Kensington Market to host an “insane roster of amazing musicians”
By Annemarie Brissenden
Although Kensington Market has a long history of incubating musical talent, it hasn’t been home to a live musical festival that perhaps best embodies the area, whose Victorian homes, improvised stalls mixed between long-standing businesses, and quirky culture unite into a syncopated rhythm that is very much its own.
The Kensington Market Jazz Festival (KMJF), running Sept. 16 to 18, will feature over 100 artists performing at nine venues throughout the market. Complemented by art, fashion, and film pop-ups, as well as fundraisers to support local charities, the jazz festival is decidedly a homegrown showcase for local talent.
“The festival is primarily built around local talent,” said Mika Bareket, a board member of the Kensington Market BIA, one of the KMJF’s sponsors. She owns Good Egg and lives in the neighbourhood. “Some [of the performers] are people who live in the neighbourhood that I didn’t realize were musicians.”
Among the performers are Don Thompson, Joe Sealy, Dave Young, and Jane Bunnett, all of whom are Order of Canada members, as well as Carol Welsman, Sophie Milman, and Alex Pangman.
The festival is the dream child of singer-songwriter and longtime market denizen Molly Johnson.
“Molly came in like a light; so enthusiastic and so organized,” said Bareket. “Music has a rich tradition in Kensington, but jazz has a more subtle sound that tends to get drowned out by the DJs and drums” of other festivals like Pedestrian Sundays.
“I’ve loads of very talented friends looking for places to play,” said Johnson, who is organizing the festival in partnership with musical artist Genevieve Marentette. “We have an insane roster of amazing musicians, and I want to stress how important it is for people to come out and support live music.”
“You don’t hear live music enough,” agreed self-described “proud sponsor” of the festival Tom Mihalik of Tom’s Place. “Musicians don’t have enough opportunities to showcase their talent.”
He’s spent years trying to convince Johnson to perform in his store one afternoon. “When she said yes, I didn’t realize she had bigger ideas,” Mihalik laughed. His store is also a festival venue, and will feature artists introduced by the daughter of Oscar Peterson.
Just like Seaton Village’s Open Tuning festival, KMJF will feature big names alongside up-and-comers, perhaps even launching some musicians from the Youth Arcade Studio on Augusta Avenue.
“We’re going to showcase some of the so many talented young musicians throughout Toronto,” said Madoka Murata, who is curating the youth stage. Murata has taught music for 40 years, and owns a music school, Discovery through the Arts.
She became involved at Johnson’s behest, but is an active promoter of the importance of music in a child’s development.
“I believe the arts should be used to create human beings,” she said. “It stimulates so many different parts of the brain.”
Many of the organizers are keen for the festival to become an annual tradition.
Mihalik believes it’s “fantastic for the market. We can display all our talent that lives in Toronto”.
“I hope it becomes an annual tradition,” said the BIA’s Bareket. “I’m excited to see this on an ongoing basis.”
The Kensington Market Jazz Festival runs Sept. 16 to 18 at various venues throughout the market. Cover charges, which are cash only, range from $10 to $25. Performances at Tom’s Place will be free, and two events are pay-what-you-can.
ARTS: Connecting neighbours through music (May 2016)
CHATTER: Kensington Market consultation focuses on culture (July 2016)
NEWS: Kensington Market to become heritage district (May 2016)