M.A.STER of his Domain

“I do it for my city”, is the message that Hip-Hop artist Marvin Anokye (M.A.) broadcasts in his song suitably titled “My City” off his debut mixtape “Veuve Cliquot”. The lyrics express his devotion to the city he calls home, where his career as a lifestyle rapper has been maturing since the ripe age of 16. The song is just one indicator of his, and other artists’, allegiance to Ottawa and the Hip-Hop scene they’ve laboriously enriched recently. M.A. explains, “We’re getting attention from across the country and here at home many of us [artists] feel if we can keep this momentum going it will translate to more opportunities for a talent-rich city such as Ottawa”.

After the disbandment of his first music group, M.A. took several years to mature his craft. He struggled to find his sound with local engineers, forcing him to truly go solo and find the well-rounded artist – writing, recording and mixing – he always knew he had in him. “It took me a while to make the transition to a solo artist, but around the age of 19-20, I found my sound and have been on the right path ever since”, M.A. remarks. His debut release of “Veuve Cliquot”, a mixtape that has garnered him a lot of attention locally and beyond, is definitely an indication of the developing path he speaks of.

M.A.’s creativity and aptitude for sound stem from a young age, he says, growing up in a home where music played around-the-clock. His mother even says Michael Jackson was the only solution to end his tears as a baby, “it kind of just came natural for me to want to contribute” he says.

M.A. calls himself a lifestyle rapper, which he defines as “being 100% with your listeners”, in other words, tackling the raw emotions that listeners can really connect with on a day-to-day level. This, M.A. says, is his greatest inspiration for song writing, “to bring out feeling – any feeling – from within the heart and soul of the listeners”. The rapper, whose role models include his father and Jay-Z, says these qualities set him apart from the rest.

Certainly, organized events like Winterfest, which gives local artists the opportunity to showcase their palpable talent, will only enhance the Hip-Hop presence in Ottawa that has been amplifying in recent years. M.A. is one of many of these flourishing talents, and we are looking forward to see what’s next for this rising star. M.A. says that in 2012 he hopes to “release a few hit singles that do well on the college charts, gain exposure via social media, and ultimately get myself picked up by a major label.” We expect to hear much more from M.A. and know that ‘his city will be with him’ when he gets on stage at Winterfest 2012 – we’ll be watching!

For more information on Winterfest, visit http://winterfestottawa.ca/. Stay tuned for more artist profiles from in a nutshell!

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Ring A (Christmas) Bell?

Let’s talk science, baby. To start, I’ll state the obvious – there are a few staples that come to mind when building excitement for the holiday season and all of its celebrations; many of which have been mentioned in our previous fabulous three days of Christmas. But one of the most essential, obvious and festive ways to rejoice in the season really is an underlying thread throughout the whole experience of Christmas delight; it isn’t the fictional characters on screen or goodies under the tree, but it also isn’t the basis of the deep-seated emotions we feel during the holidays. It’s right underneath it all, like it is in most situations, assisting in moulding and prompting out of us the many feelings that stem from both the tangible and emotional excitement of the season. In a nutshell, sometimes I think it’s the background noise and music that lead to a lot of the festive action within our busy brains.

As Daniel J. Levitin states in his mind-blowing (little pun) book This Is Your Brain On Music: “According to the multiple-trace memory models, every experience (we have) is potentially encoded in memory. Not in a particular place in the brain, because the brain is not like a warehouse; rather, memories are encoded in groups of neurons that, when set to proper values and configured in a particular way, will cause a memory to be retrieved and replayed in the theatre of our minds.”

Levitin argues that the reason we’re not able to recall everything that happens to us in life isn’t because it wasn’t “stored” properly – but, rather that we can’t always gather enough of the right tidbits or cues to access a memory accurately over (and over) again.

Raise your hand if you think we have enough musical cues to access the emotions triggered around Christmastime? A few mentions of “dashing” through snow, maybe a “tra” or even a “lala”, throw in a partridge and a pear tree and your brain’s neural circuits are blinking red and green, ladies and gentlemen.

For the most part, whether it’s a birthday, starting school or a holiday like Christmas (or any other annual event) – there is more than one heart warming, traditional, or distinctive thing re-occurring in our lives that invokes very, very strong emotions each time. Therefore it’s very safe to say that the notes, lyrics and age-old imagery found in Christmas music are perfect examples. Because let’s face it, if we decorated in silence, tore open gifts with nada noise, held a mute holiday gathering or never heard a bell jingle – the whole experience would be missing one of the best “cues” and memory growth ingredients.

Here are some important songs for your brains to (re)soak in during this last week before Christmas – some re-created, some classics, some from stores and some from movies. But, in a nutshell, they’re all gifts from my heart to yours – and my brain to your brain – during the most wonderful time of the year.

In no particular order…

1. White Christmas – Otis Redding


2.Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Death Cab for Cutie

3. Merry Christmas Baby – Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band


4. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – She and Him

5. Donna and Blitzen – Badly Drawn Boy


6. Christmas Song – The Raveonettes 


7. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Coldplay


8. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town – Johnny Mercer /The Pied Pipers (Q-Burns Abstract Message remix)


9. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm – Kay Starr remix


10. All I Want For Christmas – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

11. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? – Rufus Wainwright


12. The Christmas Song – Dave Matthews

13. What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder


14. Winter Song – Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles

15. Auld Lyng Syne – Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis

 

We party rocked… and we know it

Last night, Kate & I attended the LMFAO concert, at the Scotiabank Place, in Ottawa.

What I have to say today is, my body actually hurts from how hard we rocked. Party Rocked, that is.

I would not exactly call the electro-pop group music guru’s, but they do have one thing down pat: making tunes that are instant hits.

As a bartender in a club that plays Top 40 music, I can tell you ever since I’m In Miami B*tch hit the airwaves, a Party Rock nation was born. It’s their songs that get night crawlers jumping up and down, ordering shots and thrusting on the dfloor.  Last night, thousands of attendees at the concert, were doing the same.

As Kate noted, there were more people in attendance for LMFAO, than there was for rock icons Kings of Leon.

If you are headed to an LMFAO concert in the near future keep one thing in mind: dress up. Kate and I toyed with the idea all day before throwing caution to the wind and decking ourselves out with fluorescent tops, zebra and metallic tights, lenseless glasses, and even custom-made “Party Rock” shoes. Believing we’d be the only ones in ridiculous attire, we were ready to catch some stares. However, it happened to be, if you WEREN’T dressed up at the concert, then you were being eyed down. Almost everyone in the crowd had some sort of iconic piece of the LMFAO couture adorned.

As an inflatable Zebra got passed through the hands of those with floor seats (like us), Redfoo and SkyBlu played hit after hit off of their most recent album Sorry For Party Rocking, as well as classics like “Yes” and “Shots” off of their first album Party Rock EP, before spraying everyone in the crowd with bubbly for “Champagne Showers”.

The champagne was not the only thing that left me drenched. The show was more like an hour-long work out, leaving me happily sweating only a couple songs in. It would have been an impossible feat not to wildly throw my arms, shuffle and jump in the air.

After exiting the stage without playing their most recent hit “I’m Sexy and I know It”, the crowd roared until the pair came back on, only to strip off their pants, into Speedos, which naturally, sent everyone into a frenzy.

Shocking? No. What was shocking was the number of youngsters that were in attendance. Our crew of about 15 people were aged 22 – 28 but teenagers were everywhere. The average age seemed to get younger and younger the closer you got to the front of the stage. I would not exactly consider the content of LMFAO’s music, which centers largely around, drinking, partying, having sex and being obnoxious, as teenage appropriate material. But, then I have to remember I grew up rapping along with Eminem.

If there’s one thing the Party Rockers accomplished it was bringing us all to the same level; hands in the air, beer in hand, glasses on face, friends by side.

Maybe music genius was not witnessed last night, but great times were surely had… in a nutshell.

Little Spaces

Everything in your life has so much of your personality in it. Isn’t that neat? As much as your own behaviour and words portray who you are and what you stand for – I think it’s so fascinating to pick up on the little things about someone based on what drink they order, their CD collection, the way they like their eggs, their home, their favourite scents, etc. This is completely separate from judgement; I don’t mean sitting there and analzying someone’s childhood because they glob ketchup on their over-easies. I mean appreciating and learning about friends, acquaintances and even strangers, by simply recognizing the little quirks and collections in their life that make them so interesting. At the end of the day, as “duh” as this sounds – everyone on earth is just so interesting.

Like Kate has detailed before, one of the best ways to show your personality to those you love, is to make the display of your home an extension of who you are. A room can have so much life in it, or it can not. To all of my fellow first-of-the-month movers; the fact that we can finally unpack bits of ourselves that may have been holed up for years, and show them to everyone in new and funky ways, is very exciting.

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Monday Movie Music Moment

Today’s music moment is a little less famous than some of the others, or perhaps it’s one you’ve seen but forgot afterward – but I personally never did. The film Stranger Than Fiction was actually welcomed with open arms upon its release because of its artistically interesting concept and stacked cast, and even if I don’t reach to watch it once a week – there is one scene that always stands out in my head.

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Folk Fun

I have to say, I’m a little sad to see that festival season is wrapping up; it’s always so representative of summer, heat, unrestricting clothing, sunsets at 9 pm and wandering with no concept of time. There’s something so special about an event where you set up camp, sip cool suds, bump into old friends, sink your toes in the grass, dance, eat and let the hours slip away with a dozen new bands tacked onto your “must buy” list.

Ottawa has become quite the little hub for these fantastic festivals – with Bluesfest becoming internationally renowned for its round-up of countless popular acts, and now the Ottawa Folk Festival is following in the same suit from what I can see. What started out as a small, folky gathering of local acts and small-scale musicians has now grown to a four-day festival celebrating musicians from all corners of the world, all ages and all types. Similar to Bluesfest which often strays from actual blues, Folk Fest isn’t exactly all intimate, rural-ready performances – there are artists who bring a little something else to the table.

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Fall Music Preview

Fall is quickly approaching and before we know it, influxes of new autumn albums are going to drop with the leaves. The beginning of summer and beginning of fall are some of my favourite times to discover new music, because whether or not you realize – you immediately associate your overplaying of the fresh tracks with those strongly felt season changes. The first leaf turns a mahogany brown and falls at your toes or a pedal sprouts from a hibernated plant from under the newly warm sun – and those novel tunes are so very present in your head. And every year with the change of the seasons, the entrance of those songs into your life will be something you’ll remember.

So, let the musical ants come marching in. Several of today’s biggest acts are getting ready to sock it to us in the form of exciting new sounds that may re-define or re-affirm their greatness. Or, like some unfortunate releases in the past, we might sit there with the new LP’s in hand, puzzled and waiting for one of the songs to even mildly intrigue us. Continue reading

Souvenirs

So, I spent the better portion of the week in Toronto, T-dot, the big smoke. It was a fairly frugal trip to a pricey city, seeing as I was mainly there to work; but, I did have the chance to have some precious playtime, see old friends, and traipse what felt like all of creation on my free time. I love that city. As much as I have serious National Capital Region loyalty, I always appreciate the fast-paced spontaneity and cutting-edge lifestyle that come with such a wildly energetic metropolis. I thought I would share with you some not-so-specific accounts or anecdotes, and focus on some of the (city)life’s little treasures that I came home with in my suitcase. Here are some of the glorious little items and spots I picked up on this week – making my departure from the big city a happy one that included great new sounds, a full tummy, enlightened eyes and a barrel of memories…in a nutshell.

A breathtaking night in an up-and-coming neighbourhood, Liberty Village:

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City Slickers

As young girls, I think most of us grew up idolizing the bike-riding, slumber party-hosting teenage girl clans of Now & Then and The Babysitters Club, who symbolized the independence we aspired to obtain or the adventures we someday knew we’d take.

I remember fawning over that innocent self-autonomy, but also taking it to the next level as a little gal (nut) who was so excited for freedom and womanhood in the big city. I vividly remember imagining the year when I could put on dinner parties with extravagant meal options, fruity drinks, magical music and a beautiful skyline as the backdrop to my fashionable meandering guests. That was all fine and well, and very ambitious for a little thing, but highly unlikely and in no way feasible at that time.

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Rock Fashion Muse

I think that for the most part, any big music lover’s life features the dream, or at least the curious interest in, someday becoming a rock star themselves. This dream doesn’t require any sort of musical talent or even an ounce of stage confidence; trust me, I have only a little of the former (I can hit a note, I suppose) and although I consider myself fairly outgoing, I surprisingly have next-to-none of the latter. Put me on a stage in the dark with only two audience members, and I could figure it out. Otherwise, I don’t really have the ingredients to be what one would call a rock star.

So, I settle for a lot of performing in my underwear. Often I’m home alone, inconspicuously hopping atop my bed to songs like ‘Try a Little Tenderness’, ‘Monster Hospital’ or ‘Almost Crimes’, until someone knocks at my door and the music zips to a halt like an awkward party scene from a teen movie. When you can’t headline a festival or play guitar with your teeth, sometimes this is the only alternative. And, anyone who tries to say they’ve never indulged in this behaviour has pants that are currently on fire.

Since I’m not a rock star, I just love to live vicariously through those brave females who are. Those wicked, sweeter-than-pie but ruthlessly talented young gals that know how to rip a riff on their guitar and pick a bone with the microphone. I can’t get enough. And, if they can pull all of that on-stage sweating, speaking and creative-thinking off while looking classically beautiful – then even more power to them. A notable rock fashion icon for me, is undoubtedly Ms. Annie Clark – the songstress under the American indie-pop moniker St. Vincent. Aside from being a well-respected artistic mastermind who’s played alongside The National, Bon Iver and Tom Waits – Annie is also an absolute knock-out whose trendy looks match her stylish vocals. Clark mimics classic 40s-feminine flair, easily incorporating the forward-thinking era fashion into her contemporary vintage look. She is effortlessly gorgeous in her tiny sprite-like figure, so much so that you would expect sparkling pixie-dust to toss from her guitar strings every time she plucks under the spotlight.

Here are some of Annie’s most wonderful fashion moments:

                                        Classic and romantic 40s-esque look:

Casually cool and simple, vintage-inspired chic:

Funky sunglasses collection, necessary for any rocker gal:

Understated make-up for a fresh-faced fairy:

 

 

Want to hear this little pixie belt it out? Here is her lovely calming cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” as well as the newest St. Vincent track, the funky and atmospheric “Surgeon“. She can really do it all, in a nutshell.