Black History & Art: A Conversation

February 17th 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Black History & Art: A Conversation

Free YouTube Livestream



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ATB presents a special Block Heater Black History Month digital panel on Thursday February 17 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm MT, in partnership with, and hosted by, Tomi Ajele and Dooshima Jev of Afros In Tha City. They’ll lead an insightful, wide-ranging conversation with Cadence Weapon, Witch Prophet, Brendan Grey of Super Duty Tough Work and D’orjay the Singing Shaman that delves into the artists’ music, background, history and art. 

The hosts:
Afros In Tha City is the only media collective of its kind – dedicated to amplifying Black voices in Mohkínstsis/Calgary. Afros In Tha City shares personal introspective stories with the goal of promoting empathy and understanding within the Black Albertan community. These stories also serve as educational tools for allies who wish to better support Black folks. Kimberley Dooshima Jev is the Founder and CEO of Afros In Tha City and Tomi Ajele is the Editor in Chief of Afros In Tha City.  

The artists:

2021 Polaris Prize winner Cadence Weapon rallies for change with electro-infused beats. Queer Ethiopian/Eritrean artist Witch Prophet creates a layered hip-hop, jazz and soul-inspired soundscape. Super Duty Tough Work is a deep, groove-laden golden era hip hop journey.  D’orjay The Singing Shaman’s country music colours outside the lines with anthemic, bold blues, honky-tonk and rock-flavoured roots.

The panel will be broadcast for free to the public over YouTube.​​

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D'orjay the Singing Shaman

This ain’t your grandaddy’s country music, despite it paying homage to the classic country D’orjay The Singing Shaman grew up with in rural Alberta. And it sure as hell ain’t stadium girls-trucks-beer country. Instead, D’orjay colours outside the lines with rousing, bold blues, honky-tonk and rock-flavoured roots with a distinct queer, Black twist. A self-described late bloomer, at 35 she grabbed the mic and released her critically acclaimed 2020 debut, the appropriately named New Kind of Outlaw. Its charms are many: a yee-haw agenda anthem, a touching ode to her grandmother, a unique and disarming rendition of “One Headlight” that reanimates the ghosts living in this classic song by The Wallflowers. The whole album conjures a late night, rustic highway trailer bar. Her powerful but warm and welcoming voice guides orchestration featuring piano, syncopated electric guitar, paced banjo, fiddle and steel guitar, all with a healing self-reflection. When D’orjay sings/asks: “I love country music, will country music love me?” The answer: absolutely, YES!


Cadence Weapon

The pandemic led to a breakthrough for Edmonton-born rapper Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon. In the darkness and isolation wrought by it, he crafted a crisp 10-song, 26-minute album that is the most politically charged collection of songs he’s produced. Parallel World is full of references to Canadian Black experiences and history that earned him the 2021 Polaris Prize, his first after being nominated twice previously. Edmonton’s former poet laureate has embraced the role of activist/artist with cutting wordplay that rallies for change and rails against technological and systemic machines while electro-infused beats provide a suitably claustrophobic sound. This is the culmination of nearly two decades behind the boards and on the decks, acclaimed releases and relentless touring (not counting a hiatus from music industry machinations) – this lyricist is inspired and enraged by issues and experiences, personal and political. Parallel World is a dystopian soundbath reflecting both the pandemic-onset world in which it was written and the long simmering social justice explosion of the past two years, with an energy that captures Cadence Weapon’s incendiary live performances.


Witch Prophet

Which prophet do you need? How about this Witch Prophet? It’s a fitting moniker for queer, Ethiopian/Eritrean singer-songwriter and co-CEO of Heart Lake Records, Ayo Leilani, whose vocals have appeared on Shad, Fucked Up and DillanPonders recordings. Her sophomore release, DNA Activation, expands on her 2018 solo debut The Golden Octave. Sung in English, Amharic and Tigrinya, her signature sound blends jazz, operatic soul (her term), alt-R&B, hip-hop and modern Afrobeat rhythms with a mesmerizing urbane bent. It’s best experienced as one lengthy, intertwined sonic journey with a soundscape of vocal layers, loops, raps and harmonies plus a lyrical wisdom that conjures stories, named after family members, that draw inspiration from her heritage plus mythology and biblical tales. The beauty and experimental qualities of Witch Prophet’s sound span African-diaspora expressions, with lyrics that address pride, self-love and rejection of oppression, despair, determination and community plus love and devotion.


Super Duty Tough Work

What’s the best way to encapsulate a deep-rooted family musical history (Juno winner Gerry Atwell; Trinidadian ragtime pianist Winifred Atwell; scientist, singer and pianist Francis Atwell and silent film player Beatrice Brown), a sociology/international development BA and passion for history and current issues? Create a golden era taste, current-era based hip hop ensemble! That is what sharp, contemplative rapper Brendan Kinley did. Inspired by ‘90s east coast hip hop’s dirty jazz loop sound, Super Duty Tough Work is a full band incarnation of the genre’s quintessential era; a groove-laden journey through Brendan’s mind. Methodically curated sets meld laid-back with high-energy for a deep, topical cultural journey. Their deliberate sampling approach and social commentary references other musicians and includes gems – snippets of interviews, film lines, quote from thinkers and philosophers – and soon, samples of his own grandmother’s music.

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