Music News Digest, Dec. 7, 2020

Emanuel (pictured) signs to Motown Records, Toronto musicians rally in support of the unhoused, and The Funk Hunters are certified Road Gold. Also in the news are Jon Box, Indie Weekly, The Weeknd, Evergreen Festival, Music BC, Glass Tiger, Cat Clyde, Micah Barnes, Stephan Moccio, Gowan and Stuck On Planet Earth, Kandle, Kaytranada, Tanya Tagaq, and farewell Andre Gagnon, Denise Jones, and Dick Alen.

Music News Digest, Dec. 7, 2020

By Kerry Doole

Toronto R&B singer-songwriter and UMC artist Emanuel has had a momentous week. Hot on the heels of the release of his Session 2: Transformation EP (via Universal Music Canada) came the news that he has just signed with famed label Motown Records. Ethiopia Habtemariam, Motown Records President and EVP of Capitol Music Group, states in a press release that “Emanuel is an incredibly introspective and emotional artist. I’m deeply moved by his captivating voice and beautiful artistry. We’re excited to welcome him to the Motown roster and help amplify his sound and message.”

Spotify selected Emanuel to be the first ever Canadian artist chosen for Spotify’s On The Radar program earlier this year, and the company erected a billboard in NYC’s Times Square to celebrate the release of the new EP.


– In a show of optimism that live music can return in 2021, Montreal’s OSHEAGA Music and Arts Festival has announced that its 15th edition returns to Parc Jean-Drapeau for a three-day event, July 30-Aug. 1. Headliners named are Foo Fighters, Cardi B, and Post Malone. Organisers promise that all Covid-19 protocols will be followed. Tickets on sale now here.

– More than 360 Toronto-based musicians, including members of Feist, US Girls, Broken Social Scene, Alvvays, Fiver and PUP, have signed a statement in support of unhoused people living in encampments around the city. Addressed to members of Toronto City Council, the public statement calls for an immediate moratorium on encampment clearings in Toronto, and for the city not to confiscate survival equipment-- including Tiny Shelters, foam domes, and tents-- from people living outdoors. The musicians make their statement of solidarity alongside the Encampment Support Network (ESN), which has been delivering aid to unhoused people in Toronto since July. Along with an immediate moratorium on encampment evictions, the ESN is calling for 2K new shelter-hotel rooms to be opened in the next four months, and for the city to distribute survival supplies and fire safety equipment to encampments. Read the full statement here


CIMA has announced that The Funk Hunters have received Road Gold certification, in recognition of exceeding 25,000 ticket sales domestically, in the last year. Road Gold is a certification program that celebrates and acknowledges Canada’s hard-working touring artists and bands. The Certification is dedicated to The Funk Hunters 2019 Typecast Tour, and they're the first electronic band to obtain this status. In addition to domestic touring, this same year also saw the DJ duo perform internationally in Australasia and the US, including a return visit to Coachella.

– The memory of popular music industry figure Jon Box is honoured by Six Shooter in their Jon Box Sox charity initiative, a winter sock drive.  Last year SS worked with artists, labels, distributors, publishers, and independent record stores across Canada and gathered 1094 pairs of socks that were donated to shelters and drop-in centres in over 15 communities across Canada. This year, donations of a minimum of $100 to Mission Services London and/or Red Door Family Shelter in Toronto are requested, and in return you'll receive a pair of 2020 Jon Box Sox to your home. More info here.


– Indie Weekly session #19 takes place on Dec. 8, at 4 pm EST. The free live-stream features Karen Allen (Twitch for Musicians) and Unison Benevolent Fund's Sarah Hagerman, plus a musical guest. Register here.

– The Weeknd has recruited Spanish pop star Rosalía for a remix of his After Hours track and mega-hit, Blinding Lights. The Weeknd teased the collaboration on Dec. 3 on Twitter, when he posted a photo with her. Listen to the new version of Blinding Lights below. 


– An impressive line-up of Nova Scotia talent is featured this month as part of the Evergreen Festival. Performances are scheduled on Fridays from 6-9 pm, Saturdays from 1-4:40 pm and 7-9 pm and Sundays from 1-5:40 pm until Dec. 20. More info here

– Music BC and Snakes x Ladders are looking for BC-based music companies and/or music professionals to apply to take part in a virtual trade mission to India happening in late Jan. 2021. It's an opportunity to build relationships with labels, managers, promoters, publishers, festivals, PR, and music marketing companies in the South Asian markets.  Apply here by Dec. 11. 

– Glass Tiger's recently released seasonal offering, Songs For A Winter’s Night, features such notable guests as Gordon Lightfoot, Roch Voisine, Natalie MacMaster, Isabel Bayrakdarian, and the Steve Sidwell Orchestra. The group will be performing with Roch Voisine as part of Noël Symphonique on Dec. 20 and 25, alongside La Maison Symphonique de Montréal and other vocalists. The Christmas special can be viewed both digitally (Video On Demand) and on television (TVA) in Quebec on those two evenings.

– Ontario-based LOFT Community Services presents its 30th annual Home for the Holidays benefit concert as a live-streamed event on Dec. 10 at 7.30 pm EST. Jazz star Micah Barnes serves as artistic director, co-hosts (with Tabby Johnson), and headlines. He also performs with The Gospel Quartet, alongside former Nylons comrades Billy Newton-Davis, Jeremiah Sparks, and Mark Cassius. Pre-recorded from Koerner Hall, the event will also feature performances from Jackie Richardson, Hogtown Brass, Vanessa Sears, Thom Allison, and more. Tix here.

– Pianist, composer and hit songwriter Stephan Moccio (Celine Dion, Sarah Brightman) has released a new seasonal song, Christmas Will Be Different This Year, a collaboration with GaryLevox (of Rascal Flatts). Moccio released two studio albums on Decca Records, Tales of Solace and Winter Poems, this past Aug. and Nov. respectively - combining for a total of over 70m streams worldwide (plus 189m total streams on Pandora of his earlier albums).


– Can You Make It Feel Like Christmas, a new track from Gowan and Toronto alt-rockers Stuck On Planet Earth, is now out via Anthem Records/Anthem Entertainment. Of the song, Gowan says in a press release,“ I wanted to capture the essence of the holiday spirit, while at the same time acknowledging the impact of 2020 and the fact that this will be a Christmas like no other."

– Hotly-tipped Ontario folk/roots singer/songwriter Cat Clyde will be streaming a live performance from Toronto venue Velvet Underground on Dec. 15 (6-8 pm). Tickets here. $1 from every ticket goes to the Indigenous Environmental Network. The show is part of the Jim Beam Bourbon Presents Live from Inside showcase series.

– Kandle has released a new original holiday song, Christmas Mourn, a co-write with Debra-Jean Creelman (a founding member of Mother Mother). "The only thing that can help folks like us to deal with the loneliness of a Covid Christmas, is to attempt to write our very own Christmas Classic,” says Kandle. Streaming links here.


– Three-time Grammy-winning musician Robert Glasper has teamed up with 2021 Best New Artist Grammy-nominee, Kaytranada to deliver a remix of the 2021 Grammy-nominated (for Best R&B Song) track, Better Than I Imagined. The original version of the track, a preview of Glasper’s upcoming album, Black Radio 3, features R&B chanteuse, H.E.R., and Meshell Ndegeocello.

– Microclimat Films has announced that Tanya Tagaq and Jean Martin (the longtime drummer in her band) will compose the original score of Caroline Monnet’s first feature film Bootlegger. The Canadian film is being shot in Anishinabemowin and French.


Andre Gagnon, an internationally successful Quebec pianist and composer, died Nov. 3 at the age of 84 from Lewy body disease, a neurodegenerative disorder. The news was reported by his record label Audiogram.

During a career spanning 40 years, Gagnon embraced many styles from baroque, to classical and disco.

Born in Saint-Pâcome-de-Kamouraska, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, Gagnon composed from the age of six. After attending the Montreal Conservatory of Music, he studied in Paris after obtaining a grant from the Quebec government.

The following year, in 1962, the jack-of-all-trades musician became Claude Léveillée’s official accompanist until 1969. He also worked with other singers, including Jacques Blanchet, Pierre Calve, Renée Claude, Claude Gauthier, Pauline Julien, Pierre Létourneau, and Monique Leyrac.

Gagnon focused on a solo career as a composer and arranger in 1969 and recorded The Four Seasons in London as a tribute to Vivaldi.

In 1974, André Gagnon released Saga, his first album, composed solely of original instrumental pieces. In 1975, the album Neiges stayed on the Billboard Top 10 for twenty-four weeks and sold 700,000 copies worldwide.

A subsequent album, Le Saint-Laurent, rapidly sold 100,000 copies, and, in 1979, earned him his first Félix award, in the instrumental category.

He also began to add film scores to his repertoire, among them the soundtracks to Running (1979), the John Huston film Phobia (1980), and The Hot Touch (1981), directed by Roger Vadim. Gagnon went on a world tour in 1981 to the US, Venezuela, Mexico, Greece, and Romania. During this year, he also composed original music for the film Tell Me That You Love Me, and recorded Impressions in the famous Abbey Road studio.

In February 1990, the opera Nelligan was released, for which Gagnon wrote the music. The opera was presented first at the Grand Theater of Quebec and then the Place des Arts of Montreal and finally at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Following the opera's Canadian release came the release of the studio-recorded double album, Nelligan.

In January 1992, Gagnon composed the music for the film The Pianist. In 1999, the album Juliette Pomerleau was released. In 2011, the album Les chemins ombragés was certified gold, having sold 40,000 copies.

Gagnon also composed music for many artists, such as Diane Dufresne, Renée Claude, and Nicole Martin.

He had great success in Japan, where he recorded several albums under the RCA Victor label.

Through years of shows and records, Gagnon also worked in Quebec television where he composed music for several series, and in movies, notably Claude Jutra’s Kamouraska.

Gagnon received many industry honours, including Felix, Juno and SOCAN awards. He won the Juno Award for Instrumental Artist of the Year in 1978 and 1995.

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978 and an Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2018. Sources:CP, Wikipedia

Denise Jones, the president of Jones & Jones Production Ltd. and a key figure in Jamaican-Canadian music, passed away on Dec. 3. Age and cause of death have not been reported.

Jones, a renowned event planner, concert promoter and marketer, founded the JAMBANA™, One World Festival, the second-largest Afrocentric cultural event in Canada. For over a decade, the festival celebrated Canada’s African and Caribbean communities through music, food and arts and crafts. The festival was nominated Best Festival in 2013 for the Star Awards, hosted by Canadian Special Events.

Jones was born and raised in Portland, Jamaica. She began her career in the entertainment industry in Jamaica as a performer, appearing in a number of on-stage productions and the National Pantomime prior to migrating to Canada.

She settled in Sudbury Ontario and began promotional work there before relocating to Toronto.

Founded in 1987 by Allan and Denise Jones, Jones & Jones made its name as one of Canada's leading music promotions, management and marketing companies, producing over 30 concerts, plays and a Talent Search competition annually, and offering an array of services to performing artists. 

Artists Jones managed included Juno-winning reggae star Exco Levi,  who posted a heartfelt tribute to Jones on social media Friday. He stated, “I am sad to announce the passing of Denise Jones, my brilliant manager, friend, mother and teacher for almost 10 years. I started performing for her shows in 2007, just after migrating to Canada, and five years later, I was honoured to call her my manager, until her recent passing."

Jones was the founding chair of the Reggae category of the Juno Awards and supported the Canadian music industry through the Rhythm Canada Talent Agency, which she established in 1990. She also hosted shows on Toronto radio station CIUT 89.5.

In 2004, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Urban Music Association of Canada, for her contribution to the development of the Canadian music industry.

Jones served as Vice President Education and Vice President Marketing of CanSPEP, the Canadian Association Of Special Event Planners. 

As a member of the Brampton Board of Trade Jones served on the Board of Directors, and the Membership and Diversity committee. She was also a member of Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation and sat on the board of Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation of Canada.

On Facebook, Allan Reid (CARAS/the Junos) posted that "Denise Jones was a legend in the reggae community and our paths crossed many times over the 30 years I've been in Toronto. She was the founding Chair of the Reggae Committee for the Juno Awards and championed many artists including 5-time Juno-winner Exco Levi."

Her passing was also noted in Jamaica. The Hon. Olivia "Babsy" Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, posted on social media that "I am saddened by the passing of Denise Jones and join with the Jamaican community across the greater Toronto area in mourning her loss. 

Her community involvement allowed her the opportunity to lend support to a number of initiatives across the Jamaican Diaspora in Toronto Canada as well as in Jamaica.

I have always been impressed with Denise’s commitment to promoting Jamaica and its culture, and the passion she displayed throughout all her endeavours to “get it right” and to make people enjoy themselves. Whether you are a Jamaican or non-Jamaican, her passing will certainly leave a void in the Jamaican community, not only in the area of entertainment and events but also in community involvement. I will surely miss her." 

Sources:  g98.7, Olivia Grange, Allan Reid, Jamaica Gleaner

Dick Alen, a music agent renowned for a six-decade-plus career that included representing icons like Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, died of natural causes Nov. 27. He was 89.

Before Alen retired in 2010, he spent the last 39 years of his career at what was formerly the William Morris Agency and later William Morris Endeavor. Starting work there in 1971, he eventually became senior VP and had a five-year stint as head of the agency’s music division, where he was credited with bringing more country, Latin and Contemporary Christian artists to the company.

But he had a thriving career for nearly 20 years before he ever joined William Morris. Among his early triumphs was signing Berry in the early 1950s when the seminal rocker was still on Chess Records. He continued to represent Berry for more than 50 years. Alen was an honorary pallbearer at the star’s funeral in 2017, as he was when Franklin died the following year.

Others whom Alen represented over the years included Ray Charles, James Brown, Rod Stewart, Hank Williams Jr., Tom Jones, Fats Domino, Cheech & Chong, and Barry White.

Early in his career, as co-owner of Universal Attractions, he represented Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, James Brown, and Johnny Taylor, as well as Berry and Little Richard.

On the road, Alen was described as instrumental in setting up the bookings that had the nascent Rolling Stones opening for Berry and the Beatles doing the same for their idol Little Richard. Source: Variety

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