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Grand River Black Music Festival kicks off

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The Grand River Black Music Festival kicked off Friday, which celebrates Black music and artistry.

It has a lineup of popular performers and speakers which includes Solitair, Jully Black, Erroll Starr and Master T.

One of the opening day events included a musical collaboration workshop with producer Joel Joseph, who has worked with Canadian stars like Nelly Furtado.

“I was just trying to stimulate some creativity, but also show artists and producers how we could be sustainable in today’s industry,” said Joseph.

The festival’s executive director, Sandra Henein, said it’s special to be able to host something like this at the Kitchener Public Library because it opens doors for local talent.

“I think Waterloo Region is an untapped market for the arts and it’s underserved for the arts. And I had to leave and go to Toronto and other markets,” said Henein, who has done a lot of work with The JUNO Awards.

She has brought in top names from the Canadian music scene to help local artists expand their tool belts without leaving the region.

Solitair, a hip hop producer who has worked with artists like Kardinal Offishall, is one of the many names offering words of wisdom during the festival.

During his panel discussion, one of the points he made was about making sure artists embrace their local roots, which includes slang and different dialects, and reminding people to incorporate that in their music.

Festival attendee Ayesha Ahad had one of her questions, about why some artists release a capella versions of a song, answered during a workshop.

“It’s for DJs so that people can play it in different places or they can have it on a sink placement,” explained Ahad, adding that it allows producers to play around with the track more.

Festival staff said the event is meant for all aspiring artists.

“I was kind of hesitant about it because I think I wanted to give space for those who might want to access it – priority over me accessing it as staff here and as a non-person of colour,” said Mason Smith, who works at the library’s music studio and participated in the production workshop.

But the welcoming tone from festival planners is what’s helping foster musical magic.

The festival runs through the weekend. 

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