NTMF 2019 was held in the historic Exchange District of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Winnipeg is known for a lot of things. It is known for it’s diversity, it boasts the largest percentage of Filipino population in North America, among an array of other cultures from Aboriginal to Scottish.
But, there is a new culture emerging in Winnipeg, that not many people outside of “Peg City” are aware of.
This culture is called Hip-Hop.
However, I have to mention that Winnipeg did have one of the dopest Hip-Hop groups in independent hip-hop in Winnipeg’s Most, who repped Aboriginals and the streets hard as hell.
Unfortunately, tragedy befell the group in 2013 when one of its members, Jon-C was arrested after a police raid yielded drugs. One of Winnipeg Most’s other members, Brooklyn, passed in 2015. The third member, Charlie Fettah, is still active as a solo act.
Fast-forward to 2017, and Hip-Hop is alive and prospering in Canada. In the U.S., the first name we think of when associating Hip-Hop in Canada is Drake.
However, Canada is a huge country outside of Toronto, and its population’s have the same urban and life experiences as we have here in the States. Those experiences are what define Hip-Hop, and make it music’s most diverse genre.
The amount of Hip-Hop activity happening in Canada is impossible to measure using the Richter scale. There is a large-magnitude quake looming in the near future, Canadians. It will be felt from Nova Scotia to Ontario. It will rattle car trunks and graffiti murals painted on brick walls in Alberta and Manitoba.
When seismologists are finally able to pinpoint its source, they will find it’s epicenter in Winnipeg.
In the Exchange District.
Northern Touch Music Festival (NTMF) was founded in 2017, by Shea Malcolmson. Shea himself is a Hip-Hop artist and visionary, who goes above and beyond to ensure that Hip-Hop becomes a staple of Winnipeg culture.
This is how their website describes the Festival:
NTMF was created with the same DIY spirit, drive & resilience that helped shape Canadian hip-hop into what it has become today.
We pay homage to the pioneers of Canadian hip-hop and guide ourselves using the same principles of our past artists and cultural trailblazers, to grow the Canadian industry and create tangible opportunities for artists seeking self-development.
We put artist education first, we break down barriers to accessibility and we empower artists.
I can sum up my NTMF experience with three words:
Dope As F—.
There was a smorgasbord of artists and bands performing at the Festival. It was mostly Hip-Hop, but the best aspect of NTMF was the amount of positive and loving vibes in the air between artists of different genres and cultures!
Globally, Hip-Hop is associated with violence and bad manners in general.
The world looks for a reason to justify violence and disregard for the rule of law in impoverished communities. Hip-Hop was found in those communities, and is the vehicle that we use to tell the stories of those communities.
People who demonize Hip-Hop music choose to “drink the Kool-Aid” and ignore the many injustices that are exposed via an Artist’s lyrics. These same injustices end in long prison sentences or tragedy in urban communities. Although Hip-Hop has evolved to become inclusive of all cultures, it is still considered to be a characteristic of bad behavior and criminal activity.
NTMF proved the last three paragraphs to be an overused stereotype.
Shea and the NTMF Staff managed to get Artists and Attendees of different cultures, from different environments and lifestyles together for a fun-filled weekend, even in the presence of plenty of alcohol and yes…marijuana (which is 100% legal in Canada!).
I was very impressed that NTMF was actually about Artist Empowerment, Growth, and Showcase.
A lot of festivals that I attend are obvious cash grabs: poorly organized, a couple of artists with recognizable names to draw people in and justify their outrageous ticket prices. In some cases, they even charge the Artist a performance fee to perform one song. They offer nothing that contributes to Artist growth or knowledge.
NTMF hosted an array of seminars that were designed to empower and arm artists with knowledge that would further their careers. The best part of these seminars is that they offered first-hand knowledge, given by NTMF 2019 Delegates who have all found success in the music industry.
These seminars taught everything from Sync/Licensing to Social Media Management. The delegates also took time to speak to all of the hungry artists and answer questions. As an artist myself, I can say that I left with a lot of knowledge that I did not have!
The seminars were only the tip of the platter. There were so many Artist and Resource networking opportunities at NTMF, that two weeks later, I am still sorting through business cards, pluggers, and CDs.
Meanwhile, at the Cube Stage, the lit performances continued peacefully, and the Beer Garden was overflowing. The food trucks were on deck, and Smoke’s Poutinerie was only a few steps away from the Cube Stage, ready to serve Canada’s best poutine to anyone who was hungry (and they had vegetarian options. A plus for me!).
Another aspect of the live performances I was impressed by was the excellent, crisp sound. We’ve all been to THOSE concerts before right? When I say those, I mean THOSE shows where you hear the background music, but not the artist.
Dave and Jonathon, the A/V guys, did an excellent job ensuring that wasn’t the case with any of the performances at the Cube Stage or the aftersets. Speaking of sound, the DJs: Benz, Disspare, Henny, P.O.W., Kilma, and NTMF President DJ Bunny did a hell of a job cueing everyone’s music and keeping the party turned up in between performances.
It was extremely hard for my associate photographers, David Marcus and Kris, to focus on shooting photos for this article, because we were vibing to this huge array of artists that we hadn’t heard before.
I vibed to artists like Gatson, whose lyrics painted such a vivid picture of The Struggle – caps intended – that I found myself reminiscing about my existence as a “Food Stamp” kid, tempted by the false sense of glamour that the drug game offered.
Another artist, Dr. Duru, almost made me drop my camera, because I was so turnt! His performance was so lit, I forgot that I really can’t dance, and found myself bouncing in the field everywhere.
Hip-Hop wordsmith Wordburglar came from Nova Scotia to give an energetic performance about his friend’s older brother, a bully who did strange things like watch Blade Runner and play Altered Beast.
Cypha Diaz murdered his performance, even accepting a random audience member’s challenge to a freestyle battle after his set.
EPDMC and Jeffrey slayed the audience with some of the best bars Nova Scotia has to offer, prompting Shea to call the Fire Department to put the flames out on the Cube Stage when their performance was over.
I was captivated by Boog Brown’s performance. A Detroit native, she proved that she could stand toe-to-toe with the best names with the bars that she spit.
And that guy, Ambush Vin was, well…
One of my most memorable moments was being introduced to the music of singers Courtney Devon (Amadians) and Kenzie Jane. These ladies combined to give a Woodstock-worthy performance on stage that would later on have me and my “tour guide” Harvey walking from the Cube Stage to see them perform at Canada Day at the Forks.
(For those of us who don’t live in Winnipeg, think walking from the Mandalay Bay to Freemont…twice.)
There were so many great artists, that I would have to dedicate more space than AltWire would give me to name them all!
Winnipeg’s mayor, Brian Bowman, even stopped by to show his support for the festival, and Hip-Hop, telling and showing people that Hip-Hop is an important part of Winnipeg’s diverse culture. I was impressed!
But, the show didn’t stop at the Cube stage, because, in the famous words of Jay-Z, after the show it’s the afterparty!
NTMF’s afterpartys were at Footw3rk Dance Club and The Royal Albert. There, I was introduced to more flame artists like Flamenco Sketch, Sir Louie, The Filthy Animals, Nappy, and Xplycit, who all gave phenomenal performances.
As a special wrap-up performance, Shea gave an impressive, and unexpected, performance of his lit new content at The Royal Albert. It is worth mentioning that, Shea has a policy that he didn’t want to perform at his own event, that this was all about the artists. This was more of a thank you performance to the last few people who stayed until the final second.
Although NTMF is really Shea’s creation, it felt more like it was all of our festival. In fact, NTMF didn’t just feel like a mere festival, it felt like I walked out of my front door, and entered the house through the back.
Although I was over 900 miles away, Northern Touch Music Festival made me feel like I had never left home.
Hear our interview with Shea and Pauline below!
Here are more pictures from NTMF 2019!