Required Listening CD RELEASE PARTY with the Quartertones , BRassmunk , Sacha , Shawn Hewitt , DJs John Kong , Serious , Paul E. Lopes , Kaje , Basic Soul Unit and guests at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Saturday (November 8). $15 (includes CD). 416-596-1908. There's always been much more going on in Toronto clubs than the roots rock and house music for which the city is best known, and the fabulous new Required Listening (Do Right!) CD compilation is a head-turning indicator of the stunning new sounds bubbling up from the underground. Assembled by Movement DJ John Kong as a follow-up to his label's excellent nu-funk overview, Funk For The 21st Century - which got the Do Right! label instant global recognition - Required Listening is a similarly stylish and sussed survey of the neo-soul, nu jazz, broken beat, Latin fusion and forward-looking hiphop currently being created independently in Toronto.
Boasting exclusives from certified scene stars Ivana Santilli, Brassmunk, DJ Serious, Nick Holder, Moonstarr and fast-rising threats the Quartertones, Circle Research, Shawn Hewitt and Basic Soul Unit, it's an impressively diverse assortment of club-ready joints bound together by an experimental spirit and the handclapping sound that's become a Toronto hallmark.
"That's funny that you mentioned the handclapping thing," laughs Kong over a coffee at his College Street pad. "When I heard the Paul E. Lopes remix of Pedras Da Rua's Terra Do Bravo, I thought it was amazing but I asked him to bump up the handclaps in the mix.
"Now that I think about it, you're right - there is a lot of handclapping going on, especially on Ivana's track. I'll have to go back and listen to it all again."
Hearing Santilli's soulful What Matters #2 and Nick Holder's brilliant On My Mind, featuring Sacha, makes you wonder why music of this quality isn't being released by major labels, played on commercial radio, sold in chain stores and admired by millions. Kong was wondering the same thing, only he decided to do something about it.
"As a DJ, artists and producers are always sending me CD-Rs of their new tracks. A lot of it has been coming from Toronto people, friends of mine who've been coming to Movement parties for years. They'd say, 'Here's some stuff I've been working on. I don't have a label deal, but check it out and let me know what you think.'
"The music was so good and so well produced, really all I had to do was pull out 14 tracks from the pile of discs I had on my desk. Everyone I called wanted to be involved."
Major labels wouldn't know how to put together their own state-of-the- groove Toronto scene compilations.
"In the UK, labels hire DJs as A&R reps to find new talent, but no label here would pay me to do that. That's why I'm not sending out promo copies of Required Listening to A&R people. I'm doing their job for them. If they want the disc, they'll have to buy it like everyone else.
"I'm sure some of the artists involved will get signed."
Considering the high quality of the DIY recordings collected and the elegant presentation of the package - complete with informed liner notes by DJ/journalist Denise Benson - it would seem that Required Listening is just the sort of thing the FACTOR (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Record) granting board could really get behind. Evidently not.
Despite the wealth of promising young Canadian talent involved in the project, Kong couldn't get anything more than a hearty pat on the back from FACTOR.
"What they said was that they appreciated my initiative," smiles Kong, "but they didn't offer me any money. I guess they didn't like the way I drew the pie charts in my application."