For the past year, every other month on a Friday evening, a trendy Queen Street West hotspot in Toronto known as the Drake Hotel becomes a haven for an uplifting and positive event called Soul Sessions. The event unites some of Toronto's best vocalists who perform classic soul tracks of the 1960's, 70's, 80's and 90's.
A sampling of the artists who have been covered at the event includes: Prince, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, Diana Ross, The Supremes, Al Green, Lenny Williams Tina Turner, Stephanie Mills, etc.
Founder, promoter, and host, Andrae Ennis (also known as “D.C”), is a 2002 Graduate of Centennial College's Business and Marketing program and former member of the 1990's Toronto-based R&B group 95C. He created Soul Sessions on the premise that "music used to be a certain way...it used to move you, the lyrics were deep and even today if you hear an old song it still moves us."
Ennis, who was born in Toronto to Jamaican parents and sang in the church from the age of seven, says that Soul Sessions came to him in a dream. He chose the name because "everyone has a soul and there is no colour, no race, no creed...all you think about is the music when you are there at my show and how it moves your soul." After a number of shows he found that only one or two performances would stand out and not everyone was into it, so he decided to create an event that would "encompass people who are from all eras, so when they get into the music, they really get into it. They don't think of anything or anyone else around, or any other problems they may have."
Soul Sessions format begins with a one and a half hour warm-up called Soul Case--one band, one mic, one performer and the audience in the upstairs lounge of the Drake Hotel. Then, the event moves to the lower part of the Drake called, The Underground, featuring artists performing a showcase of older songs. Ennis says that 50 percent of the music for the show comes from audience and email requests, while the other half are his suggestions and those of other performers.
It takes about two to three weeks with a couple of rehearsals utilizing rotating bands Music for Life or 88 Keys, to format the showcase. Event Co-ordinator, Keisha Whylie, plays a big role in keeping everything together, before and during the shows.
If number and variety of those who attend are any measure, Soul Sessions is undoubtedly one of Toronto’s leading outlets for artists. On any evening you are likely to meet entertainment industry managers, musicians, to those just looking for something different from the regular party scene.
The most recent showcase on October 12th featured an all-female line-up of Canadian performers like Amoy Levy, Toya Alexis, Kim Davis, Lorraine Reid and Patricia Shirley, who is currently signed to an Atlanta-based label, DJ Melboogie, host of "Droppin' Dimez," Canada's only all-female hip hop radio show on community radio station CKLN 88.1.
In 2008, you can look forward to Rock Sessions, Jazz Sessions, and Millenium Sessions, celebrating Canadian talent. They promise bring the same good vibes as Soul Sessions, and will also honour amazing artists who currently shape our music.
The next Soul Sessions, will be a Christmas Special in December at the Drake Hotel, located at 1150 Queen Street West, Toronto.
For more information about Soul Sessions, visit the site and join the mailing list at http://www.soulsessionsent.ca/.