Considered for millennia as the one universal language, music has been shaping and defining Canadian identity for centuries. As the fourth largest visible minority group in Canada, African-Canadians have contributed significantly to this language of hope and inspiration, and deserve to be recognized for their extraordinary accomplishments. Through rhythm and passion, the first slaves that brought their song oversees, those who developed Canadian jazz music, and those who continue to keep this Canadian tradition alive have unequivocally shaped our musical history and identity.
Abel Tesfaye – The Weeknd
Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd, is a singer and songwriter of Ethiopian decent who was born on February 16, 1990 in Scarborough, Ontario. Known for his compelling brand of atmospheric, enigmatic and trip-hop-infused R&B, The Weeknd has quickly become an influential and dominant presence in R&B and pop music. His first collection of music, the 2011 collection title House of Balloons, was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize and kicked off a storm of international attention. His chart-topping sophomore album, Beauty Behind the Madness (2015), won multiple awards and solidified his reputation as a global pop superstar. In 2011, he was described by the New York Times as “the most invigorating, surprising and affecting new force in R&B,” and in 2015 he became the first artist to simultaneously hold the top three spots on Billboard’s Hot R&B Songs chart. He has won nine Juno Awards, two Grammy Awards, seven SOCAN Awards and three Much Music Video Awards. He has also received an Academy Award nomination and the 2014 Allan Slaight Award from Canada’s Walk of Fame.
- R&B/Soul Recording of the Year (Trilogy) (2013)
- Breakthrough Artist of the Year (2013)
- R&B/Soul Recording of the Year (“Often”) (2015)
- Artist of the Year (2015)
- Album of the Year (Beauty Behind the Madness) (2016)
- Single of the Year (“Can’t Feel My Face”) (2016)
- R&B/Soul Recording of the Year (Beauty Behind the Madness) (2016)
- Songwriter of the Year (2016)
- Artist of the Year (2016)
- Best Urban Contemporary Album (Beauty Behind the Madness) (2016)
- Best R&B Performance (“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)”) (2016)
Much Music Video Awards
- Video of the Year (“Often”) (2015)
- Best Pop Video (“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)”) (2015)
- Most Buzzworthy Canadian Artist (2015)
- No. 1 Song Award (”Wicked Games”) (2013)
- No. 1 Song Award (“Live For”) (2013)
- No. 1 Song Award (“Can’t Feel My Face”) (2015)
- No. 1 Song Award (“Earned It”) (2015)
- No. 1 Song Award (“The Hills”) (2015)
- No. 1 Song Award (“Often”) (2015)
- No. 1 Song Award (“Love Me Harder”) (2015)
Soul Train Music Awards
- Album of the Year (“Beauty Behind the Madness”) (2015)
- Best R&B/Soul Male Artist (2015)
- Allan Slaight Award, Canada’s Walk of Fame (2014)
- ASCAP Award (“Crew Love”), American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (2012)
- Favorite Male Artist – Soul/R&B, American Music Awards (2015)
- Favorite Soul/R&B Album, American Music Awards (2015)
- Centric Award (“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)”), BET Awards (2015)
- Favorite R&B Artist, People’s Choice Awards (2016)
The Weeknd. Canadian Encyclopedia. Jan. 25, 2020. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-weeknd
Measha Brueggergosman is a Black Canadian soprano singer who has soloed in some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world. Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, on June 28, 1977, Brueggergosman’s remarkable sense of pitch and fearlessness as a performer were first recognized by her first-grade teacher. She began singing in the choir of her local Baptist church, and with the director of that choir, studied piano and voice from age seven. As a teen, she began to take voice lessons and spent summers on scholarships at the Boston Conservatory. Brueggergosman subsequently studied at the University of Toronto with Mary Morrison, and, after graduation, continued her musical education in Germany, pursuing a master’s degree with soprano singer Edith Wiens.
From the early age of 20, Measha Brueggergosman’s career rapidly gained momentum, and her charisma, dramatic ability, mature musicianship and powerful voice placed her in demand both in concert and on the operatic stage. She has appeared throughout Canada, and has performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and at the Roy Thomson Hall. In 2001, Brueggergosman sang at America’s iconic Carnegie Hall, followed by a performance for Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, and an internationally recognized performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2003.
Brueggergosman has been the recipient of a number of national and international awards, including the prestigious Canada Council and Chalmers Performing Arts grants. In 2003, Brueggergosman was featured in the CBC-TV documentary Spirit in Her Voice and sang on the Grammy-winning William Bolcom: Songs of Innocence and of Experience in 2004. In 2008 Brueggergosman won the Juno award for her 2007 album Surprise.
In honour of her contributions to the theater of music, please take a moment to listen to one of her pieces.
“Biography: Measha Brueggergosman”. Deutsche Grammophon. January 14, 2020. https://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/composers/meashabrueggergosman/biography
Church, Sara. “Measha Brueggergosman”. Canadian Encyclopedia. Jan. 14, 2020. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/measha-brueggergosman-emc
Born in 1911, Portia White became the first Black Canadian singer to reach world-renowned status, and one of the most inspirational women in Canada’s history.
At the age of six, White was already working towards that goal: she could often be found singing in her mother’s choir at the Halifax Baptist Church where her father was minister. At eight, she was able to sing the soprano parts of Italian operas. And she was not only talented, but determined, walking more than 15 km each week to attend music lessons.
White — whose first name was inspired by Shakespeare’s heroine in The Merchant of Venice — studied at Dalhousie in 1929 to become a teacher. The wages she earned from teaching primary school in Africville and Lucasville paid for her music lessons at the Halifax Conservatory of Music.
Even after winning several local music festivals and regularly singing devotionals on her father’s radio show, the operatic contralto was frequently denied performance space because of her race. “First you dream,” she would later reflect, “and then you lace up your boots.” Not to be denied, she made her national debut in 1941, at age 30, on-stage at Toronto’s Eaton Hall. Edward Wodson of the Evening Telegram was in the audience that night and raved: “It is a natural voice, a gift from heaven.”
It wasn’t long before White halted her teaching career to make becoming a professional singer her priority. She continued to earn global acclaim, including a landmark performance at New York’s famed Town Hall in 1944 —the first Canadian to perform at the iconic venue.
Constant touring took a toll on White’s health, and by 1952 she began an early retirement and returned to teaching in Toronto. There, she taught familiar names like Robert Goulet, Lorne Greene and Dinah Christie and eventually moved on to become the singing coach for the first cast of P.E.I.’s Anne of Green Gables musical. One of White’s last performances was before Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ, only four years before her death in 1968.
In 1995, White was named a person of historical significance by the Government of Canada. Four years later, a commemorative stamp was issued in her honour. The Nova Scotia Arts Council named its top award after her. And while White did not produce any studio recordings during her lifetime, several concert recordings of her performances are held by Library and Archives Canada, ensuring White’s incredible voice will echo through the ages.
“Portia White”. Dalhousie University. January 18th, 2020. https://www.dal.ca/about-dal/dalhousie-originals/portia-white.html
Famous Black Canadians: Portia White
Voices of Black Opera……PORTIA MAY WHITE – Think On Me – First Black Canadian Concert Singer