Bonjay’s Beats

Toronto’s hometown heroes finally release their debut digi-dancehall EP

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One of Toronto’s most celebrated live acts finally release their debut EP 'Gimmee Gimmee' (with remixes from Ghislain Poirier, Smalltown Romeo and Grahmzilla from Thunderheist) this week. The bumping, electro digi-dancehall act Bonjay first graced the pages of Dazed over two years ago when they shot to internet fame with their mutant ragga covers of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio. School and work have put them undercover for a while, but now it’s time for both the duo’s fire branding, sassed out front woman Alanna and producer Pho to step out.

Dazed Digital: What's so special right now with the Toronto music scene?
Pho: I think that because it's a relatively young city and there's so much energy, there's a feeling that the best Toronto music is yet to come. There are lots of fresh things happening these days: there's a strong tradition of nights that mix all genres from rock to hip hop to soca, there's a gay dancehall scene that's cool, people like The Carps and Leslie Feist are writing great songs that go in a new direction.

DD: Any new artists that you're into?
Pho: Toronto is probably the global centre for soca outside the West Indies. A producer named Marcus Visionary is making these soca meets funky and dubstep tunes that really make sense here. This is also the only city outside Detroit where J. Dilla was a mainstream star. As a result a lot of the straight club rap stuff here still has a bit of leftfield attitude. Rich Kidd is one of the kings right now. He produced Drake’s 'The Search'.
Alanna: I'm really interested in hearing about more new female vocalists. New Look who are from the same suburb I went to high school in is doing it for me at the moment. I love Sara's voice. Her delivery is so smooth and natural.

DD: Any new indie edits on the way?
Pho: Next up is a full EP of tunes by us. We still do covers from time to time but we are working hard at being artists unto ourselves. Indie bands should be covering us!
Alanna: We're working on 100 per cent original material. We envision ourselves as a band that doesn't play with traditional instruments, you know? I'd hate to mislead people into thinking our next release will be an EP full of club hits. Cuz, that's not entirely Bonjay.

DD: Have the dancehall influences always been part of your musical background?
Alanna: Yes and no. I've always listened to dancehall. It's not because my father is Jamaican. My father doesn't really enjoy modern dancehall. My older sister would sneak over to clubs in Hull, Quebec where 18-year-olds could get in. So, when she brought the Lady Saw cassette tape home I was all over it. 11 years old singing along to 'Stab Up Mi Meat'. I had no idea what I was singing to. I just connected with this sound I knew I liked but my mom wouldn't let us listen to.
Pho: One of my earliest memories is visiting my cousins in Toronto when I was four, walking down Yonge street and hearing dancehall booming out the cars. I didn't know what it was but I liked the bass! We have all kinds of influences but dancehall is a good template to work from because there are so few rules. We aren't trying to make "proper" dancehall though - we're trying to break away from some of the genre conventions and combine it with other things we're into.

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