Tkaronto Music Festival will help keep the music alive

·4 min read

The second iteration of the virtual Tkaronto Music Festival will spotlight Indigenous artists over a three-day period and help keep their musical careers alive during pandemic restrictions.

Taking place this upcoming weekend from May 21 to May 23, the event can be viewed online via the festival’s Twitch, Youtube and Facebook streams each night.

Jace Martin, president of the Darren Ross Agency and a performer scheduled for Sunday at the festival, said he can’t wait for the show to get underway.

“Virtual shows have had their challenges, but it’s given artists a chance to really develop a home studio so that they can do content quality, audio quality, and really develop into the future during the pandemic,” Martin said. “But I hope we get back to live shows because there’s nothing like being together and seeing performers live. That’s what music’s meant to be.”

Friday’s show begins at 6 p.m. Eastern, while Saturday and Sunday events begin at 5 p.m.

Martin and his agency have also undertaken a search for Indigenous talent, with six artists selected as the winners of a recent contest. Each winner has earned the opportunity to perform a 15-minute set list at the festival. They will also each receive a $1,000 cash prize. A similar contest run last year, titled “Next Top Indigenous Superstar” led to the discovery of Deanne Rose Moore, who will be performing on Friday evening.

“We try to keep our ‘artists for artists’ motto in mind,” event organizer Ian Maracle said. “We love to put other artists on and give them a platform for their work to be seen. The whole goal was to get these really hungry music acts and give them a stage with a global audience.”

Maracle said that the acts are spread out so there’s a mixture of musical styles and influences from across Canada and around the world. Snotty Nose Rez Kids, a hip hop duo from Kitimat, B.C., and Northern Cree, a nine-time Grammy nominee drum group from Treaty Six territory, are a few of the featured artists.

“We have an incredible bill of established talent,” Maracle added.

Maracle admitted there’s a bit of anxiety with any live performance amongst the organizers, but he is feeling confident that it’ll be a good show. Last year’s event was a bit of a test run, with the second go at it coming with more experience and a general familiarity with how to best run a virtual show, he added.

“We had a lot more time to plan,” Maracle said. “The acts we scored this year are bigger. We wanted to gain a little bit more traction with the worldwide Indigenous audience and we’ve received that so far. In terms of the fan base we’ve cultivated, it’s very much Indigenous and it’s very much worldwide. We’re hoping to provide a much bigger stage this year for our artists.”

To avoid any interruptions or tech issues dealing with a wide range of performers, each performance will be pre-recorded from the artists’ chosen location and then broadcast as part of the livestream.

The show is being put on by organizers 50/50 Performing Arts Collective, which is composed of Maracle, along with Cynthia Lickers-Sage and Candace Scott-Moore for this project. The non-profit collective is based out of Victoria, B.C., but puts on shows and events all across the country.

Additional event partners include Toronto Jazz Fest, Aga Khan, Venus Fest, The Sanderson Centre, The Royal Ontario Museum, Talking Stick Festival, Woodland Cultural Centre, Indigenous Music Summit, Small World Music, Ontario Presents and Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

As COVID-19 cases decline while vaccination rates increase across the country, Martin is hopeful that this might be one of the last virtual projects he’ll be a part of after more than a year.

“Things are starting to look good for all the artists that I see,” Martin said. “Artists are starting to book live tours in June, July and August. For me, that seems a little optimistic but I would love it if that’s the way it goes.”

More information about the festival, including the full line-up can be seen at

By Adam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,,

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