TOBi, Naya Ali, RAAHiiM, Hunnah and Dylan Sinclair have been named the first winners of the new SiriusXM Black Canadian Music Awards, a designation created to “recognize and celebrate the artistic merit demonstrated by Black music creators,” the SOCAN Foundation announced Monday.
More than 300 applications were submitted by artists across the country, representing a broad variety of musical genres and approaches. The five winners each will receive a $5,000 prize
The Black Canadian Music Award was launched in September to not only bring new and emerging Black artists into the spotlight, but in support of the SOCAN Foundation’s “objective to develop equitable and inclusive programming as diverse as the communities in which we live,” the foundation says.
The awards are also “a response to the high-profile racial tensions that developed in early 2020 and to address issues arising from our societies’ systemic racism,” the foundation continues. “It was the SOCAN Foundation’s way to acknowledge and denounce history’s injustices by celebrating the talent of Black Canadian music creators.”
The foundation goes on to say that the term “Black music” was and is “meant to be an inclusive category representing all music being created, produced or inspired by Black people and by persons of African descent, including African music traditions and African popular music as well as the musical genres of the African diaspora, particularly Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin, Afro-Brasilian and Afro-American music. That definition and the Award’s broad guidelines are the result of consultations with a small group of members of the Black music community and members of the SOCAN Foundation team.”
“Congratulations to all the winners for their extraordinary talent in music creation,” says Charlie Wall-Andrews, the foundation’s executive director. “The musical pieces submitted are indicative of the extent of the contributions made by the Canadian Black music community that is enriching Canadian culture while contributing in a significant way to social and economic inclusion.”
The five winners were chosen from the 300 applicants by a jury and council made up of Black artist and industry leaders, including DJ Agile. Most of the winners — four of the five — are first-generation Canadians.
“SiriusXM would like to congratulate the five winners of the inaugural SiriusXM Black Canadian Music Awards. We were blown away by the outstanding talent and submissions from Black music creators from across the country,” adds Paul Cunningham, senior vice president of sales and marketing for SiriusXM Canada.
A virtual awards celebration consisting of a series of short videos on the SOCAN Foundation’s Instagram page from January 12 to 14.
A little more about this year’s winners:
TOBi, a hip-hop artist from Ontario, was born in Nigeria and immigrated to Canada at the age of 8 with his father. His musical journey started with rap before he picked up writing R&B, afropop, pop and alternative music. TOBi has started producing and writing for other artists while still writing lyrics for his own pieces.
Naya Ali, a rapper from Quebec, was born in Ethiopia and started creating music at just two years old. Recently she’s been getting plenty of attention, including billboards in downtown Toronto, for her flow and flamboyant personality and high-energy performances.
RAAHiiM, from Ontario, got his start singing in church and participating in talent shows across North America, joining the 2014 class of The Remix Project’s recording program at age 17. His writing and production skills, along with his remarkable voice, have led to some high-profile collaborations.
Hunnah, an R&B singer from Ontario, is just 19 but began singing at the age of four in churches and started recording music at 15. His 2017 independent release, “Red Like Crimson,” landed him on the radar of some high-profile artists in Toronto.
Dylan Sinclair began her musical education in Ontario at the age of four, performing at churches and writing original songs by age nine. Now based in LA, she feels her greatest talent is the ability to connect and bond with her audience through their speakers.
More information on the award is available here.