The struggle for black music in Canada

 
The 2013 Juno Awards (Canada's Grammys) were recently held in Regina, Canada. At one time, these awards were "white on white, in white."
 
Africans in Canada, like Africans everywhere have created music. Music is only one of our contributions to humanity.
 
Fighting for access to the airwaves
 
Toronto has had two African-owned radio stations. The first, Flow 93.5 was sold after only four years. It was in the control of black hands from 2001 until 2005; however, it never delivered what the African community wanted.
 
Milestone Radio initially called for a black radio station. Because of my history, I was hired by Milestone Radio to win support from Toronto's diverse African community. That is how I sold it. However, in 1990, Milestone Radio applied to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for an urban music station.
 
They were passed over for a country station. In 1997, they were again passed over in favor of CBLA, the city's existing Radio One station, which the CBC wanted to move to FM for technical reasons.
 
The station G98.7 FM is the newest kid on the radio block.
 
Fitzroy Gordon is their prime mover. Gordon has more than 20 years of experience in Canadian broadcasting.
 
He held roles as a sports reporter, talk show host, R&B/Gospel music host, television call-in show host and President/CEO of GCI Radio (a carrier of international live sports, talk and music programs).
 
He made a name for himself in sports. Most people love G98.7's musical mix of R&B, reggae, calypso and African beat.
 
The problem is their spoken word programming. Gordon is man with a double consciousness. He is an "amen, hallelujah, thank you Jesus" type of guy who is loyal to Stephen Harper's Conservative party.
 
He supports the status quo. Many who listen to his Sunday talk show, Grapevine, complain that he doesn't know communism from rheumatism.
 
Toronto is a talk radio town and Africans call these stations to discuss everything from hockey to science.
 
Black Music Association promotes unity of African music
 
When broadcaster and community activist Milton Blake and this writer created the Black Music Association's (BMA) Toronto Chapter in 1984, it was our intention to plug African-Canadian music-makers into the international music market.
 
At that time, only jazz pianist Oscar Peterson had penetrated the global market. Most observers of Canadian Black Music credit Norman Granz, a Euro-American, and not the Canadian industry with Peterson's success.
 
Blake and I were well aware of this fact and sought to correct it. We sat down with Salome Bey, Garth White, Diane Liverpool, Francis Omoruyi, Daryl Auwai, Wayne Lawson, P.V. Smith, Xola Lololi and Chris Thomas, and formed the Toronto Chapter of the Black Music Association.
 
The Toronto arm of the BMA was all-African from its inception. We were never a "tribal" group.
 
Our leadership was made up of people from Africa, the Caribbean and North America.
 
The BMA in Toronto and the New York City Chapter distinguished itself from many of the other chapters in the BMA by supporting the United Nations sanctioned cultural boycott of South Africa.
 
We held a demonstration involving 300 musicians and friends to prove our point. Most members of the African Canadian community supported the cultural boycott, although another black music group criticized the BMA for its stand.
 
Our chapter supported the efforts of Dick Griffey, head of Solar Records and the Chairman of the BMA to have our convention in Nigeria.
 
Not all members of the BMA wanted to visit the Motherland. Some BMA members were of the opinion that "I ain't left nothin' in Africa."
 
We in the Toronto Chapter quoted El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) and reminded them, "You left your mind in Africa.”
 
For a variety of reasons, the convention never took place in Nigeria.
 
I did visit the Motherland in 1990 for the first time. I traveled to Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and the Kalakuta Republic (Fela's House).
 
The trip convinced me that the roots of our music were indeed from and in Africa.
 
The BMA's Toronto Chapter fought vigorously for black music categories to be included in Canada’s most prestigious awards, the Junos.
 
We lobbied the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), beginning in 1984, and submitted a brief on February 7, 1985.
 
We always paid tribute to African political and musical icons like Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley and Sam Cooke.
 
The BMA held workshops and seminars on various music-related topics and showcased local talent like Carlos Morgan, Djanet Sears, Itah Sadu, Adrian Miller, Jayson, Josiah, Lorraine Scott, George Banton and Glen Ricketts (father of Glenn Lewis).
 
We produced a compilation cassette of local artists like Clifton Joseph and others. The cassette was manufactured by RCA Canada thanks to Larry McRae.
 
Since the formation of the BMA, Canadian black music has grown.
 
Toronto mayor David Miller declared himself a jazz and blues man at a news conference for a celebration on the 25th anniversary of Black Music Month in 2004.
 
Former mayor Barbara Hall also confessed that she is a fan of African rhythms.
 
Today the late Oscar Peterson, Dan Hill, Drake, Tamia, Deborah Cox and Glenn Lewis are bona fide international stars.
 
Canadian hip-hop and R&B artists like Kardinal Offishall, Devine Brown, Jully Black, Saukrates, Choclair and Wade O. Brown are emerging on the global scene.
 
Other veterans like Archie Alleyne, Salome Bey, Eric Mercury, Jay Douglas, Glen Ricketts, Lazo, Michee Mee, Maestro, King Cosmos, Jayson, Macomere Fifi, Tiki Mercury-Clarke, Eddie Bullen, Kingsley Etienne and Jo Jo Bennett and the Satellites still make music in the city.
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