Written by Devon Acuna
The Minnneapolis riots and ensuing worldwide dialogue were for many of us an opportunity to reflect on the extent of our engagement with black issues, and think about how we can/should support black people and the black struggle, as well as every other struggle against oppression that is inherently tied up with it. As a majority white organization that works in hip-hop and punk as well as other mediums that were built by, and at the expense of, black people, the Absurd Collective has always felt a responsibility to support and uplift black artists and activism in Edmonton. I think that it's even more important now for all white organizers and artists to reexamine continually how effectively and visibly we're voicing our explicit support for these movements.
While a new platform has been given to discussions of racism and how its built into the very foundations of our country, province, and even city, we think it's important that we use the platform we've built to amplify black voices in Edmonton to the best of our ability.
Please note that I did not write most of the bios for these artists, they were sourced from the artists themselves, as were the photographs. Here are sixteen black artists working in Edmonton.
Edmonton Music Awards Nominee & Telus Storyhive Grant recipient Mouraine has established himself as one of Canada's most promising upcoming artists. Migrating from Sudan at an early age, his love for his craft, skill and relatable lyrics helped him win over the respect of his peers and fans alike.
Mouraine's latest single, "Open Letter to America" addresses violence against the black community in America and speaks on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Adaeze is a singer-songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta. Adaeze has had a passion for music since she can remember, and hopes that her music will not only stimulate her listeners' ears but also their souls.
Adaeze is the founder of Exposed Creatives YEG which is a local not for profit organization, that strives to connect local creatives and businesses while creating opportunities for youth to connect, collaborate, and create together. She also uses her voice to uplift the souls of Kings and Queens all over, through her page @DearKingsandQueens which provides inspirational and motivational content!
You can find Adaeze’s music on all platforms, including her latest single Dear Future which is a dedication to her little Prince that is about to be born and was produced locally by Jey Blaq. You can follow her on Instagram or check out her music here. You can also check out her organization on Instagram or on Facebook.
Selassie Drah is a recording artist, lyricist and creator from Ghana, currently based in Edmonton, Alberta. He is intensely passionate about life-long learning and how his place in the world can be an aid to the elevation of others. An autodidact, except for the production of his instrumentals, Selassie produces (sometimes co-producing) every aspect of his music including writing, recording, mixing, mastering, cover designing, producing and directing his live shows and video production. He is also a djembe and sangban drummer, a self-taught intermediate Spanish speaker, an editor and writer, a thinker and an intellectual. Music is immensely personal and sentimental to him, which can be felt in all of his music, especially in his debut EP Recluse. His performances are very intimate, highly energetic, compelling, and intensify the ideas he expresses in his music. His ability to connect strongly with his audience derives partly from his vast life experiences, at the very least, the fact that he was born in Norway, grew up in Ghana, lived his adult years in Canada and belongs in various communities (in art, social service, etc.). It is his dream that his connection with his audience continues to grow earnestly and be a source of inspiration.
Celine Caruso Dixon is a 3rd year Political Science student at the University of Alberta. Her passion for social justice movements have brought her to be president for the University of Alberta’s Black Students’ Association as well as the founder and host of ZION, an open mic series in Edmonton that is a healing space for all specifically for those that are part of minority groups.
Biboye Onanuga is a British-born Nigerian-Canadian musician based in Edmonton. Although he writes music on a number of instruments, Biboye spends most of his time both expending and honing his voice on the drums, his primary mode of artistic expression. Biboye co-leads the quartet, Good Information who recently came off of a short hiatus in Europe to debut new music over the course of 2020 through their 2 residencies at The Common. With a sound rooted in jazz but borrowing from hip-hop, post-rock and neo-soul, their unique brand of “jazz with a beat-aesthetic” shines through improvisational interplay woven over minimalist structures; one moment they’re groove-making machine, the next, a blur of collective improvisation. Good Information lays down an indisputably hip-hop sounds while maintaining the traditional elements of small-combo jazz. While this year’s plans have obviously been disrupted, Good Information will finally be releasing music instead. While finishing up his music degree at MacEwan University, Biboye is working as a teacher (currently taking students online), and drummer for hire. He’s also currently working on a project that combines music and poetry to explore beauty in juxtaposition and the concept marrying seemingly opposite ideas.
Saphirah has been performing and working as a singer/songwriter in Edmonton for a number of years now, playing alongside some of Edmonton's best local acts, and making a name for herself in the Hip-Hop and R&B scene in Edmonton, and in the larger music scene as well.
While she has been performing solo and with accompaniment for a while, she has recently turned her musical focus to a new project called LookDontTouch, featuring her on vocals. While their first show fell through due to Covid-19 they have released a recording on the bands soundcloud in honor of Bill Withers who song they had been planning to cover as part of their live set.
Born in Rwanda, Edmonton Hip Hop artist Ntwali, has spent years honing his art and has developed a unique sound and message that has made him a beacon of positivity that the community looks up to. Drawing inspiration from artists like 2pac, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Nipsey Hussle, Ntwali has crafted his own sound while inspiring people through his passion and dedication towards spreading a positive message through his music. He uses his voice to shed light on issues within our community that he is passionate about, Ntwali is an activist who isn’t afraid to share his views no matter the size of the crowd or the people receiving his message. He is a lyricist intent on curating a sound that embodies both the melody of the music and the significance of old school hip hop.
Kohr36 is an Edmonton based Hip Hop artist, who was introduced into the scene late 2018. He’s released 4 projects, which contain over 50 tracks written and produced by himself. His biggest musical influences include xxxTentacion & System of a Down, but has grown up listening to multiples genres ranging from classical to rock music. He’s performed various shows around the city, most notably opening for both Snak The Ripper & Merkules.
The one thing that was always consistent in his life was Hip-Hop. Gathering inspiration from the likes of Tupac, Nas, Rap-A-Lot & CashMoney Records, he eventually found his sound and decided to take Music seriously.
His big break came when he became a top 5 finalist on the first season of VUZU AMP's "The Hustle", making a huge impression on African hip hop fans. In January 2017, while still in South Africa, he dropped his fourth solo mixtape "New Age Voyage" to positive review. He has since returned to Canada and working on new music while
He returned to Edmonton that same year and immediately began working on "The Heist". Inspired & motivated, he wanted to put together a project that would illustrate his ambitions of being as great an artist he could be; no matter the cost. On January 25, 2019, Erick Rush released his highly anticipated project to The Heist On all Platforms. The Visuals For Lonely & Neighborhood are Out Now!! Erick Rush is currently completing his Latest Album, Set for an early August release. This album will feature his latest singles, "Booted Up" and " Heyy".
N Mills is a hip-hop artist who has been working in Edmonton for some time. He dropped his debut project "Three Summers" on streaming platforms in 2017. Since then he has been collaborating with local artists and working on music, including a weekly freestyle posted on his Instagram. His style is lyrical and old-school influenced with a new school, vibey flare.
Sonically, Arlo’s music tells a story much like his words. In listening to his music, you can hear how his wit and wordplay marry his musical scores that incorporate genres like Soul and EDM, but are distinctly Hip-Hop. When you consider that Arlo has received airplay in multiple countries (US, Japan), appeared in a variety of publications (Vice, Noisey), and charted on national campus radio charts (CMJ, Earshot) it’s clear his proficiency hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Stepping away from hip-hop’s tradition of just an MC and a DJ, Arlo incorporates this hip-hop staple with his live band, Rich Echo. Arlo’s live show, which he describes as a symbiotic exchange, has opened doors for him to headline festivals (North Country Fair, Sasquatch Gathering), open for hip-hop icons (Classified, Shad) and travel overseas (UK, South Korea).
A man of his community, Arlo Maverick has always found the time to give back. For 11 years he hosted CJSR’s Urban Hang Suite giving urban music artists a platform to grow their fan base. While this is probably his most notable contribution, Arlo has been a mentor to many aspiring artists and sat on many boards to advocate on behalf of artists, including music industry association Alberta Music, the Edmonton Music Awards and the Juno’s Rap Advisory Committee.
As grant writer, Arlo has written grants for artists like Souljah Fyah, The Melisizwe Brothers and K-Riz. Yielding over $500,000 from organizations like FACTOR, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Edmonton Arts Council, Arlo writes grants to help artists tour, showcase and record and market albums. Arlo's skill for writing has also extended to songwriting workshops, which he hosts throughout the greater Edmonton area at elementary, junior and senior high schools.
Arlo is currently releasing singles to build interest for a full-length album.
Rai is a student at the Univeristy of Alberta who has been working as a musician in Edmonton for a while now, and who has also expanded his place in the city into a number of successful projects. With powerful melodies and driving rhythms Rai has distinguished himself in a saturated genre as one of the most engaging to watch and listen to. Among a growing discography of well-received music and collaborations is his recent and successful collaboration with Ntwali, titled "Badly".
Along with his music, Rai runs Kas Clothing, and Edmonton-based streetwear brand. Rai also dabbles in photography, you can find his photos at @raiseyecandy, many of which are of shows that Rai plays at and attends. Follow Rai on Instagram here, follow Kas Clothing here, and check out his music here.
With only an EP (YellowHead) , 3 Singles out, and an album on the way (PLAYGROUND) Wacko Dreamer has created a unique sound with help from his producer @sleepingsights that evolves with each new track.
Watch out for his album coming this summer, featuring singles like, Young ft. Sasha khan (@1m.mortal) , Games ft. Moody (@whynotmoody), Playground ft. JustMoe (@iamjustmoe), and Runnin ft. Trendi (@onlytrendi) & Moody
Wacko Dreamer is a newer artist with a passion for much more than just music, getting ready to direct his own music videos and a podcast in the works, Brian Musoke (@wacko._dreamer) is The renaissance man of St. Albert.
Be sure to check out his new single Summer ‘20 with his duo group MoodyDreams.
Alain Intwali Is a Mixing Engineer, Vocal Producer and Musician. Born in Rwanda, Alain began to pursue his music career at the age of 14. He has been apart of showcases like THE WORKS FESTIVAL, CARIWEST, AFRICANIVAL and many more. Alain has worked with a lot of Canadian, American and African artists. Graduating from Pixel Blue College in the Audio Digital Production program, Alain hopes to keep expanding his artistic outreach with each passing day.
Hi. My name is Maks, I’m a Creative Director and Stylist, and I work mainly in the visual arts. My work pays homage to the experiences of myself and other black women/femmes as well as the intracommunal and intercommunal dynamics of black culture and the black community. For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work as Gallery Curator and Creative Director at the University of Alberta for their annual Black History Month exhibitions but will be branching off into more solo projects and exhibitions in the future. Oh, and my favorite liquor is tequila. Do what you wish with that information.
I’m ARDN and I’m a rapper/musician who seeks to inspire others through music, and hopes to make a lasting positive impact through the stories and experiences I share. I’ve recently dropped a single in May titled, “PARANOID”, and in January at the beginning of this year, I dropped my second project titled “Alien”. All music is available on all platforms much love 🖤
Thanks for reading, and thank you to all the artists who took the time to send me their bios and allow me to promote them.
For more information about the Absurd Collective check out our website, and to stay up to date with what we're doing you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram.