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Music Makes Me High: The Live Music Experience

By: Malik I.M. aka Sun Toucha

Before I begin, let me first say that the artist and his/her calling to themselves and the multitude is a unique experience that is governed by a myriad of factors. With that being said, I believe that the artist has a responsibility to elevate and uplift the masses in addition to providing the people with a form of entertainment and escape. I adhere to the idea that balance is the most required and essential solution to the mind control that our youth are being subjected to in mainstream music programming. Hence, festivals like the Montreal and Toronto
Jazz Festival, for example, provide excellent opportunities for the masses to be exposed to artists and musical experiences that put the radio programmed music to shame.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of going to Montreal for the start of their Jazz Festival in downtown Montreal. The only high profile group I knew of on the festival itinerary was the UK reggae band Steel Pulse. Everyone else for the most part was a complete mystery to myself. The revelations that ensued from just being out there on the street, venturing to the different outdoor stages, and soaking up the musical sunshine emanating from those stages created such a whirlwind of questions in my head. One of the prominent answers to the questions in my head that stood out as I listened to blues band Mississippi Heat on the TD Stage was, “There is no better musical experience than listening to music that is performed live with dynamic and talented instrumentalists and vocalists.”

Questions like “Why don’t more indie artists think about developing a live performance that focuses more on a band dynamic to project his/her music?” were quickly dismissed as I realized from my own indie artist experience as a soloist and member of Zion Horizon that there are many real challenges and obstacles to recruiting musicians and maintaining a level of consistency with having a band. Scheduling for rehearsals, having a consistent lineup of gigs to keep the band relevant, recording, and the juggling of multiple egos and personalities can be the end before even beginning the journey.


 “soaking up the musical sunshine emanating from those stages created such a whirlwind of questions in my head”.


 In 2010, Zion Horizon performed at the Toronto
Urban Music Festival at Dundas Square with no viable recordings of our music and a hodge podge amalgamation of musicians and vocalists that had a love for organic and non-mainstream music. With that being said, we were young and inexperienced but our music and hearts were
definitely trending up in terms of quality and providing balance to what some of the other artists were bringing to the Dundas Square stage.

At the Montreal Jazz Fest, I saw a group that reminded me of Zion Horizon in our younger days of developing our sound and going against the grain. They were called The Shed featuring singer Melanie Charles and another vocalist Sun I Am. The drummer was Jahsun, one
of the founders of the grassroots spoken word Montreal arts collective Kalmunity. Alongside a dynamic keys player and bass player, they had the audience drifting with their covers of Bob James’ Nautilus to jumping up and down and rocking when they did more uptempo afro jazz musical concoctions. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised that this group was performing for FREE at MTELUS formerly known as The Metropolis.

On the other hand, I was thinking to myself that a group like this with two dynamic singers, an amazing drummer, bassist, and keys player would be a $20 ticket if they were “well-known” and “high profile.” Finding these diamonds in the rough is such a pleasure and reinforces why music is such an integral part of my daily meditation and keeping my spirits in a high place. Listening to music on a recording is one thing; experiencing the music live, on the other hand, can be a transformative experience. Some of those artists gained themselves a multitude of new fans that they never would have accessed without that opportunity. Likewise, those fans would not have known about them either. In short, these festivals play an integral role increasing the exposure and profile of the artists/groups they feature while providing the listening audience with a glimpse into the strength and dynamism of the music being created.

Without avenues and outlets like high profile festivals like SXSW, CMW, Jazz Fests etc., upcoming and independent artists are relegated to the Chittlin’ Circuits and obscurity and the world is in need of musical diversity and balance.

ZionHorizon Blog www.zionhorizonmusic.com