On Spectrum, his first solo EP, Zach Zoya dares to “re-visit the idea that an album should be limited to a single atmosphere.”

Zach ZoyaAnd haters beware: the challenge the Montréal – by way of Rouyn-Noranda – singer and rapper has set for himself isn’t presumptuous. It’s actuallyhonest and, dare we say, humble.

“I wanted to establish that people need to know me as someone who does many different things,” he says. “As someone who’s just as comfortable doing rap as I am doing sentimental R&B. I don’t want to have to convince everyone again on another album. I want to avoid a rift from happening.”

With versatility as his “primary musical value,” the 22-year-old artist is staying true to his family’s musical background, rooted in both North America and South Africa (his father’s country of origin).

“My big sisters listened to Beyoncé, Drake, and a bit of ‘90s R&B like Usher,” says Zoya. “I think his very rhythmic way of singing perfectly in sync with the drums had a big influence on me. My parents listened to Elvis and African music. On a subconscious level, I think the super-rich and textured African harmonies have also influenced me.”

Zoya makes no bones about one thing: Québec music has very little place in his own work. Having grown up for the better part of his life without a computer or TV, the young man had very limited contact with Francophone music, which is why he chose English as his mode of expression, even though he was raised in French.

“All I had was the radio, so every now and then I’d hear Marc Dupré or Marie-Mai… Shout out to them, but it wasn’t really my vibe,” he says politely. “At a time when everyone was watching the WordUp! Battles, I was discovering Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80. I knew the lyrics by heart, and my friends and I would sing them out loud just for fun. Then, around the age of 15, I started doing that at parties, and the way people reacted really gave me confidence. That’s when I said to myself: ‘I’m doing this for real!’”

The next year, Zoya arrived on the North Shore of Montréal to complete his high school diploma, and it turned out his best friend had a contact in his family for a sound engineer and a studio. The result was his first mixtape – that Steve Jolin heard on Souncloud in 2017. The head of Disques 7 ième Ciel, a hip-hop label based in Rouyn-Noranda, saw in that a natural and almost pre-destined alliance. Luckily for both of them, so did Zoya.

Alongside the Laval-based producer High Klassified, the up-and-coming artist launched Misstape, his first official release on 7ième Ciel, in 2018. Several high-profile international labels liked what they were hearing, notably Universal Music Canada, and the label’s most famous A&R rep, Toronto rapper Kardinal Offishall. “We sent demos to a lot of labels and it’s Kardi who was the most enthusiastic,” says Zoya. “Everything happened really organically with him.”

These demos are part of a library of 200 songs created over a period of three years, alongside the Parisian producer Bougo – Zoya’s “go-to guy” – and a few other talented composers, like Ruffsound, NeoMaestro, Gary Wide, and the aforementioned High Klassified. With only six songs, Spectrum was born of a careful listening and sorting process.

“Instead of trying to compile a bunch of similar beats, I chose instead to go with a vocal common thread,” says Zoya. “Sure, there are different vibes, but it couldn’t sound like it was two different guys, one who sings and one who raps. It needed to sound like it’s a single guy with different emotions.”

The opener, “Le Cap,” sets the table over a vigorous trap track, the perfect playground for Zoya’s percussive flow. It’s a convincing show of strength, the only equal of which is the epic, heavy closer, “Slurpee,” a hard-hitting first single that was released last summer, accompanied by a remarkably off-the-wall video.

Between those two poles, the artist stays closer to his emotions, as on “Pillz,”, his favourite song on the EP. “I used specific moments from my break-ups of the last five years and gathered them in one song,” says Zoya. “I wanted to create a narrative that truly demonstrates my vulnerability.”

Whereas he proclaims his independence on “In Da Way,” where he slays all the superficial friendships that have littered his musical journey, on “Stick by You,” Zoya delivers an amorous “statement of intent.” “I was in a pretty closed state of mind about two or three years ago,” he says. “I felt like I wasn’t able to get involved or invested in a romantic relationship because music was my priority. Things change, though, and that song is me promising to my lover that I will try anything for her. ‘This is gonna be fucked up, I can’t predict the future, but I’ll give you the best of who I am.’”

Elsewhere, on “Patience,” the singing rapper reflects on his relationship with happiness, with surprising philosophical insight. “Every time I think of joy, I lose a little,” he confesses on the song. “I rarely have a good feeling when I experience a good moment,” he says. “It’s like, as soon as I realize it’s a good moment, I start enumerating everything that’s wrong about it.”

Even though Zoya is aiming for an international career, he’s careful to avoid chasing instant happiness or success. To him, the road to glory or, as he puts it, “maximum fulfillment,” is more important than the end itself. “I was always looking forward to the plane ride when I’d visit my family in South Africa,” he explains. “Once there, the excitement subsided, and my destination became my new normal.

“I want my career to be that exciting ride before I get somewhere, no matter where that is.”


Matt Maw, director and lead artist manager for new Indigenous-owned and operated management and record label Red Music Rising, found out about his First Nations heritage when he was four. But he didn’t start investigating what it meant until much later in life.

Maw, now 32, was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, but his mother’s side of the family are Chippewas of The Thames First Nation. “We had no inherent connection to our cultural heritage until we reconnected with my mother’s family,” says Maw, an only child, whose father is white.  “It was something that both of us were excited about.

“For a long time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, because I hadn’t started examining the process of my own cultural history, and then subsequently exploring what reclaiming my cultural history and my Indigeneity looked like,” Maw explains.

Until such time, Maw immersed himself in another passion that wound up shaping his life and career path – music. He took piano lessons from an early age and sang in the choir through high school. He then moved to Toronto to attend Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts (now Randolph College), studying music performance and theatre. While he quickly realized he wasn’t cut out for performing, he was still really passionate about music.

Maw returned to Waterloo and managed a Sunrise Records in a mall, booked some local shows for bands, and occasionally deejayed. A graduate of Harris Institute told him about the music business and tech school. A few months later, he was back in Toronto, and started at Harris.  “It was fastest year of my life,” he says. “I learned a lot.”

“My primary focus with Red Music Rising is to assist Indigenous artists and Indigenous people”

From mid-2012 until the start of 2013, he held two simultaneous internships, one at Arts & Crafts. “To be able to peek behind the curtain and see how they operated was special,” he says. He also worked for a spell at Vapor Music Group (now Vapor RMG), a studio, and music licensing and jingle company.

Maw’s first paid job was in 2014 with Collective Concerts, which provided a “crash course in the world of live music and running multiple venues [The Horseshoe Tavern, Lee’s Palace, Danforth Music Hall] and programming,” working as social media and marketing manager, as well as a production manager. “Working out of the back of the Horseshoe and seeing all my favourite bands come through, and soundcheck seven feet from my desk, was an absolute dream come true,” he adds.

After 15 months, Maw accepted a position as label manager of newly formed Home Music Co., a partnership between Nettwerk and Marked Music’s Khaled Verjee and Andrew Kennedy, after they purchased and re-branded Bumstead Records. Maw, who signed BANNERS and DYLYN during his two-plus years there, calls that stint “an expedited education from a Canadian label perspective.”

By that time, Maw says, “Things stated to percolate in the Indigenous music scene. I was a white-looking Indigenous person working in the music industry, and A Tribe Called Red were making waves and gaining attention with the music industry, and bringing issues to light and making an impact socially and musically.”

APTN reached out to offer him a full scholarship to attend the eight-week Artist Entrepreneur program, put on by Coalition Music’s Canada’s Music Incubator. “My cultural and personal and professional life up until that point had been fairly separate,” says Maw. Through the CMI course, he met Indigenous music industry veteran Alan Greyeyes, who in turn introduced him to Jarret Martineau, co-founder of the Indigenous-run Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) Records, who offered him an eight-month contract in the Fall of 2017 as label manager.

“This is what I needed to be doing,” says Maw. “I needed to take all of what I’d learned in my mainstream, predominantly white industry, and the knowledge and the reputation that I’d built, and the network, and apply it to help accelerate and proliferate Indigenous artists, but also the Indigenous industry within music.”

When he finished at RPM, in May 2018, he started working as an artist manager associate for Six Shooter Records, whose roster includes Tanya Tagaq, Riit, and, at the time, The Jerry Cans. He left in March of 2020, and by June had been offered this “dream job” running Red Music Rising – a partnership between Coalition Music and The Aboriginal People’s Television Network, via APTN’s holding company Dadan Sivunivut.

“The way that I’ve been describing Red Music Rising is it is a holistic music company,” says Maw. “We’re artist managers, but we’re also a full-scale record label.” There are other Indigenous labels in Canada, such as Sweetgrass, Hitmakerz, Aakuluk, Moon, Musique Nomade, and, the aforementioned RPM, but Maw says he wants to take what he learned at Arts & Crafts and apply it.

“Ethos-wise, the sense of community that they managed to foster was so integral to how they grew as a brand and how their acts were branded,” he says. “I think that’s vitally important, and is something I’m striving to create with Red Music Rising.”

His first management signing  is producer/artist and cultural educator Boogey The Beat, whose contemporary EDM samples powwow singers, but “chopping and screwing and making big-stage festival dance music with it.” On the label front, in late October RMR released a single by the artist Drives The Common Man called “Night Vision,” and on Friday, Nov. 6, iskwē and Tom Wilson (featuring Chuck Copenace) released a collaborative single, “Blue Moon Drive.”

So far, he’s been finding artists through existing relationships. “It just comes down to community and word of mouth and networking,” says Maw. “I’m hearing from people from all across the country who are making vastly different-sounding music, who are reaching out to work together, or to collaborate in some capacity with artists that I’m already working with.”

And how does his mom feel about him exploring his Indigenous side of the family and integrating it into his career?

“She repeatedly lets me know how proud she is that I’m reclaiming my own identity, and my own culture,” says Maw. “But also, that my primary focus with Red Music Rising encapsulates what I want my life’s work to be – to assist Indigenous artists and Indigenous people in general.”

Releasing a record is rarely easy, even at the best of times. But amidst a pandemic where touring isn’t an option, musicians have faced unexpected challenges.

Ron Hawkins: Creative live-streaming, supporting causes

Ron Hawkins, Do Good Assassins

Ron Hawkins with/avec the Do Good Assassins. Photo: Robert Ciolfi

Ron Hawkins’ latest album, 246, was set for release on Warner Canada, but the pandemic had other plans.

“Warner had signed on to release it, which was a surreal thrill due to the fact that the record was made on a four-track cassette recorder from 1985,” explains the longtime singer-songwriter, perhaps best known for his early work fronting Lowest of the Low. “I just loved that weird contradiction – a major [label] releasing a very scrappy DIY record made in our drummer’s living room. [But] because we couldn’t do support shows or make physical copies – factories were closed down due to COVID at that time—we decided it made more sense to release it as the truly independent beast it was.”

The prolific musician – who’s been consistently releasing music since 1991 – figured that this surreal time was actually the perfect moment to launch the album. “I figured it would be interesting to see what would happen with a ‘captive’ audience,” he says. “Would people be too distracted and bummed out to pay attention? Or would they be even more eager to get something new, that felt at least in part like our normal pre-COVID lives?”

There have been drawbacks, and fans still want the hard copies – particularly vinyl – but with the complete support of his team, he’s forged ahead, promoting the album via live-streaming on his “Tommy Douglas Tuesdays” since April.

“It’s been an opportunity to plug the new record, but early on in the pandemic, I was using it as a means of activism,” says Hawkins. “Directing people who were attempting to send me money via a ‘tip jar’ or PayPal to instead send their money to different causes: from PPE drives at hospitals, to alternative policing methods like the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg, Black Lives Matter, women’s shelters. Many women found themselves isolated, and even trapped, with their abusers due to the pandemic. I would hold up homemade cardboard signs with the causes on them.

“Live-streaming has also been a way to tell stories about the songs and ‘making-of’ stories about albums… I spent the first 11 weeks doing a ‘no repeat’ trip through my entire catalogue. I think it ended up around 220 songs, or so. So not only have I leaned into the weirdness of the live-stream world, but I wonder how I will replace that intimacy once we get back to doing live shows in bars and venues.”


Hannah Georgas: Twitch & Zoom

Hannah Georgas

Photo: Vanessa Heins

“Touring is a big part of promoting an album for me, so without that piece of the puzzle in place, things do feel strange,” admits Hannah Georgas, weeks after releasing All That Emotion. “I felt like it had been so long since I put out my own material that it was time, [and] I do think people want to listen to music right now more than ever.”

Georgas has leaned into virtual music-making. on Oct. 20, she collaborated with Amazon on Twitch. She’s live-streamed a show with her band, making it her first proper 2020 concert. She’s also enjoyed Zoom chats with fans. All of this has pushed her creatively.  “I’ve gotten savvy, and created a lot of video content on my own,” she says. “It’s felt rewarding to take things into my own hands, and also challenging.”







Dione Taylor: Video snippets, social conscience

Dione Taylor

Photo: Crillaphoto

On the heels of her latest release Spirits in the Water, Dione Taylor, got creative as well.

“I have never done TikTok,” Taylor says with a chuckle. “Probably the biggest thing we’re doing is live-streaming. We [also] spent last week handing out, and creating, packages of CDs. We’ve created a video for every single track on the record. We couldn’t do the videos that we wanted to because of COVID, so we made really fun, tiny little ‘snippet’ videos. People really seem to dig it, and they love the songs, so it’s another way to connect with people.”

Behind the drive to get Spirits into fans hands is that even though the “energy exchange” that live performances bring is absent, the album’s theme’s addressing Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights, and equality, are ones Taylor believes people need to hear right now. “Now that we’re all kind of stuck at home and forced to deal with these issues,” she says, “I really feel that the lyrics to a bunch of the songs I’ve written have really, really resonated with people and what’s happening globally. What’s happening personally. And what’s happening collectively.”




Daniela Andrade: YouTube visuals, mirroring the world

Daniela Andrade

Photo: Jean François Sauvé

“At first I really didn’t think it was a good time to release a project,” says Daniela Andrade, who’s just released Nothing Much Has Changed, I Don’t Feel the Same. “Things got so heavy for everyone and it felt indulgent to promote anything other than useful information to get by. However, I started to feel like I needed to put something out for my own sanity. I always hope my music can be of some respite. Music continues to be a space I come back to, and feel safe in.”

Andrade, who boasts nearly two million YouTube subscribers, says that the visuals remain her most direct route to fans.  “Tying my work to visuals has been really important from the start,” she explains. “I try to bring my audience into the world of the project through [the] music videos. And it seems to be working.”

In spite of this social media success, it’s the music she still hopes leaves the biggest impact. “What stands the test of time are things from honest places,” says Andrade. “I think as artists our job is to process and mirror the world around us, and say things that need to be said.”