up-and-coming rapper was working on his Blacklist EP, and entrusted the young producer with a few tracks. This led to Lost – a colleague of White-B in the 5sang14 collective – also expressing an interest in his music. Only a year after he started working in FL Studio, Birdzonthetrack had his first placement: “Bandito Story,” Lost’s 2018 hit.

He’s since carried on making a name for himself by collaborating with several rappers on the local scene, like Shreez, Jeekay, and Rosalvo. And thanks to his growing list of contacts, he’s seriously thinking of exporting his music to France, after collaborating with established French rappers LKS and Timal. “When I saw that I was able to make connections in France,” he says, “I started thinking of music as a bona fide career path. I managed to make a few from Montréal, but I’m going there to put my boots on the ground in November [of 2023].”

The unavoidable trap influences of his early productions have now taken a backseat to a greater diversity of musical genres such as afrobeats, amapiano, and house music. Ironically, classical music has been re-surfacing in his life, lately. “I’m listening to a lot of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach…” Maybe those piano lessons were a lot more important than he suspected.

Sarah Bergeron

Sarah BergeronSarah Bergeron just came out of a coma. The Montréal-based producer from Gaspésie felt like her head was going to explode a few weeks ago. She went straight to the ER where she was treated for a major neurological problem.

She’s better now, and her barely contained enthusiasm is undeniable proof of that. But one quickly surmises that her enthusiasm isn’t anything new: Bergeron is a real powerhouse.

Her first steps in the realm of music were taken very early on: she would grab her dad’s guitar, inspired by the music to which he was listening, most notably Elvis Presley and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. She took guitar lessons, and her musical horizons expanded in her teens: she listened to John Coltrane just as she did to the Dead Kennedys, prog rock, and Biggie Smalls.

Then, about 10 years ago, she heard an EDM track that left a mark in her mind: “Animals.” by Dutch DJ and producer Martin Garrix. “That’s when I said to myself: ‘Oh My God! I really need to learn how to produce music!’” says Bergeron. “I was mesmerized. So I installed FL Studio and dove deep into it like a mad woman. I spent an incredible amount of hours learning how to use it.”

Five years later, she met a guy in a bar, producer Kriz Voogoel who shared a studio with Godfatha Beats, another producer from Montréal. They both became de facto mentors for Sarah. Not only that, but they also opened doors for her to score her first placements with established rappers of the local scene, like Cupidon and Lebza Khey.

Since then, Bergeron has taken off on the Montréal scene, collaborating with rapper Raccoon and pop singer Carlyn. After taking the summer to rest, she’ll be back with a vengeance, including a beatmakers battle in late August of 2023 during JOAT, an international festival of street dance.

Simon Skylar

Simon SkylarIt was a day like any other in Simon Skylar’s life. He was eight years old, and his parents told him, as they were taking him to school, “We have a surprise for you!” As any kid his age would, he expected a Nintendo, but it turned out to be something completely different. “I got home and there was a piano in the living room! It was peculiar, since no one played music in my home.”

Young Simon took piano lessons, but he truly fell in love with music a few years later, in his teens. A friend showed him Virtual DJ software and he became obsessed with making mixtapes. “Cool,” says Skylar, “but, you know, at some point I thought it would be cool to use my own tracks on those mixtapes, so I started creating beats in Garage Band and Logic. The first time I launched it [Logic], I said to myself, ‘OK, that’s what I’m going to do with my life! I’m becoming a producer!’”

Initially, Skylar’s music jumped on the electro and EDM bandwagon, influenced by the sound of hot American and European DJs like Mord Fustang, Wolfgang Gartner, and, of course, Avicii. ‘In the beginning, my productions were very heavy and technical,” he says. “I switched sounds every half-second. I simplified things over time. I focus on music that’s fun to listen to, not just fun to make.’

Over the last few years, Skylar’s expanded his horizons by including hip-hop, R&B, and Québec pop. Backed by popular local producer Domeno, Skylar has worked as an additional producer on songs by Marc Dupré, Ludovick Bourgeois, and Anthony Kavanagh.

Now, he has his eyes on the American market, creating musical loops for the Cymatics, a platform that then uses them to fill its countless sample packs (packages of samples that are sent to various international producers), Skylar ended up collaborating on the 2021 song “Miss the Rage” by American rappers Playboi Carti and Trippie Redd.

Welcome to the LU KALA era.

The pop-forward singer-songwriter is on a years-long roll in her career. She has more than 277,000 followers on TikTok, with more than  218,000 videos posted – almost all created by fans – for her breakout song and self-empowerment anthem, “Pretty Girl Era.” She has more than 50 million streams on Spotify alone, and more than 136,000 followers on Instagram, where several of her reels have topped 1.2  million each. She was featured on Latto’s song “Lottery,” which spent 16 weeks on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100, and has been streamed more than 40 million times on Spotify.

Lu KALA, Pretty Girl Era

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the LU KALA song “Pretty Girl Era”

“Pretty Girl Era” resonated strongly with a lot of listeners, to say the least. “It felt good to write a self-love song,” says LU KALA. “I’m happy that people are kind of using it as their theme song. The world would be a better place if everybody woke up and streamed ‘Pretty Girl Era’!” she laughs. She’s obviously joking, but she’s not wrong, either.

While LU KALA is a self-confirmed creator of pop music, she was happy to mix it up with rapper Latto for “Lottery.”  “I’d written the hook with some friends, and Latto had heard it, and she was a fan of it,” she says. “I loved when I heard her rap to it, ‘cause I love rap, but I hadn’t seen a world where I ended up mixing with rap music… I’m so happy [to have created a song] where you have a massive pop hook, and then you have a rapper on the verses.”

As is often the case, what appears to be an overnight success was only achieved after a long period of sustained effort. “I’ve been working my butt off for so many years,” says LU. “Just trying to find the opportunity, trying to get people to listen to my stuff. But I think the hustle makes it all worth it. I knew how badly I wanted this, and still want this. It’s just nice to see that my efforts weren’t wasted. I feel like a lot of people would say, ‘You should just give up. This is clearly not going to happen.’ But I was, like, ‘No, this is going to happen. I just haven’t found my tribe yet.”

LU’s Views: Four Tips for Novice Music-Makers

  1. “Keep working. Don’t give up too soon.”
  2. “Stop comparing yourself to everybody else.”
  3. “Master your craft. You can always be better.”
  4. “Be kind to people. People will not always remember what you say to them, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

For one example of that hard work, LU’s team assigned her the task of writing a new song every day – for a year, not including her regular writing sessions with other people. “And I was willing to do it, because I had to remind myself: how badly do you really want it?” says LU. “When New Year’s, I think it was 2021, hit, my friends were saying, ‘Aren’t you coming out?’ I was saying, ‘No, I have to get this song done.’ They were, like, ‘You work so hard, you’ve got to take some time off.’ I was, like, ‘I understand that you guys feel that way, but I really want it. If I finish in time and I make it, that’s great.’ But I rang in the new year writing songs.”

While she was on the come up, LU KALA co-wrote the song ”Dangerous” with DVSN and Stephen “Koz” Kozmeniuk, that was recorded by Jennifer Hudson, and was often found in writing rooms for others. But she’s always been more devoted to her own career as an artist. “I would perform at showcases, and then get invited by people to come into rooms to write songs,” she says. “That was cool, that was fun, it’s always nice to express yourself, or try to tap into what someone else is going through, and try to express that. But my passion was always my own artistry. I just didn’t know how to make it happen, in the beginning.”

She does now, as befits the unabashed ambition that accompanies her work ethic. “You always want the next win,” says LU. “That’s kind of how my brain works. When we hit 35,000 videos [on TikTok], I was, like, ‘How do we get 50?’ And someone I work with said, ‘No, it’s, how do we hit 100?’ So I was, like, ‘Oh, OK. Let’s hit 100!’”

LU KALA, Latto, Lottery

Select the image to play the YouTube video of “Lottery,” by Latto, featuring LU KALA

While that determination sometimes makes it hard for LU to take in some of her big career moments, she does stop occasionally to do so. Like going Top 10 on radio charts in both America and Canada. Or getting her first billboard in Times Square (“That’s always been on my vision board”). Or performing at the 2023 Billboard Women in Music Awards, and meeting Woman of the Year SZA there. “I finally got to meet her, which was amazing,” says LU. “She kind of yelled from across the room, ‘I’m such a fan of yours!’ She came over, and then started complimenting me, and singing ‘Pretty Girl Era’ to me!”

LU has openly spoken about the challenge of being “a plus-size Black woman making pop music,” as she puts it. Perhaps Lizzo has opened that particular door for her, and others? “Pre-Lizzo, [people would doubt] if it was believable, or if it was something that would ‘sell,’ quote unquote,” she says. “Even post-Lizzo, unfortunately, sometimes no matter how hard you try to open the door for those after you, a lot of times the door only opens for you… I sometimes feel like I’m still starting at ground zero, trying to open the door for myself… It’s always tough to break an act that just looks completely different than what you’ve been told pop is supposed to look like. I think that when a lot of people think of pop, they think of, like, thinner, blond hair, blue eyes…

“People say I’m R&B/pop, or just R&B, but I would never get played on R&B playlists, at least not with the things I’ve released to date. It’s like you’re only attaching that to me because I’m Black… But I’m not afraid to go up against the world, and show that, ‘No, this is what I make, and I’m here to stay.’”