Honey Jam celebrates 20 sweet years

By Gerald V. Paul

Jully Black debuted at Honey Jam in 1996.
Jully Black debuted at Honey Jam in 1996.

Jully Black, Canada’s Queen of R&B, made her Honey Jam debut in 1996. Nelly Furtado did some teeth cutting here. On Sunday (May 31) it’s once again auditions time as the Mod Club, Canada’s showcase for all-female live music, celebrates 20 years.

All artists chosen get free workshops, vocal training and more.

And last Saturday at the YWCA’s Woman of Distinction Award ‘Transforming Lives’ Honey Jam alum D’bi Young was among the recipients.

The search is on for singers who can rock the mic. Honey Jam is a nation-wide program dedicated to developing talent and out-of-province artists can submit auditions online.

Grammy-winning producer T-Minus – who has worked with Drake (HYFR, The Motto, I’m on One), Nicki Minaj (Moment 4 Life), Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools – who won the award for top producer at the 2012 BMI Urban Awards, will join the panel of judges at the auditions on Sunday.

Other judges include Jasmine Denham who has graced the stage and TV screens for 25 years, working with artists like Furtado and Keisha Chante and most recently as musical director and vocal coach for YTV’s The Next Star; Vita Chambers of the Fix You Gold Status in Canada and its video, gleaning over one million views on YouTube, and James Bryan, one of Canada’s top guitarists with Furtado and Backstreet Boys singing the praises of Bryan, Philosopher Kings and Prozzak.

“There was no outlet for female MC’s. They weren’t being heard and there were so many of us,” recalled Michelle McCullock aka Michie Mee, the first female Canadian MC to sign with a major label and Honey Jam’s first host.

Ebonnie Rowe, founder of Honey Jam, will be looking in the rearview mirror as she moves forward with recent showcase finalists.

Rowe said the knowledge was held by men. “Why don’t you come over to the studio at midnight? That would happen all the time; it was a casting couch vibe.”

She said that “Honey Jam is an all female multicultural multi-genre artist showcase produced by PhemPhat Entertainment Group which also provides educational and mentoring opportunities for artists as well as supports and promotes women charities such as the YWCA’s programs for women and girls.”

“In 2005, the YWCA recognized the work that Honey Jam was doing in support of young female artists by honouring Ebonnie Rowe with a Woman of Distinction Award. That same year, Tonika Morgan was selected as the 2005 Promising Young Woman of Distinction,” Honey Jam Canada posted on Facebook.

Fast forward 10 years to the Transforming Lives Award at the Carlu last Saturday. Morgan is set to head to Harvard and made an appeal on stage for support for 1ST Stop, the YWCA homeless shelter that gave her refuge and hope.

At the start in May 1995, it was just supposed to be a one-off wrap party celebrating the publication of an all female issue of Mic Check magazine which Rowe was asked to put together after she was heard on CKLN’s Power Move show talking about how women were portrayed in hip-hop culture.

At that wrap party everyone kept asking “when is the next one?” Now, 20 years later, Honey Jam has answered that question.

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul