Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Nov 18th 2009 6:30PM by David Dacks
"I heard my mom and my aunt say it any time something exciting happened," the group's singer Alanna tells Spinner. It's fitting, as excitement is brewing for the release of Bonjay's first EP, 'Gimme Gimme,' on Nov. 20.
Bonjay began when Alana met Pho, who handles turntables and production, when he was DJing a dance party called Disorganized in Ottawa. "It was the first party that I had been to where they were really playing everything," she says. "The kids I saw at indie shows and house music jams and in lounges -- basically everybody from all the different scenes from Ottawa were coming together at these parties. Pho put on a remix of Fela Kuti's 'Zombie' and it blew my mind. I come from a pop/R&B background, so that just opened my mind to the possibilities of music."
They discovered they shared compatible tastes including hip hop, broken beat, soul and dancehall. Using the Disorganized parties as a Petri dish, they began shaping their sound based on the music that felt good to them and the crowd.
Bonjay moved to Toronto a couple of years ago and quickly found their musical bearings in their new locale. They put out a mixtape, remixed Bondo Do Role for Diplo's Mad Decent label and covered the Yeah Yeah Yeah's 'Maps' atop a rhythm by Mississauga's South Rakkas Crew, all of which earned them international notice.
"We're not looking to be a part of any particular scene," says Alanna. "We're just trying to connect with like-minded folks who are forward thinking, who are trying to approach music from an artistic point of view, but also fun and down to earth."
'Gimme Gimme' is essentially a maxi-single, but it's also a summit of some of Canada's most innovative remixers: Montreal's Poirier, Grahm Zilla (of Toronto's Thunderheist) and Smalltown Romeo out of Calgary. The original track rides a spiky guitar lick that resembles funk founders the Meters and turns it into a slinky dancehall rhythm.
"It was so raw and catchy at the same time, and I wanted a vocal style to mimic that," Alanna says. "It's basically a metaphor for a guy who talks a lot of s--- but can't back it up." At the end of the song is a wild freestyle in what Alanna describes as "gypsy" -- "a kind of pig Latin that my mom and my aunt used to speak when she didn't want us to hear what they were saying."
The pair are setting off on a mini-tour starting Friday in Ottawa then moving on to Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. But their greater ambition is to reach worldwide audiences like their colleague Poirier has cultivated -- urban scenes which speak several kinds of dancefloor languages.
"I think that's what music is in general, building on previous ideas," Alanna says. "What I hope for is to hear people taking all these influences and making them their own, not just creating a replica. We work hard to craft a unique sound."