Music News Digest, April 15, 2020

Tory Lanez (pictured) parts ways with his label, Creative BC launches an online music hub, and Drake attracts flak. Others in the news include Franglais rappers, FACTOR, Lady Gaga, Deane Cameron, Skye Wallace, Madeline Merlo, Joel Plaskett, Burton Cummings, RBT, Sunrise Records, The Choir of Women Physicians, H.E.R., Lennon Stella, The Washboard Union, Harrow Fair, and farewell Andy González, Aziz Abdi, and Onaje Allan Gumbs. With video.

Music News Digest, April 15, 2020

By FYI Staff

On April 10, Toronto hip-hop/R&B star Tory Lanez released a mixtape, The New Toronto 3, and announced that he has parted ways with his label, Interscope. “I’m off the label .. literally a free man!! Free to do and drop the music that I want,” he tweeted. Lanez’s manager, Sascha Stone, confirmed the news, tweeting that “Tory Lanez is now an independent artist. The New Toronto is trending worldwide, with a No. 1 spot on the album chart. Hate him or love him, you certainly can no longer dismiss him." Lanez has been making a splash on Instagram Live with his raunchy Quarantine Radio. The show was temporarily shut down last week after violating Instagram’s community guidelines but is expected back.


– BC Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare announced Saturday that the government has partnered with Creative BC to launch Showcase BC., an online music hub that will provide live performances, entertainment, content and smallish grants to help BC musicians during the pandemic. Those interested can watch live streaming content at Creative BC president Prem Gill says the program is a response to help the province’s musicians stream and generate revenue online. the program supports BC artists that have previously submitted complete and eligible applications to Amplify BC programs, but does not support new applicants. 

– The so-called 6ix God, Drake, is rarely criticized in his hometown, but the pandemic situation is changing that. In an opinion piece in The Toronto Star Sunday, Vinney Wong dissed the “tone-deaf” tone of Drake’s self-aggrandizing Toosie Slide video, stating that “Drake has yet to use his influence and wealth to make a difference despite his ability to manipulate social media for his own gain… Drake has never put Toronto first when the city needs him most.” Also attracting flak and derision is a  feature in Architectural Digest describing his extravagant (many say garish) new Toronto mansion that he's dubbed The Embassy.


– New York Times reporter Dan Bilefsky waxes poetic about Franglais rappers who are pushing language boundaries in Quebec: "They meld the language of Shakespeare and Voltaire with the urban poetry of Montreal’s street life and the bling-bling, drug-fueled themes of some American hip-hop." He also adds that "critics in Montreal say hip-hop artists mixing French and English are threatening the future of the French language in the majority Francophone province." Some of these artists have missed out on provincial funding for breaking language protocols. Those interviewed for the story include Snail Kid, of The Dead Obies, and FouKi.

– FACTOR has launched the Songwriter Development Program that offers a $2K subsidy toward a year of various songwriting initiatives such as travel for co-writing sessions, songwriting camps and workshops, and eligible showcases. For details about the program, eligibility criteria, and application process check the program guidelines here 

– Lady Antebellum's new song Champagne Night is in fact a re-titled I’ll Drink To That co-written and performed by singer-songwriter Madeline Merlo. The Canadian artist was a contestant on Monday night's (April 14) episode of Songland, one of four writers to pitch songs to the country trio and advisors Shane McAnally, Ester Dean and Ryan Tedder. Below, the video with the band and Merlo debuting the song.


Pheromone Recordings’ topper Kim Cooke writes the column to inform us that “the incomparable Joel Plaskett – alright I’m biased – has written and recorded a new song for the front-line workers of the pandemic.  It debuts tonight, Wednesday, on CBC TV’s The National.  Just in case you’re on the couch like me and the rest of the country.”


– If you happen to have looked at the Nielsen Market Watch report for last week you will have undoubtedly noticed that CD and LP sales have tanked. The reason beyond the obvious for this is in the fact that Sunrise Records, the dominant retailer in Canada, has not only temporarily closed its stores nationwide but also taken the unusual step of doing the same with its online fulfilment centre. No explanation is offered as to why. Best Buy continues to stock a small Top Con selection of CDs and Amazon has said it will resume shipping new CD and vinyl titles from third-party sellers.

– Toronto singer/songwriter Rosanne Baker Thornley and visual artist Pirkko Saari recently hatched a song video recorded live off her living room floor that combines clips from 39 remote participants from across Canada, the US, UK and Ethiopia. The common thread - everyone recorded with their phones at home. The message - stay home - but also for those who can, the message is to give. Online donations can mean the difference between life and death. All proceeds from the sales will be given to the Global Foodbanking Network (GFN). The fundraising song video is called Indiana Jones.

– The cover of the Rolling Stone has always been coveted. Hell, Dr. Hook even had itself a hit with a song saying just as much. The latest icon to grace the cover is Andrew Cuomo. Mark Binelli writes: “The governor of New York found himself at the center of a deadly crisis. His response has helped guide the nation.”

Retired broadcaster turned newsletter publisher Warren Cosford has helped to give new skin to an old testament, namely Wheatfield Soul, a 49-minute CBC doc about Burton Cummings’ relationship with Winnipeg, pulled together in 1992. It’s a classic, starting with host Peter Jordan’s evident mullet.


– The Lady Gaga-led One World: Together at Home event in support of the WHO and Global Citizen event has expanded. Newly announced performers for the April 18 virtual concert series include Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, LL Cool J, Oprah Winfrey, Pharrell Williams, Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift, Usher and Victoria Beckham. The  than $35 million to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Source: Billboard

– Last October, the late Deane Cameron was honoured with a new MusiCounts Scholarship with the support of Warner, Sony, and Universal. The bursary targets young professionals completing post-secondary studies in the areas of music performance, music business, or music production, and who plan to enter the workforce within the next 12 months. Reflecting Cameron’s long-standing support for Indigenous communities and programs, $15K has been pledged to the Program, to ensure that these youths can receive a MusiCounts Scholarship in 2020. Applications are now open. More info here

– The Oshawa Music Awards (OMA) has named Long & McQuade’s Kevin Simpson and Jayson Callan as Music Industry Leaders of the Year at an online Awards show April 11. The Spoons' Sandy Horne hosted. Skye Wallace earned an honour in the category of Album of the Year (for her 2019 self-titled release).


Voices Rock Canada Choir of Women Physicians' new version of Rise Again is a "tribute to the superheroes of Canadian healthcare" that is seizing attention for its positive message in these pandemic times. This song, originally recorded by the Rankin Family, was written for a 1984 stage musical, The Rise and Follies of Cape Breton, by Leon Dubinsky, a songwriter from Sydney, NS, as an anthem of resilience and hope at a time when Cape Breton Island was going through an economic crisis.

– Double Grammy winner H.E.R. is collaborating with Amazon Music to raise donations for the MusiCares Covid-19 Relief Fund. For 24 hours on Monday, Amazon Music made a donation for every view of H.E.R.’s weekly Instagram Live series (@hermusicofficial_), Girls With Guitars, up to a total of $30K. H.E.R. kicked off the performance and conversation series on April 6 with special guests Tori Kelly and Alessia Cara.

– Rising Canadian star Lennon Stella has announced the postponement of her 2020 North American tour. Details of the rescheduled dates will follow. She has also released a new song and video, Fear of Being Alone, from her April 24 debut album, Three. Two. One.

– Canadian country faves The Washboard Union releases a new album, Everbound, on April 24. This is the follow up to their 2018 album What We’re Made Of, which led the band to a Juno win for Breakthrough Group of the Year and multiple CCMA Award wins including Group/Duo of the Year and Roots Album of the Year.

– The Winnipeg Folk Festival has put the kibosh on this year's jamboree that had been set for July 9-12 at Birds Hill Park, It is formally been cancelled and not postponed.

– Roots duo Harrow Fair (Miranda Mulholland and Andrew Penner) releases a sophomore album, Sins We Made, this Friday (April 17). In lieu of an album release show, HF hosts an Interactive Listening Party at 5 pm EST that day. Facebook Event info here 


Andy González, an NYC-based bassist and bandleader, died on April 9, at age 68.

Gonzalez followed in the footsteps of seminal Latin players like Israel “Cachao” López and Bobby Rodriguez, eventually joining their ranks as one of the most important figures on the instrument.

His work in three groups that he co-led — Grupo Folklórico Y Experímental Nuevayorquíno; Conjunto Libre, with percussionist Manny Oquendo; and the Fort Apache Band, with his brother, the late percussionist and trumpeter Jerry Gonzalez — was prolific and historic. Each served as a testament to the musical identity of the Puerto Rican experience in New York City, showing the influence of jazz and Afro-Cuban music in ways that became defined as Nuyorican. He was termed a "titan of tumbao."

He was not limited to salsa-based dates, as he would be called upon by artists including David Byrne, Kip Hanrahan, Dizzy Gillespie and Astor Piazzolla for his expertise on both acoustic and Ampeg baby bass. Source: WBGO

Aziz Abdi (Kilambo), a Kenyan band leader, singer and guitarist musician, died on April 11, of a heart condition, age 67.

He formed  Benga Africa Group in 1991 and recorded his hit songs, Sina Kazi,  Amri Kumi and Matata Sipendelei. He later headed Ngoma Afrika, but had long retired from performing live music and had been battling diabetes and hypertension in and out of the hospital.

He will be remembered for his contribution to the development of a Kenyan rhumba style and mostly singing in the national language, Kiswahili. Source: Daily Nation

Onaje Allan Gumbs, a respected pianist, composer and arranger who was a trusted right-hand man for stars across musical styles, died on April 6, at age 70. No cause of death has been given.

By his mid-20s, Gumbs was already a close collaborator with, among others,  Phyllis Hyman, the soul singer; Norman Connors, a jazz drummer who crossed over into R&B stardom; Stanley Jordan, the fusion guitarist; and Woody Shaw, the post-bop trumpeter.

The New York Times states that “Mr. Gumbs’s devotion to musical ecumenism was borne out not only by his extensive résumé but also by the various albums he made under his own name. They ranged from luminous solo piano efforts like Onaje (1977) to That Special Part of Me (1988), which featured a mix of kinetic dance music and lilting balladry and broke the Top 10 on Billboard’s jazz albums chart, to the straight-ahead jazz of Return to Form (2000), recorded live at the Blue Note in New York. Source: NYT

Vanessa Heins


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