Young, Gifted and Black: Jully Black

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say… To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”

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Born in Toronto, Jully Black is the queen of Canada’s R & B scene. Her proud glorious and powerful personality beams from the stage into the audience, telling you that she knows exactly who she is, and you love her for it. Her vocals are perfect, her attitude is bright, and her self-confidence is a lesson all young girls can learn from. Jully was the youngest of seven children; her parents were Jamaican immigrants to Canada. As a first generation Canadian, her story is one that thousands of young Black Canadians relate to.

I fell in love with Jully Black when her “Seven Day Fool” song hit the airwaves… it was so witty, contemporary and yet grounded in a rich history of music.

I’ve seen her in concert, and she’s so powerful, funny and confident. My daughters watch her videos and simply say “she’s cool.” Absolutely.

Quite a few of her songs have socially active lyrics, but she packages them in pop, singable packages. This is one of my favourites.

Jully doesn’t tour as much as she used to – she was mostly around Toronto last year. But if you have a chance to take your teen daughter to a concert (or one of the other venues she plays, like Pride Fest) I would leap at it. My daughters are only eight, but awestruck by her hair,  her powerful body, and learning lyrics.

Young, Gifted and Black: Drake

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say… To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”

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Born in Toronto, Drake is a childhood actor (yeah Degrassi!) who grew up to greater things. His emotional, articulate rap music has shaken the often conflicting worlds of rap and hip hop. He’s won a Grammy, and critical acclaim from his peers. Debatably, he’s the most famous young Black Canadian in North America today.

Drake’s dad is African American from the US, and his mom is Jewish Canadian. It’s a pretty typical Canadian mosaic story, and I love that he shares his family’s multicultural background with the world. The quintessential SNL skit was such an awesome tribute. I bet his family was laughing as much as we were…

Now, rap is not my thing. But I appreciate the poetry of the genre, and can recognize talent, even it’s not something I enjoy listening too. My kids already like rap – the clean lyric songs they listen to on the radio, and with their dad. Rap is a cornerstone in North American Black culture, so we try to expose them to it, in an age appropriate way.

Frankly, it’s hard to find examples of Drake’s music that are appropriate for my family-friendly blog. Most of his work is very explicit… but that’s not to say it isn’t powerful, beautiful and tells intimate stories. This song with Rihanna is a non-rap example of his talent:

I wouldn’t be surprised if Drake got back to acting in the next few years… he’s one talented guy.

Young, Gifted and Black: K’naan

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say… To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”

 

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Born in Magadishu, Somalia, K’naan sings grounded and heart-felt music that reflects his journey as an African-born Canadian, and his perspective of injustice and inequality. He’s a hard-core rapper and pop chart-topper, with messages of peace, respect for elders, and social justice. K’naan’s grandfather was a renowned poet, and I heard that legacy in every song he writes.

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From this video, my favourite line is this: “Still the thing that moves the human being, more than anything else, is their own hope for companionship, and for greatness and for accomplishment. Everyone in Somalia just wants a life in which they’ve done something significant, and felt something significant.” I think that line speaks to the base needs in all of us.

I’m a fan, and have been before his global breakthrough with Waving Flag at the Olympics. Here’s the second version of version of his song that raised money for the Haiti earthquake. And for our non-Canadian friends, yes! all these fab singers are Canadian.

His “Hurt Me Tomorrow” is all over the radio right now… such a great song!

Not all of K’naan’s music is kid friendly – pre-listen to what you download before you play it to your six year old. (Whoops! Oh, well, they don’t remember now…. lol)

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What my kids do remember is K’nnaan’s story. You may not know that there is a children’s book about K’naan’s early life as a child in Somalia, and his experience as a young immigrant in Canada. It’s a beautiful book, but more importantly, a great discussion tool to talk to your kids about prejudice and hardship, as well as celebrating the joy in life.

In a CBC interview about the book, he said “… I wanted to contextualize the immigrant experience for children so that it doesn’t seem like it’s some ‘other.’ The idea of an immigrant to a child, it can seem like its own universe where ‘That’s what those people are.’ No one is inherently such; and immigrants have had their own language and their own family, and they were loved by their own grandparents. These are things, I think, that for a child need contextualizing.”

Young, Gifted and Black: Measha Brueggergosman

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say…  To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”

 

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New Brunswick-born Measha Brueggergosman, with her flowing hair and effervescent personality, is a larger than life figure. She’s tall, vivacious, and can sing the hell out of anything.

Traditionally trained, you hear Measha mainly singing opera songs. But for this month, she’s worked on an amazing collection of spirituals, “Songs of Freedom,” that celebrate “that emerged from Africa via the slave trade to America, then to Canada via the United Empire Loyalist migration and the Underground Railroad.” There is even a miniseries about her life, her journey, and this gorgeous music on Vision TV this month.

Measha is also passionate about causes we love, an volunteers as an ambassador for the African Medical and Research Foundation, Learning Through the Arts and the World Wildlife Foundation. Even though I had heard her sing at the Olympics, my first real introduction to Measha was when she appeared on the Rick Mercer show, to sing to the whales and promote the Bay of Fundy as a wonder of the world. My kids love this video!

And last but not least, my favourite video of Measha’s… singing “Misty” with Martin Short at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto. Note this is for you, adults… perhaps not so much for the kiddos.

OMG, her hair is so fabulous, and there is something so amusingly Canadian about the whole thing. Love love.