Randell Adjei had a vision, and it was to create a positive outlet for people of all walks of life and of all talent levels to come together and embrace positivity, motivation and inspiration. Himself and other individuals who share the same mindset, they came together and created a movement dedicated to Reaching Individual Souls Everywhere, or for short, RISE. From a recreational room in Scarborough Town Centre, to the Burrows Hall Library (also in Scarborough), the popularity grew all through word of mouth and positive interactions throughout to people who attended – they grew because people believed in their movement and for what it stands for. When you enter a RISE event (Mondays weekly at 6pm), there’s no discrimination, there’s no one being portrayed as outcasts, and there’s always a level of respect and love for anyone who chooses to vent out what’s in their minds and hearts through all forms of expression: Song, Dance, Spoken Word, etc. There’s absolutely no way that I could shy away from giving it any kind of support, because as a Scarborough native and always wanting to defend it in a public light, this is the positive light that can change the perception of an area that has been cast as the dark cloud of the city of Toronto.
What does it mean by ‘Edutainment’? It’s a combination of Education & Entertainment. I’ve happened to use the word before, so the fact that this was the name of the inaugural convention, it just seemed fitting to support it through and through. When it comes to education, we’ve all been through the systematic schoolbook approach, but for others, education is more relative when it’s affecting something that they’re passionate about and is more about helping them in strides on their life journey. From the upcoming artist who wants to know a bit of the business or knowledgeable advice on just how to carry themselves in the public light, to the entrepreneur who’s looking for networking with the right people, that life education is more futile than what they’d ever learn in a textbook between 4 walls. Many people do say that the real education happens once you’ve walked out of the school doors and life hits you in the face – that always seems to be the case, since I’m currently living through it like many others are.
Where the entertainment portion comes in, is that there are so many great and talented people in this glorious city that people still haven’t heard much about. Through a combination of efforts, the acts that were selected ranged from frequent RISE performers and even acts that I’ve seen at some of The Known Unknown events. Sponsors like: Urbanology Magazine, Manifesto, The Remix Project, and others, played an important role in showing their support and belief in what Randell started with and just how far he’s come now. The sequence of events would transpire at the lovely George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, and on such a large stage, it was only fitting that great talent shined bright on it.
I only attended the concerts on the Friday and Sunday, but from what I gathered about the Saturday workshops and discussion panels, they were full of in-depth knowledge, excitement, and passionate people willing to learn, grow, and carry forth on their life journeys with a sense of purpose – which is always the emphasis to begin with. Much like how Manifesto had their day of workshops and panels, this was the same concept (any knowledge is good knowledge). Friday night kicked off the 3 –Day convention by bringing forth some great talent ranging from spoken word artists to rappers.
There’s a powerful vibe that spoken word poetry gives off that can’t necessarily be described, because it has to be experienced first-hand. The passion of the words flowing out of the people projecting themselves in a way that many might mistake as anger is a feeling that is contagious because they engulf you in words in order to captivate a message worth hearing. Love, Sex, Violence, and the everyday frustrations of living life, are the most common topics, and they were definitely on display through metaphors, similes, illusion, and imagery alike. Lishai, Patrick & Ifrah, and Ohm all had their performances, and each of them brought their own dynamics to the stage and made their presence felt. Lishai, draped in traditional Middle Eastern clothing, expressed frustrations of status in individuals by performing it in a way where an individual was taking a questionnaire, and that was stunning. Ohm (whom I’d seen at a RISE event prior to Friday night) is a man whose performances are more like theatre the way his pieces are performed. Costumes, full on interactions with the crowd, and other individuals on stage to help carry the message forward decked in makeup, he made you think, wonder, and simply shake your head in amazement with the message he was preaching. It really felt like you were watching a Sunday sermon preached in theatrical form. The energy was electric during the spoken word acts because they resonated with you throughout the night as you kept replaying them over and over again – powerful.
Prior to his performance, I was able to sit down with John River who was one of the headliners on Friday night’s concert. This young man is one of the brightest and inspirational people you’ll ever meet, and that’s not even all about his music. Himself as a person is what’s going to be the reason why he’s going to win in the largest way, because his story of perseverance and dedication is what separates himself from many others trying to make a name for themselves in the city as rappers. The city holds thousands of artists trying to make a name, but only so few will actually make it. Mobi, The Flan, Erik Flowchild, 1st Ladies of the Rebellion, Qi & DeZ, The Freedom Writers, and the aforementioned, River were the Hip Hop acts summoned to keep the party alive. Now, Toronto is infamous for not being as supportive when it comes to the rap acts, but when you have people under one roof who share the love for anyone and everyone, there wasn’t any room for negative vibes, and the support shown was great for all of them. The standout act for me was The 1st ladies, because Hip Hop is in a period where lyrical females who aren’t dressing like they’re working in a strip club or rapping about sexually related content 75% of the time, are a rare sighting. What I appreciated about these women is that they brought the flavour and the rhythm with the rhymes by spitting over some classic beats that had people out of their seats and rocking like it was an old school Hip Hop show.
Erik Flowchild was impressive as well given the fact that he performed with a live band and had an amazing singer with him as well. It was the first time that I’d seen him perform, and it definitely built up anticipation for his upcoming project, Child’s Play.
It’s crazy that it was only the Friday night, and the energy had been set on such a high bar, but it was fitting that it would carry through on the Saturday and be raised again on the finale (Sunday), which would be more R&B heavy (which is never a bad thing – Soulful Sundays). The best thing about Sunday was that the turnout was bigger than the Friday, and that just goes to show you that the power in Word of Mouth (and some social network help) goes a long way to support a ‘rising’ movement. Besides 3 people, I had seen all of the performers between RISE, The Known Unknown, and Limitless events; I was very pleased with the selection, because they’re a very talented group of individuals who I definitely see making waves in the future as Toronto’s growing music culture takes the world’s notice.
Monday Blake, Gadda, Vanessa Lu, Dread Eye, Charmie & Renee, Juvon Taylor, Plaiwrights, and Shi Wisdom were the players on deck, and it just seemed like as each act came to the stage and gave it their all, the energy never dropped off. The sonic vibes may have differentiated from time to time with some acts being more acoustic and others more electric, but the energy was consistent and as an audience member, I couldn’t help but bask in the flourish that was commencing from the young individuals. From Charmie & Renee’s solo songs and their joint duet cover of Drake’s ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ (thrown in with some beatboxing), to Plaiwright’s original songs and also their own cover of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’, and also Gabba’s electro-rock-soulful performance with an interpretive dancer, the pulse was electric.
Juvon Taylor (whom I’ve seen perform a couple of times) is one of the best male singers I’ve heard in this city. It’s funny, because I saw him on the Friday and I told him to ‘bring R&B back’ because it seems to have lost its soul, and R&B definitely hasn’t been the same in many years. We just want the soul back, that’s all. Backed by a full band, he definitely put on a show like always and kept me asking the question “when are we getting an album?” Hopefully in 2014, that will be the answer to my question, but I generally can’t wait until he’s out there for a mass market of people to hear.
Dread Eye came to the stage with minimal preparation time, but he embraced his vulnerability with the audience. He had a full ensemble with him on stage: Drums, Keyboard, Bass, Electric Guitar, Trumpet, Trombone, Sax, Violin & Clarinet players all with him. It created a beautiful sound as he sang and strummed from the acoustic guitar. He was definitely a fan favourite from his response on stage and as he finished.
Monday Blake has a large voice that I’ve definitely grown to love because she’s just as great of a person as she is a singer. As the opener for Sunday’s concert, she set the bar high for others to follow, and she definitely has the talent to have others opening for her, because she can flat out sing, period. The same goes for Vanessa Lu, because her songs, Heroine and Ocean, displayed her strength as a song writer, but she too has a big voice that filled the recital hall and wrapped its arms around you in comfort; and since the nights are getting cold, that’s definitely appreciated, especially for a skinny boy like myself.
The headliner, Shi Wisdom, needs no introduction because she has become one of the more premiere singers in the city as she’s ready to make her move onto the next level of stardom (perhaps superstardom) in a large way. She has built up an audience for herself, and the response showed that she can be well on her way to that next level. She even took requests from the audience (she eventually performed ‘Penny’) and she held it down, although it was only 2 songs she could perform. It mattered not, as she still delivered.
What did I learn from being Edutained? I learned (once again) that I’m growing impatient with the fact that we have all of these great acts here, but it’s still going to take time until they get the proper recognition from the rest of the city. If I had millions of dollars and a direct business state of mind, I would have my own record label and sign so many of them because they’re talented enough to represent the city on a large scale – the time will come. I also learned that support isn’t a lost art in the city, because when you have as many outlets backing this initiative as it did, there’s a just cause to define what it means to bring unity in to support each other. I also learned that being positive and sticking to your passion from the jump will do you wonders, because you never know where it may take you. RISE has become more than just a collective of people, but for many, it has become a way of life, and I only see bigger and better things to come this Scarborough born organization. I’ll always be proud to support it, no matter what. The stages only get bigger, the lights only brighter, and the talent only better. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store, but for the 1st one, it was a great time.
That’s My Word & It STiXX