Photo collage of musicians Header: Left to right: Robert Ball, Malaika Khadijaa, The OBGMs, Scott Zhang (monsune).

Staff Picks: Music to Keep on Keeping On

August 19, 2021
Photo collage of musicians
Header: Left to right: Robert Ball, Malaika Khadijaa, The OBGMs, Scott Zhang (monsune).

Let’s take a moment to shout out some incredible Ontario-born or based musicians. Check out this list of favourites from our Program Associate, Breanne Ritchie!

The tone, lyrics, and emotions in these songs and albums have made her pandemic a little bit easier. Have fun scrolling through and then put on some jams, take a walk, or dance around in your kitchen—and enjoy!

Robert Ball, I Need A Man
Born in Toronto, Robert Ball is a multi-faceted singer/songwriter with a soulful voice and jazz sensibilities. Inspired by everything from Broadway, pop and world music, to R&B and country, Ball has toured the world. On his new single, “I Need A Man”, Robert shares, “There are so few examples of ‘this’ type of vulnerability, tenderness and intimacy from Black men.” | @robertballmusic

DESIIRE is a Congo-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter who delivers a unique blend of R&B, Afro, Electronic & Hip Hop to create music that is filled with hypnotic instrumentals and vocal moody simplicity. Recently, he joined Canadian Queer artists, Charlotte Day Wilson and Lido Pimienta in Spotify’s global official Pride campaign “Unlike Any Other”. | @desiirenow

monsune, Tradition
Monsune is the stage name of Scott Zhang, a Canadian indie pop and synthpop musician from Toronto, Ontario. He is most noted for his 2019 single “Mountain”, which was a nominee for the 2020 SOCAN Songwriting Prize. Scott considers “Mountain” his favourite song, lyrically, due to its personal nature. “I wrote that song at a time in my life where things were changing pretty rapidly and I was leaving certain habits and people and places behind.”

monsune on YouTube |

TiKA, Anywhere But Here
On releasing “Anywhere But Here”, TiKA reflects, “It took a lot of courage and 5 years to release this. I have immense gratitude to anyone who artistically releases anything into the world. I get it now. I feel seen and healed.” The artist also speaks openly about their challenges, “It’s been a very painful, eye-opening experience to learn what people’s expectations of me are. If you are a Black artist, there’s a level of perfectionism that’s expected of you. You can’t show up and be Black and just be. It’s only in the last few years that folks have started showing up as themselves.” | @withlovetika

Jordana Talsky, Zahava
On the upcoming release, Jordana shares, “I grapple with not wanting to be defined as any one thing, whether that is the type of personality, professional, or musician I am, and I wonder if I am an artist at all. I think we have different parts to our identities that are in conflict, but which can be harmonized as we grow into ourselves. I am a person of several voices, and now a choir of one. I hope something in this music may inspire you to undertake the journey to find home in yourself too.” | @jzt123

Malaika Khadijaa, Tears
Born and raised in the suburbs just outside of Toronto, Malaika Khadijaa is a first-generation Canadian that celebrates her Ugandan, Kenyan, and Antiguan roots. On pandemic anthem, “Tears”, Malaika explains it is a “song about protecting those around you who suffer from depression. When the people you love are struggling, you can oftentimes feel their emotions and energy. It’s always important to let those people know that you can feel it too and that you are there to support them no matter the circumstance.” | @malaikakhadijaa

The OBGMs, The Ends
Densil McFarlane, lead singer and guitarist, and drummer, Colanthony Humphrey, have been making music together since the mid-2000s. They started out as a hip-hop production duo, but found there was a certain ceiling to hip-hop acts in Canada. They wanted to do something to stand out, so McFarlane taught himself to play guitar and they morphed into a rock band. On March 11, 2020 the band played their first concert in two years, an invite-only house show that they packed past fire code regulations. We can’t wait for the next chance to see them live! | @theobgms

Poolblood, In My Little Room
Non-binary artist, Maryam Said, of Poolblood makes introspective and emotionally intelligent alt-folk songs. Songs released over the past year are labelled demos, but their aching intimacy is perfect for this moment. In a solo performance of “In My Little Room”, recorded for Toronto music series Long Winter, Said sings about the claustrophobic experience of being trapped in your own space and mind while in an actual little room.