Ian Kamau: Artist

"Other types of music are typically marginalized. It’s not just because of the population that consumes rock music, but the reality that the music industry puts effort, time, money, infrastructure and staff into developing audiences for that type of music."


Artist. iankamau.bandcamp.com


People generally say that racism in Canada is subtler [than in other places in the world]. I don’t think there really is any form of subtle racism. You either experience it or you don’t.

There’s a perceptual barrier to the value of certain types of music over other types of music. Canada is essentially a rock ’n’ roll country. A lot of our infrastructure – including our weekly magazines, manufacturing companies, distribution companies, the record labels themselves and the tour circuits – is based largely on rock music. 

Other types of music are typically marginalized. It’s not just because of the population that consumes rock music, but the reality that the music industry puts effort, time, money, infrastructure and staff into developing audiences for that type of music. Certain types of music viewed as more valuable get more money and infrastructure put into them. 

Hip-hop is generally marginalized in Canada. There are plenty of hip-hop fans and listeners throughout the country. As someone who’s been all across the country, I see that. I don’t think the infrastructure for support and cultivation of the audience is there as much as it could be, even given the economic reality of hip-hop in the world right now.

On a practical level, let’s say I do a show at a venue in Moncton. The venue is constructed for rock music, and its owner and the engineer are understanding of rock music, which is actually mixed differently than hip-hop, so automatically there’s a barrier. 

What I experienced when I was touring across Canada is that people just didn’t understand the music I was doing. It wasn’t the people coming to the shows, but the people setting them up. There was always a fight to figure out how to create the environment for the audience. The people tasked to do that along with me didn’t necessarily understand or value what it was I was trying to bring to the table. 

I think it’s important to understand it on that level, even though that seems like a relatively subtle thing. Hip-hop, reggae, calypso and R&B are mixed differently than rock ’n’ roll. As more fusion is happening in the world right now, with a bunch of genres coming into contact with each other and then fusing into each other, that is changing a little bit.

The music industry I see now has certainly shifted from the music industry I saw as a viewer in the 80s, but I don’t know that it’s gotten better or worse. I look at everything as relationships of power and access. If I look at the people making decisions domestically in our industry in Canada, I still don’t see a diversity that represents the artists here or the diversity of the people in this country.

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