The New World of Canadian Reggae
Kirk Diamond, Slim Flex, Ammoye, Lexxicon, STORRY and more are shaping reggae's next generation
Published Feb 17, 2021
While reggae continues to shape many different areas of Canadian music, the country's multicultural landscape is bringing global influences to reggae's next generation. Here are some of our country's rising reggae stars to keep an eye on.
Hailing from Spanish Town, Jamaica, JUNO winner Kirk Diamond's music is based on roots reggae, pop, and the sounds he was immersed in growing up in Canada. "I grew up in Brampton, so I've been influenced by Middle Eastern, South Asian sounds as well," he says. "I don't live in Jamaica anymore, so the things that I would sing about are more from a Canadian point of view versus a Jamaican perspective."
Canadian reggae is special, he adds: "I believe that we keep the authenticity of the music without being corny. It's very authentic. I'm seeing a lot of Canadians being played now in Jamaica, and it's been accepted. Canadian artists like myself, Exco Levi, Tanya Mullins and more have been on this game for a while now, and now there's a lot more of us."
Key tracks: "Let It Be Done," "Greater"
Slim Flex is originally from Ghana, and his sound incorporates elements of dancehall and Western music.
"This music is spiritual. Music is a language that is understood globally and universally. It doesn't really matter where you find yourself or what [the] colour of your skin [is]. I see it as a plus that other races embrace your culture to the point where they would actually perform it to the people," he says. "It also bridges the gap and shows that, with music, people could actually be together or do things together regardless of where they come from or what they are. I would just tell them to keep doing what they're doing and that nobody can tell you that you cannot do it."
Key tracks: "I'm a Boss," "Higher," "Big Dreams"
Born Dina Koutsouflakis, the Toronto singer-songwriter incorporates a love and cultural appreciation for reggae music into a mix of pop, R&B and jazz.
"I started traveling to Jamaica every year, for the last 13 or so years. I just always loved Jamaican culture and Jamaican music. And there's a very strong presence of that culture in Toronto. It influences a lot of the music here, whether we like to admit it or not. Reggae and dancehall have very greatly influenced much of the pop and R&B and indie music that has come out in the past decade." Her reggae single "Another Man" was produced in Jamaican by legendary production team Sly and Robbie.
"I love to see more women in reggae," says STORRY. "I really just want to encourage more women to be a part of this movement, especially since reggae allows for so much social consciousness."
Key tracks: "Another Man" "For No One"
Lexxicon lived in Birmingham, UK, and New York City before settling in Toronto. His globetrotting informed his sound, which merges elements of pop and hip-hop with reggae and Afrobeat. Lexxicon's recent output includes Bashment Trap House and Tropical R&B.
"It's a fusion of dancehall and hip-hop. It's not fully reggae but not hip-hop either. It's just reflective of how the music is evolving," he says. "The fact that it's not going to be purely reggae, I think, is what makes it more Canadian. There's so many things in the music — and people who record and perform it aren't necessarily of Caribbean descent but they all just love the sound."
He's also the founder of AfroWave Toronto, advocating for representation of dancehall, Afrobeats, reggaeton and soca artists in Canada. He says, "There are so many influences, which is why the reggae sound in Canada isn't just one thing. You have friends from different backgrounds all over the place. You're going to hear something like you might like from another culture and your friends from other cultures do the same."
Key tracks: "I Don't Deserve You," "Lonely," "Di Don Don"
Jamaica-born Ammoye is a multiple-time JUNO nominee for good reason. The reggae singer-songwriter leans on her spirituality and social consciousness — in addition to a love of jazz and gospel music — to create a uniquely engaging sound. Her 2017 album The Light is reflective of this sound, as is her forthcoming project, Water.
"Canadian reggae music is a fusion. I've been influenced by so many different artists. When I was growing up in Jamaica, I was listening to everything: jazz, hip hop, R&B, soul, pop, electronic. It's a mix of the old with the new. Everything is fused [into] my music and then I make it my own," she says. "My intent is to make that music that brings healing to people. When I see that people are resonating on that level with my music, it makes me know that I'm actually doing what I set up to do.
Key tracks: "Sorry," "Soul Rebel"
Artists Influenced by Canadian Reggae
PARTYNEXTDOOR: The Canadian singer, songwriter, rapper and record producer signed with Drake's OVO Sound record label in 2013, and ever since has been a fixture in his alternative R&B, chillwave and dancehall reggae sounds. He is one of the songwriters behind Rihanna's smash hit "Work." (Key tracks: "Loyal," "Not Nice," "Break from Toronto")
Roy Woods: Part of Drake's OVO brand, the young singer, rapper and songwriter leans on energetic and rapid-fire reggae sounds to fuel his fusion-based sound. (Key tracks: "Gwan Big Up Urself," "What Are You On?")
Dubmatix: The Toronto-based Canadian reggae and electronic artist/producer has quietly amassed a discography, a following, and award recognition. Born Jesse E. King, he has been a consistent player on the national and international scene. (Key tracks: "Champion Sound," "Rough Likkle Sound")
MAGIC!: The Toronto-based reggae fusion band are best known for their signature reggae-influenced pop sound and the hit single "Rude", which was a global chart-topper. (Key tracks: "Rude," "Lay You Down Easy")
Sonia Collymore: The two-time JUNO winner is perhaps one of the foundational singers in Canadian reggae. The classic Canadian artist is known for her reggae, jazz and soulful sounds. (Key tracks: "Breathe")