By Annie Arnone
There are 100 people crowding the narrow hallway of Kensington market’s Handlebar, snapping and cheering for the rapper performing. His stage name is Hazel, and he’s 18-years-old—rapping about a girl. Some audience members have their eyes closed as they sway back and forth, others nod and snap their fingers as they grunt approvingly. Up next is a female artist who shakes her fist before stepping onto the small stage. These artists are here for Winter’s Interlude: a concert featuring the best of the best, according to the event coordinator, Abel Lulseged.
The concert consists of over 10 acts ranging from jazz, to rap, to acoustic-soul and in the fourth-year business management student’s words, the performers are some of Toronto’s most talented.
“Every artist on the bill is someone I believe in. I’ve worked closely with a lot of Toronto artists and I’ve always believed in certain few of them,” he said.
“I wanted to give them a platform to perform their stuff.”
“There are a lot of local artists making major names. We need to make sure they’re heard and tonight’s the night to do that,” he said.
He also mentioned that the show was not only intended to draw a spotlight on emerging artists, but to raise money for a good cause. All proceeds from the show are to be donated to Art Starts — an organization that uses art as an approach to social change.
“We love this cause. [Art Starts] is a not-for-profit which funds programming for underserved communities through arts—spoken word seminars, art show cases, teaching kids how to paint, it’s just some of the stuff they cover. It’s amazing,” said Moustapha.
Both Lulseged and Moustapha plan to launch a new blog in the fall called Jesso — a platform for local artists to write and publish their own, poetry, articles and songs.
“We’re excited,” said Moustapha. ‘It’ll be a really cool way for artists to show off their thing in a contained environment.”
The site is projected to launch in late February.