“Music has always been a platform for communication and self expression. Sounds travel long distances therefore allowing the lines of communication to be delivered. Music has also been a platform for expression whether it be social awareness or just plain fun. In my opinion, music is its own language that bridges people of all cultures together through rhythms and harmony.”
Meet Albert Earl Lamons Jr. Better known as DJ Alibaba. Household name in the local community, self-taught DJ, philanthropist, and self-claimed “Ameri-Canadian” living in Surrey, BC. Originally from Vallejo, California (in the San Francisco Bay Area), Alibaba was raised in a gospel church which provided him with his first exposure to music from an early age. From there the rest was history. He started playing the piano at age seven, and then continued on to the clarinet and saxophone in the school band. Outside of church and the band room, he was too, exposed to a multitude of music in the California scene. I “listened to some of the best DJ’s in North America who produced mixed music shows for stations such as KDIA AM, KSOL FM, and KMEL FM.” And when asked what his first album ever bought? “Songs, In the Key of Life” by Earth, Wind & Fire in 1976. “It’s still one of my all time favourite albums.” “I have a very eclectic taste in music. I love Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Parliment, Bootsy, Michael Jackson, Prince, Janet Jackson, ACDC, Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain, so some might say I’m confused!” “Music has been in my blood from day one!”
DJ Alibaba enlisted into the military as a young adult and was stationed in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was here that he first made contact with Canada, when he and his fellow airmen in the Air Force would drive up to Winnipeg, Manitoba to go to Social events. It was at these events where he quickly realized that the current DJ’s of the time did not know how to beatmatch and mix songs together properly. “[It was this and] my previous experiences from California [that] inspired me to become a DJ, which was the catalyst in developing the DJ skills I have today.”
Upon numerous visits to and from Winnipeg, he later chose to make the move up north after leaving the US Air Force, and he officially received his landed immigrant status in 1985. It was there in Winnipeg that he started his DJ career with the prominent DJ Promoter, Grand Master Funk – whom he originally met at an After Party, but then later, formally met through his wife, who happened to be good friends with him and his inner circle at the time. The Grand Master himself dubbed him the DJ name “DJ Alibaba”. As Alibaba says, “Al Lamons was born in the States and DJ Alibaba was born in Canada.”
Let’s remember that at the time when he began DJing in 1985, there were no DJ schools, no music streaming platforms, and the internet was not the main source for learning new skills. DJ Alibaba had to learn hands on. After a few years establishing his craft, and quickly reaching a pinnacle of DJing in the Winnipeg scene, DJ Alibaba wanted to break into a major market. This is where Surrey becomes a part of his story, when in 1992 he made the move out West, and Surrey has been his home ever since.
Flash forward a few years/decades later, and DJ Alibaba considers himself as a “well-rounded entertainer” more so than solely a “turntablist”. “I pride myself on connecting with the crowd, playing the right song at the right time in the mix, and being able to hype a crowd on the microphone. Some people say my microphone skills is my strongest suit.” For equipment and software, he uses Technics 1200’s Raine Mixer, a MacBook Pro and Video Serato, and although he had accumulated over 25,000 records over the years, due to modern technology, he’s decided to “trim down” the collection to a “small” but mighty 3,000. When asked which DJ’s inspire him and his work, he’s quick to recite DJ Jazzy Jeff as being his favourite in the scene.
Giving credit where credit is due, he also mentioned his like and appreciation for Grand Master Flash, Red Alert, Kool Herc, Kid Capri, Funk Master Flex and Jam Master Jay. “One of the things I am most proud of, outside of being the first black “On-Air” radio personality on a mainstream, commercialised radio station, is people know me as the first DJ to ever have a Hip Hop night in Surrey.”
Although a proud Surrey resident, DJ Alibaba states the facts that unfortunately, “the night clubs and bar scene has been run out of Surrey and channelled to the Granville Strip, with all the other night clubs, which has really hurt the nightlife scene in Surrey. Surrey is the fastest growing region in the Lower Mainland so clearly there is enormous opportunity to provide entertainment on this side of the Fraser Valley. One thing the City Council Members have not taken into consideration is providing people an opportunity to have a thriving nightlife in Surrey without having to drive across bridges to Vancouver after consuming alcohol. Surrey needs much improvement in that area.”
Nowadays, you can find DJ Alibaba playing at the The Flying Beaver in Richmond and at The Park Bar in Downtown on weekends. He also frequently DJ’s corporate events with Vancouver International Airport (YVR), various hospitals, and other various corporate entities. And when he is not DJ’ing it up, DJ Alibaba engages in meaningful philanthropic initiatives in the community with his organization “Friends United Beyond All Race.” The organization hosts fundraising events such as their famous “Roller Jam” at Robson Square, “Golf Classic” tournament at Guildford Golf & Country Club and their “Glow Party” at The Park Bar, in support of Make-A-Wish BC & Yukon.
Whatever DJ Alibaba is doing, it is clear that he is doing it with a whole lot of soul and care. A lover of all things music, a household name in the Canadian DJ scene, and a proud Surrey resident…. DJ Alibaba is it. And we are grateful to have him as a part of our thriving community.
To find out more about DJ Alibaba’s services you can find him at…
Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival Rising Star Application Opens
Rising Star Jazz Musician Award opportunity to earn scholarship and jazz festival show Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival organizers busy at work preparing for 2020 festival
When the Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival returns for two full days of live music in July, an up and coming jazz musician will be featured as the festival’s Rising Star award winner.
Festival organizers established the annual award in 2019 “to recognize an outstanding jazz student who demonstrates a high level of performance ability and is pursuing a professional career in jazz music.”
The Rising Star award winner will be given an opportunity to perform with a main stage artist on Saturday, July 25 during the festival and in their own featured paid performance on Sunday, July 26. They will also receive a scholarship of $1,000.
“We are thrilled to offer a unique opportunity for an emerging jazz student to become our Rising Star,” said Dave Quinn, artistic director for the festival. “One of our key mandates is to support youth and emerging artists and the award is a wonderful opportunity for an up and coming jazz student to perform with and be mentored by established artists, while also receiving financial support for their education.”
Last year’s inaugural award winner, Julian Borkowski, a Surrey resident and second-year music student at Capilano University at the time, said the recognition “is a great opportunity for me to expose myself musically.”
Award submissions are open to all secondary and post-secondary music students from the Metro Vancouver area until March 31, 2020 on the festival website.
For 2020, Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival will be held from July 24 to 26, offering free concerts on two outdoor stages with world-renowned jazz acts on the Saturday and Sunday, along with four nighttime concerts for ticketholders. Featured genres include straight-ahead jazz, R&B, big band, New Orleans, funk and latin jazz.
One of the festival’s four ticketed events, an opening-night concert, on Friday, July 24, inside Fort Langley National Historic Site will feature an all-star blues show. A Roaring 20’s gala dance event will recreate the Cotton Club with a big band and Cab Calloway singer on Saturday, July 25 at the Fort Langley Community Hall. A new jazz concert with a headliner act at Chief Sepass Theatre is also scheduled for Saturday night.
Closing the festival will be a gospel/soul show at Chief Sepass Theatre on Sunday, July 26.
The festival is also adding a new ticketed concert series called the “Art of Jazz” that will feature innovative and creative jazz acts in an intimate concert setting.
Tickets for all nighttime shows will go on sale in April at fortlangleyjazzfest.com/tickets
“There will be something for every jazz fan,” Quinn stated. “We’ll also have four pop-up performance stages around the community featuring youth and emerging jazz acts, Jazz Around Town performances at restaurants and a Kidz Zone area and stage.”
Organizers are also expanding the art side of the festival with an Outdoor Painting Challenge, a student art exhibit, artist vendor areas and Indigenous artist workshops and demonstrations.
The band lineup and all other festival activities will be announced in April. You can view highlights of the 2019 festival here.
Khanvict’s First Vancouver Live Set
Khanvict, a local Pakistani born Producer had his first live show in Vancouver on January 17th at the Imperial. Asad is a bit of a local hero within the scene as the young up and comer who is really making a name for himself off the bat.
This live show was really nothing like what South Asian artists have performed locally. Since last spring he has been practicing this unique showcase in a warehouse setup with his custom hardware and software rig including live and electronic instruments and cutting edge lighting and visual design.
Beyond just the hybrid of sounds – bollywood / electronic / punjabi / south asian – he is truly engaging the diaspora youth in something that feels uniquely theirs. Think of artists such as Cartel Madras in the hip hop space or Raveena (a bit more mainstream) but in the R&B space – he will be quick on the heels of that type of success.
His show also featured Raaginder, a violinist and music composer from the San Francisco Bay Area, who has produced several contemporary albums in which the sounds of Indian classical violin and hip-hop music intermingle. He has also had the privilege and pleasure of performing in prominent venues all over the world such as The White House, Staples Center, Wembley Arena and many more.
Surrey based Asad Khan, better known by his stage name Khanvict, has built his name around a sound that seamlessly blends the eastern influences of Bollywood and Punjabi music with a signature West Coast bass music punch. An immigrant from Pakistan who arrived in Canada in his early teens, Khanvict found purpose in the ultra-competitive world of South Asian dance parties, quickly becoming one of the most in-demand DJs in the scene. In 2017, spurred by experiences at West Coast festivals like Shambhala, Khanvict began to take inspiration from the likes of Troyboi, Clozee and Indian artists like Nucleya.
Very much a product of the streaming generation, Khanvict co-founded the record label Snakes x Ladders to take his sound to the masses. His first EP on the label, Kahani, saw great traction and led to an opportunity to release 2 official remixes of AR Rahman’s classic Bollywood hits Jiya Jale and Ramta Jogi through Venus Records in India.
Khanvict is known for his ability to perform – and this Vancouver show is his first fully live set in Vancouver ever! Months of preparation, custom software and hardware, and a custom lighting and LED rig have allowed him to bring his expansive and cinematic vision to life.
Recent shows include Shambhala, Sessions Music Festival (NYC), FIMPRO (Mexico) and Chasing Summer (AB), Rifflandia 2018 (BC) and opening for Vidya Vox at the Celebration of Light 2019.
South-Asian FM Station 91.5 Connect FM Launches in Surrey!
CJCN Connect FM marked its launch in the city of Surrey with the beginning of new year on 2nd January, 2020. South-Asian ethnic radio station announced its official opening on the FM frequency of 91.5 MHz.
The Difficulty with Vancouver’s Music Scene
Work put in with little return? Vancouver’s local musicians look to the community for support
By Keely Rammage-Scott
A crack of static echoes through the room as the musician plugs in his guitar. Blinding yellow lights bring the stage to light and the frontman steps forward to the microphone as he awaits the roar of the crowd. Only silence follows.
Vancouver’s music scene holds a very specific reputation that can be described by local artists with one word: Difficult. Artists spend weeks on end promoting just one show using all the different tools necessary to do so in this day and age. Among those tools are social media, word of mouth, advertising, networking, and different streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL. Even when an artist devotes all their time and energy into using whatever is at their disposal to encourage members of the local community to come to their show, it is a gamble on whether or not they will be presented with a crowded dance floor, or a couple patches of people here and there.
Are big cities just for big parties? Alex Frizzell, self-branded as AVFmusic is a session musician and producer in Vancouver with both studio and live performance experience. Frizzell sees Vancouver as what it is: a big city with a big attitude. “When I have ventured into the live scene at smaller acoustic gigs or open mics and charity events, I’ve noticed really low turnouts. Especially when compared to what raves in this city pull,” says Frizzell. The people prefer the larger-than-life cultural experience. They pay big money to listen to remixes of familiar songs. They could pay a fraction of the price by visiting one of many bars or coffee shops in Vancouver to support local talent, but unfortunately, people looking to attend events tend to gravitate towards the crowds.
None of this is to say that the local music scene has no support. Local musicians agree that other artists tend to be the most supportive audiences. Ryan Rhys, lead vocalist of Threat Level Midnight is one. “Other artists were super supportive and encouraging, and it gave us the confidence we needed to play our hearts out!” says Rhys.
Most artists in Vancouver agree that venue and atmosphere can have a huge impact on the overall experience of a show. All-ages shows are few and far between in Vancouver. The scene is full of supportive, younger show-goers that are unable to find opportunities to support their favourite local artists due to age restrictions. Most Vancouver music venues are bars and clubs, strictly nineteen plus. Anyone underage is therefore prohibited from attending these shows.
It has not always been this way. Derya Whaley-Kalaora has been going to shows for five years and has seen many different venues and crowds both as a show-goer and a performer in her diverse range of musical projects. Whaley-Kalaora remembers some of Vancouver’s most coveted all-ages venues and the shows that ran at them not even a year ago.
“The Vancouver scene is in crisis with many of the local venues going under, so people who really care about the local scene and work hard to keep it alive are vital,” she says. “One particularly wonderful experience I have had performing was at a venue that has now been shut down called Stylus Records. My old band Mind Offline was playing one of our first shows there and suddenly the power went out as we were playing a cover of “I’m not Yours Anymore” by Angus and Julia Stone. The crowd at Stylus was always so wonderful, and as this happened, they began to sing along to the song with us and wave their phone flashlights. This was a heartwarming experience for us because we’d just started playing together and having the support of so many people in such an intimate environment was absolutely lovely.”
Vancouver artists such as Whaley-Kalaora believe in the importance of all-ages, accessible music venues for all members of the community. Aly Laube is the associate director of Cushy Entertainment, a Vancouver-based production company focused on holding inclusive and accessible events. Cushy has been one of few companies in Vancouver focused on hosting all ages events. “As a promoter, I’ve had great luck with crowds,” says Laube.
Laube has built Cushy from her experience as a younger live music-goer. “I was a kid when I started getting into the music scene and it made me who I am. It saved me from getting in trouble and gave me inspiration,” she says. Laube cannot remember the last time she hosted a nineteen plus event with Cushy. She hopes to provide today’s youth with the same opportunities to see live music as she had when she was younger.
Laube also brings an inclusive attitude to Vancouver’s music scene. “The one thing [the scene] didn’t give me was a sense of representation of women, particularly women of colour, on stages. When I eventually got older and confident enough to help make that happen by joining bands and now by leading Cushy, I knew I wanted to be part of making sure young marginalized people had access to a space that felt open and there for them!”
While audience and venue have been known to make live shows memorable and heartwarming experiences for artists, local musicians are faced with the unfortunate task of navigating the digital world of the twenty-first century. Local bands are unlikely to be booked for shows without some sort of online presence. “It’s hard but necessary,” says Laube. “Facebook is needed for event pages. Instagram is needed for spreading the word. Stories are useful for getting eyes on your content. Websites show you’re professional. Social media is the best tool for getting your brand out there these days, and image matters more now than ever.”
Different artists face different struggles with social media. It is a grind to be seen. While social media and streaming platforms are the greatest tools out there today for providing artists with opportunity, it is also difficult for just one small scale artist to be seen among online algorithms. “the [Instagram] algorithm is evil and heavily prioritizes people who pay to sponsor their content” says Whaley-Kalaora. Despite this, she and others still believe that social media is a vital tool to artists.
“Social media is the primary way that our shows are promoted,” says Harvey. “While posters in local businesses and word of mouth are great, social media allows us to get the word out faster and more efficiently.” Laube says that streaming platforms provide a similar accessibility and are equally necessary. “If you’re not on the streaming platforms available to listeners, how will they find you?” she asks. Streaming platforms are her main resource for finding new music as a promoter in Vancouver.
As do many other tools, streaming platforms also have downfalls for local artists. Whaley-Kalaora says that streaming platforms tend to show music from more well-known artists on main pages. “You can find local artists that are not well known if you search for them, but it is hard to have people stumble upon your music unless you get on the right playlists.”
The amount of labour that is put into a local artist’s social media or accessible music is immense in comparison to what they get back in return. Artists in Vancouver have seen this struggle firsthand. Both require a huge investment, both in time and funds. “There is really no money to be made doing [social media], you’re hoping it’s an investment that will see returns with higher live turnout that doesn’t really exist in Vancouver unless you fit into the narrow niches that have some popularity,” says Frizzell, who has been to shows of all different genres in the city.
Returns from streaming platforms have been a globally debated topic in the last number of years. “[Streaming services] don’t compensate artists nearly enough. This makes it very hard for people to seriously consider a career in music and gain monetarily from it,” says Whaley-Kalaora. She has music on different platforms under her past and present projects.
Local artists rely heavily on public support in order to continue doing what they love. Their success and livelihoods depend on show-goers and users of streaming platforms. All artists agree that one of the most important things you can do to support the local scene is to get as involved as you can. “Go to shows! Pay cover! Buy local music and merchandise!” says Laube.
Whaley-Kalaora believes that even liking and sharing a local artist’s post on social media can be a huge help if you are not financially able to buy tickets to shows or merchandise. “We all depend on each other and the few local art spaces we have left, like Avant-Garden; get out there and volunteer, share in community, and support each other’s art. Bring your friends from work, school, bring your mom, bring your date. Local events are such a wonderful and cheap way to enjoy weekends (and weeks) and there’s always tons going on.”
Interview with DJ Heer for the Canucks Diwali Night
On October 25th, the Vancouver Canucks will be celebrating their 3rd annual Diwali Night before and during the game against the Washington Capitals. There will be a flashmob, and live performances by Jazzy B, DJ Heer, and DJ BIG. And also complimentary South Asian food samples in the concourses.
Diwali is one of the world’s most celebrated festivals and the name itself means “row of lighted lamps” with light symbolizing the triumph of good over evil, prosperity over poverty and knowledge over ignorance.
We’ve interviewed DJ Jovan Heer, who now lives in Surrey, to learn more about him and the upcoming Diwali Night.
Being a huge passionate fan of the Canucks and of music, you’ve combined both to help spearhead the Diwali Night. How did that happen and what motivated you to take action?
I’ve always been a fan of Punjabi and Bollywood music ever since I was a kid. I saw a huge opportunity to do something with the Canucks as their is such a big South Asian community in the Vancouver area. 3 years ago I reached out to Ryan from the Canucks, who was in charge of organizing special events, on Twitter saying that we needed to have a night that celebrated the South Asian community in a way.
A few months later, I received an email from him asking me if I wanted to DJ on the plaza outside of Rogers Arena and I was shocked that it was actually going to happen and that I would have the opportunity to DJ for my favourite team. The first year was an amazing experience, after I DJ’ed on the plaza I was able to go to where Jay Swing was DJing and was able to see how everything operated up there and also got to share the floor with the likes of Jim Benning, Trevor Linden and many more prominent Canucks figures up in the press box during intermissions and at the end of the game.
Last year was even bigger when E3 Entertainment got involved and they made the event even bigger and better with the addition of more performances and the Crown Prince of Bhangra Jazzy B, myself and the Q-Town Productions team also DJ’ed on the Plaza along with a Bhangra flashmob. Diwali night has become a huge deal and is making news all over as this is an event everyone wants to attend. The Hockey Night In Punjabi team is also another huge factor in this night as they have grown very much in the past few years and have brought in a whole new demographic of fans with the Punjabi commentary as now families are now all gathering together watching games.
How did you get into DJ’ing and who are your main influencers?
I’ve always had a passion for music growing up as a child, my parents would play music and I would dance for hours listening to it and singing along. When I realized that I could do what I love and be the life of the party with the music I play it was something that I just couldn’t pass up. I had mentors in Edmonton who I worked with under the Pure Entertainment name and I also took some classes with Night Vision Music as well that helped excel my skill level. My main influencers have to be Jazzy B, Malkit Singh and Notorious BIG as they’ve made me a huge Bhangra and Hip Hop fan.
You get booked to perform in different countries. How does that feel?
It’s honestly a surreal feeling having the chance to not only travel but to perform in front of sold out crowds of hundreds to thousands of people along with performing alongside some of the biggest performers in the Punjabi music industry.
What would you like to see more of in terms of both the music and hockey culture in Surrey?
I think right now everything is going great with the culture. We have Hockey Night in Punjabi with Punjabi commentary and broadcasting, there are many South Asian players on ice and ball hockey teams so parents are now investing the money and putting their kids in these leagues. E3 Entertainment has done a great job working with the Canucks making sure the experience of the entire night is a success and fans are enjoying the entire night.
What is one piece of advice you can give to aspiring and rookie DJ’s and music producers?
Marketing is everything in today’s day and age. The harder you work, the more you put out there, the more successful you will be. There are plenty of talented DJ’s out there but so many are so resistant and don’t make the time to put out mixes that fans can listen to.
How do you balance being a DJ, working a full time job, and the rest of life?
It’s all about balance. It’s a lot of juggling things and a lot of nights with no sleep but in the end if it’s going to make you successful and set you up for the future then it is all worth it. Not only am I working full time and DJing but I also have my own radio show on Rukus Avenue Radio and am a music journalist for Simply Bhangra the world’s largest South Asian music website as well. It’s tough to handle at times but it’s something I enjoy doing.
What can fans expect at the Diwali Night?
Fans can expect another Diwali night full of music and dance. We will be performing on the plaza outside of Rogers Arena prior to the game and their will be many other plans for the night as well. The highlight of the night will be the performance of Jazzy B who is one of the top Punjabi music artists of all time.
What are your predictions for the game against the Capitals?
I predict a 4-2 win for the Canucks, we are 2-0 on Diwali Night.
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