By Rosanne Ramkarran
Parties only become real parties as the night progresses, but last Wednesday’s video release party for Eternia’s “Sorrow Song” was an exception.
The party started at 8 p.m., and by 8:15 p.m., Queen Street West’s Element Bar looked like it had reached capacity.
Inside the darkened Element, a slew of Eternia’s favourite DJs kept the crowd’s heads bopping. They spun the best of Canadian hip hop, underground hip hop, and got the crowd going with classics from Wu Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G. and Heltah Skeltah. The bass-heavy music from the speakers served as a form of meditation for the hip hop lovers. Everyone seemed relaxed, whether they were getting a drink at the bar or just leaning against the wall enjoying the music.
While the bass vibrated through the structure of the bar, Eternia — better known around the Ryerson community as third-year journalism student Silk-Anne Kaya — buzzed around the venue, meeting and greeting all of her guests.
“Sorrow Song” is featured on the Honey Drops compilation, Canada’s first all-female, urban CD, release in August 2002 by Universal Music and Phem Phat.
“It was a free mastering,” Eternia said happily of her contribution to the album. “They took it to New York and did it. It’s probably the cleanest track I have.”
Her party was definitely a star studded event, with some of the Canadian music industry’s most respected artists schmoozing it up. Canadian hip hop artists Maestro, Tara Chase and Two Rude worked the room and showed Ryerson’s own MC a little love. From their response, it was clear that Eternia has a place in the hip hop community’s heart.
It was also clear from Kaya’s wide smile when they embraced, that Eternia has a special place in her heart for Maestro.
“That was really special,” she said of the Canadian legend’s surprise appearance. “He leaves me messages all the time telling me to keep doing my thing … I was lip-synching to him when I was nine years old. I have it on videotape. For me to see him [at my own video party], it’s very full circle.”
The urban love-in continued until about 9:45 p.m., when a screen began to descend from the ceiling in front of the DJ booth. The moment everyone had been waiting for had arrived — the video debut of “Sorrow Song” was about to start.
Two seconds into the video, the screen went black. Before the crowd coujld respond, someone got on the mic and asked if they really wanted to see the video. The walls began to thunder until the video reappeared on screen.
For the next few minutes the crowd remained still and silent, with all eyes on the screes, focusing on the emotional lyrics flowing from Eternia:
“Two vague to satisfy my dreams/magnetized by ties/ so we’re living in what could have been/ I hate that.”
In the video, Eternia performs at a club. The director weaves Eternia’s spoken word story of her own breakup into flashbacks of couples in the audience who are recalling their own pain. The song that accompanies the video is a partial remix of the track from Honey Drops, and combines with the grainy 35 mm film and the black and white flashback footage to create a haunting lyrical inspection of a broken heart.
“The idea for the video came really fast,” said Erskine Ford, director of “Sorrow Song.”
It was shot in early August, at Transac, an Australian hall located on Brunswick and Bloor Streets.
Rude Boy did the beats for the version of the song that appeared on the album but when the video opportunity arose, Eternia decided that she was bored of the same beat and wanted a remixed third verse that would better fit with the style of the video. Toronto’s jigsaw Productions took up the cause and dropped a hymn-like vibe that follows Eternia out of the club she performs in and ends the video on a distinctfully mournful note.
The project, which was financed by artist grants from the Ontario government and Moses Znaimer’s Videofact program, lasted three months from start to finish and aired on MuchMusic for the first time last Tuesday.
Eternia said that she insisted she be involved in every level of the project, even she was told it was already being handled.
“Even when [Ford] said ‘you don’t have to worry about that,’ I was like ‘I have to worry. It’s my image on the screen,’” she said. “If it sucks, they won’t remember his effort, they’ll just look at it and go, ‘Oh. Eternia. Her new video sucks.’”
Ford said he thought the debut was a success, and that Eternia came off as very natural.
“We didn’t have to contrive an image,” he said. “The video very much represents what she’s about.”
Ford said he liked working with Eternia because of her work ethic.
“[She] shows a lot of integrity,” Ford said. “She is businesslike, concise, organized and a good communicator.”
“Words on this page leave me bare/ Spitting out my sorrow, it gets lost in the air.”
When the video ended, clapping, whistling and shouts of approval filed the packed club.
Eternia said later that the crowd’s reaction was more than anyone could ask for.
She quickly walked to the mic to thank everyone for attending, and credited those who helped with the project. Honoured among those special attendees was Eternia’s mother.
Naomi Craig Johnson, who lives in London, Ont., rented a car so that she could drive to Toronto to attend her daughter’s video release party — the first hip hop event she has attended during Eternia’s rise to fame.
“I am extremely proud of my daughter, proud to see she pursued her passion, because she’s been doing this since she was twelve,” Johnson said.
“It means a lot that my mom is coming to the party because it is the first time she will be attending one of my hip hop events,” echoed Eternia, who said she was surprised her mother enjoyed herself because she thought she would be unable to bear the loud music and heavy bass.
Meanwhile, Ryan Haines, an A&R representative for Universal Music Canada was talking up Eternia’s video around the room. A large part of Haine’s job is to scout for new talent and listen to demos. He said he has always respected Eternia’s work and liked the way her personality came through in the video.
“The video fit the song well and looked [appealing] to the eye,” he said, adding that he liked the editing, because the visuals coincided well with the sound.
“Anyone who watches the video can easily relate to it,” Haines said, and he wasn’t the only one.
After the video, nearly everyone in the crowd wanted to congratulate Eternia with a hug or a pat on the back. With photographers glued to her side, she continued to work the room, making small talk with friends and special guests. In fact, she never stopped working the room.
“Just trying to show all of my friends love,” she said.