By Stephen MacDonald
April 24, 2014
Jayo Sparks of Jayo Productions knows what it’s like to struggle in the Maritime music scene.
Sparks has been working in the music industry for the last 15 years. Throughout his music career he has had his share of ups and downs promoting music and events in the Maritimes.
Starting off, Sparks would put on shows at small bars and restaurants in Halifax, but now he’s promoting shows on a larger scale all over the Maritimes and throughout Canada.
When asked about the Maritime music scene Sparks said there needs to be more acceptance and diversity presented in the urban scene.
“It’s diverse, but not diverse in terms of representing all the different types of genres. It’s almost like it’s an old boys club. We’ve acknowledged the fact that there is rock and country, but have yet to represent other cultures and interests.”
That’s coupled with the issues of “obtaining quality venues to have hip hop shows because of the negative stereotypes associated with rap music,” said Sparks.
“The problem with promoting in the Maritimes is the public ignorance in thinking that rap music has to do with people who just want to go out and cause trouble.”
Despite overcoming these obstacles and having many successful shows, there have been more losses than gains.
“To be honest with you, for any type of promoter in the urban scene 8-10 shows are failures, while 2-10 are successful.”
The key to success in the urban scene is collaboration and courtesy, said Sparks.
“In the urban scene you have to show some sort of unity. If artists are disrespecting each other and not working together its going to kill the scene, so I don’t work with those type of people.”
Conversely, when an artist shows professionalism and a drive to push their music, every
effort is made to properly promote their brand, says Sparks.
“I let the artists come to me as a promoter and stand tall as I represent them. So if they’re coming to work with me, or if they want to do a show, I am going to represent them to the fullest.”
Erin (Real Eyez) Blanks, is a Halifax-based singer/rapper Sparks has promoted and
stood behind for the last four years because of her hard work and “potential to rise to the
top of the Canadian R&B scene,” said Sparks.
“Real Eyez, in terms of her Canadian potential, can rise above the current RnB stars, similar to how JRDN did. She is truly an exceptional individual that will interact with her fans and will stay humble and dedicated to hard work.”
Real Eyez dedication to the musical process began as a child in church like some of her favorite performers.
“Honestly I just started rapping recently, but I been singing since I was a little kid, same story as everyone else in church, like Lauryn Hill.”
There is a retro kind of vibe to her music, said Real Eyez.
“I’m versatile, my style is like the nineties. There is no one that has a nineties style, there’s really not too many people that are singing and rapping… I think I bring something.”
Sparks said success can come from working together. That is what is missing from the Maritime scene, as confirmed in Real Eyez chorus for the song Unity.
“We have a good scene, but no one really works together. Like back in the day U-N-I-T-Y. Everyone used to work together and now its different, everyone’s in their own groups.”
When speaking of Unity, she thought it could have been shown earlier in the week to promote the concert at The Guild in Charlottetown she opened on March 15, where Dru, an international R&B star from Toronto, performed.
“We all should have come together like a week ago and just got out promoting for this show. Organizing is left to the last minute much too often.”
Nonetheless, poor attendance did not cast a shadow over Real Eyez’s night as she was granted a platform provided by Dru, who was grateful for the opportunity to share her talent.
“I got love for Real Eyez, she’s dope. I didn’t really hear or see her before, but I like
her nineties R&B vibe.”
The poor attendance also did not hurt the chances of having Dru back for more Maritime appearances, in fact he wishes to expand his fan base in the east coast.
“I’m just starting to build my fan base out here doing these smaller shows, but I want to come back full band and do it properly.”
Much like Real Eyez, Dru feels people could have came together earlier in the week.
“From an international perspective there is a ‘wait and see’ attitude in Canada and the Maritimes, unlike the U.S. where every detail is paid attention to,” said Dru.
“I Love Canada and the Maritimes, but what I think is different between Canada and the States is that Americans pay attention to the smallest detail, whereas Canadians don’t. We should be more like Americans, who want to monitor every detail from the amount of invites sent out to the amount of people who have responded.”
Jeff (20/20 Vision) Gallant, another Maritime promoter/recording artist from Charlottetown, P.E.I. shares the sentiment of unity being a necessity, by bringing together Maritime artists.
Gallants said his goal is to help inspiring artists as much as possible. Whether it’s helping them get a beat, shoot a video, get into a show, or whatever it takes to give exposure to local talent.
Through the rap battle league there is a platform created for young artists to gain exposure, said Gallant. “I just want to involve as many people as possible. I feel through the battle league we can get the guys involved who are not necessarily read to do shows or record tracks.”
The battle league can be a launch pad for someone like 17-year-old Ryan (Cavy) Cavanagh, who had his first battle on the Charlottetown Waterfront at age 14 and is now performing throughout the Maritimes as a solo act with his own original music.
Making a dent in the Maritime music scene is all about originality and having an appreciation for music, said Cavanagh.
“I contribute originality, I don’t copy no one. I grew up listening to cats like Biggie and Nas.”
You also have to give respect to people who help the local scene grow, and particularly those from Halifax paving the way for people to make urban music more known and respected in the Maritimes, said Cavy.
“You go to Halifax and hip hop is real big there, you got Quake, Kayo, you got Class, and they got legends like Buck 65.”
Cavanagh is looking to break out and be a house hold name from P.E.I., as Classified is from Halifax. |He also has hopes of breaking down stereotypes.
“Since I’m from P.E.I., people perceive it as no one can really do hip hop here, but when people hear me, they are like ‘damn he can spit bars and he’s from P.E.I., what’s going on here.”