The 36th edition of RIDEAU, the most important Francophone meeting of the performing arts in America, was held in Québec City from Feb. 12–16, 2023. SOCAN sponsored the stage at Théâtre du Petit-Champlain where three showcases were presented each night. 

A total of 12 artists each mounted that stage to present a 20-minute performance. The SOCAN Stage welcomed Chloé Sainte-Marie, Scott-Pien Picard, Juste Robert, Alex Pic, Veranda, Marco Ema, Gentiane, OURS, Noé Lira, Shaina Hayes, Govrache, and Étienne Fletcher.  

You can read our report on RIDEAU here.


“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.

To mark Black History Month, we gave SOCAN member Jenny Salgado carte blanche. She’s a Québec-based multi-disciplinary artist of Haitian origin, a singer-songwriter, and screen composer. She was also a pioneer of Québec’s Francophone rap scene as a member of the legendary group Muzion, and accepted our invitation with the militant and poetic writing style for which she’s renowned.

“I have a dream…” 
I am the Dream.

When, during the day, my mom used to scour hotel rooms trashed by European tourists on René-Lévesque
While, her lips tight, she would let the melodies on the radio whisper in each room of her floor
The same whispers, when the night fell, that she would harmonize without profanity while she moistened and gently scrubbed their withered skin
That of our forebears, hidden in hospices and hospitals.
That of the Gran Moun who mumble with their head tilted to the floor… their souls already ascending
Who barely remember anything at all, not even themselves, nor that show which must go on…
But they remember, by heart, all of our songs.

My mother described each of their faces while the sun was rising through their eyes…
Silence, suspension
Never too late, nor too early.

When my grandfather was dying in Fort-Dimanche, while the guardians of the dictatorship were looking one with a dark, glassy stare. . .
On the walls were as many names as there were cross-outs…
Background: the echoes of the Dessalinnienne’s ringing trumpets
While bare chests are lining up, recognizing death,and no longer bother to give a defiant look of hatred. When the night of its release…
Feast and fanfare! Come thunder and rain, celebration!… My grandmother came back home
alone and a widow.

The home…
Buried, too.
All those heavy stones, this monument, those heavy frequencies… All it took was one January 12 for them to evaporate in our history, in History…
The one that silences us. The one that lies to us. Rest, suspension…
There once was a denouement…

When, by the moonlight, my great-grandmother looked out the window of her tiny shack, sat in her rocking chair with just the smoke from her pipe coming out of her mouth…
There, fully ready, between the riches and the niches, in them little boxes, where all the huts of the most mistrustful servants rubbed shoulders
And time observed us, dispassionate, following its own beat
Humming worry free, motionless
Not even a dodgy look
With the assurance of a single impulse, fissureless and fictionless 
Dictating its own score
Leaving us to our own devices, to interpretation

When? But mostly, Who?
Who among those who were inspired before me?
When they dreamt of that future, did they dream of me?
The I in Black History Month…

It’s been more than 20 years now, since I was able to exist as myself before the others, with the others, all the others, I presented myself as a singer-songwriter. Artist.
I told them I wanted to make art and tell my story in the future tense, too.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves: no one here actually lives in the present. As soon as we act, reply, even to harmonize, we are in fact responding to something that has already happened. And as soon as you shut up, you hear what was… since forever.
There are those who dream of the future, breathing out the past, and then there are those who create the future, breathing in the past.

And that, for me, is how I summarize this world I was born into. 
This choice. These words, that music. This voice.
Choosing what I want to say when I respond to silence…
Knowing fully what those dreams are made of, the dreams that breathe out, that rest, hanging from branches endlessly looped towards the roots until their origin is forgotten.
Those dreams that stick to your skin, that get coated with resin, that are resigned to seal the wounds of a small story that pleased.
Knowing fully that there are so many artists that, quite simply, no longer dream…

Photo : Berekyah

I said so much to an 8-year-old child, the other day: 

Really? They can no longer dream? You mean in poor countries? 
In the poor worlds! 
The poor worlds? But isn’t it countries that create worlds? 
Ah! But no, my precious one. Your world is everything that you feel, everything that you create when countries let their walls evaporate and let you roam free when and where you want. It’s like a dream! 
Ahhh! OK… And what do they create, those artists who no longer know how to dream. 
They don’t create, they replicate. They duplicate walls. Walls filled with cross-outs. To fit in small boxes. 
I don’t want to become an artist. I want to be the dream…

February 2023: 

Cold beer, pizza, fritay… all over the world we are waiting for the halftime show where one of the most beautiful women in the world is supposed to sing. A black, pregnant woman who’ll allegedly steal the show during the Super Bowl. In the back of the room, the kids are playing, the scream in an accent I don’t know, totally new and pieced together from a thousand different origins. Time stops. Pure music
My boys big up me; I started the year singing Desjardins’ Les Yankees on TV. Inhabited like a Winter that has never known any boundaries. And the Sun rose. In Creole…

I tell them about this project I’m working on, the story of music in Québec, where I will tell the story of the arrival of jazz’s syncopation, of swing, of improvisation and of hips swaying, sound-wise and body-wise, of the blue notes in the storytelling, the underground freestyles and railroads that have had so much influence on whom we’ve become today! How we sound today! Like the Tam Tam and the Afrobeats of today. How they infiltrate what presents itself as “urban music” and takes centre stage in today’s musique québécoise. It hasn’t been told yet. Archived. Fossilized. Rests, suspensions. . . It’s an honour. A duty. 

In a coupla weeks, I’ll be selecting the winner of the Breakthrough Hip-Hop Artist of the Year. That Hip-Hop that’s no longer sung just by Blacks (everybody raps, all the worlds rap, nowadays!) and no longer talks about Blacks. But it is derived from all the currents, and flaunts the slang used daily by the neighbourhoods where the Blacks that create our future also dream, our literature. . . As many names as there are cross-outs. 

Before embarking on my next soundtrack, which criss-crosses the cinema that tells our story . . . and going to I don’t know which country to represent Québec, I’m finishing, invited as a “model of success,” my tour of schools, where I have learned so much about the future that awaits us! I learn that from those youths who don’t want to become anything at all, who don’t want to be defined in these tiny boxes, not even the artist’s. They only dream about creating themselves as they see fit and become influential where they are. 

I went back through my shole story with them to meet them where they had imagined me. Where they recognize themselves. 

They heard my mother’s mutterings, those melodies that are always with us, My grandmother’s prayers, the soul you cannot disavow

The trumpets of revolt, the power of words, like a gaze propelled beyond the parapets 

The drums of rebellion, the riddim that leads all the sounds that we call, that we assemble, that duplicate the movement of the heart of a single choir beating as one 

The songs of freedom, the raison d’être why this trade, I will learn it until the end of time 

The silence of that 8-year-old artist before she finally said: 

“I’m not just an artist. I’m just the dream.” 

 Believe it or not, music is in the blood. 

Thank you to everyone who dreamt of me before me. 

And let me create while it is my turn. 

 Drop the needle. 

Jenny Salgado alias J.Kyll