3 Toronto Culture Incubators Who Took NXNE to the Next Level

NXNE is an annual 10-day festival and conference featuring music, gaming, comedy, interactive events, and more in a self-proclaimed “cultural explosion”.

NXNE is so much more than a celebration of music. It’s a coming together. It’s an incubator of culture tied together by a common thread: a love and appreciation for bringing vision to life. 2018’s roster featured headliners like Tinashe, Chvrches, and Jazz Cartier, with a slew of curators showcasing emerging talent in the festival’s Club Land series. Notable Life had the pleasure of chatting with four local creators featured in NXNE’s Club Land series (RALPH, Jayemkayem + Paul Chin, and Josh Dyer) about their vision, how they empower others, and the impact their work has on the industry.


RALPH: on catharsis and the emotional journey

RALPH, otherwise known as Raffa Weyman, is a Toronto born synth-pop-disco-soul queen making major strides in the city’s music scene. She describes herself as, “if Sade, Stevie Nicks, and Donna Summer had a love child” and explores themes of feminism, female presence, and love in her work. With a slew of releases and an EP on the way, RALPH is one to keep on your radar.

It’s a pretty radical time to be in the music industry, with the rise of female empowerment and how genre blending is transforming sound. What can you share about your journey to inspire other budding artists?

RALPH: For me, writing lyrics and writing music is pure therapy. It’s hard because my lyrics are personal and they’re inspired by real people and real events. Sometimes you forget you’re detailing your life and someone else’s life too. Point being, if you’re someone interested in song writing and lyrics, be as honest as you can be because that’s where the best music comes. When you’re feeling sad, or mad, or confused, harness that and write about it.

I’ve been talking to my label a lot about my new album and I’ve been fighting for some songs. There’s one I wrote in Nicaragua at the SOCAN Writing Camp and I cried during the session because I felt so connected to it and I knew the song had to be on my album. It’s not my team’s favourite but I’ve had a couple friends listen and they’re like, “Wow, I feel it”. When you feel it, and you feel something strongly about a song, go with that. Go with your intuition and push for it. If you feel there’s something good and magical in a song, keep working on it because listeners can feel the emotional journey. Just go for it.

RALPH’s Club Land curator series on June 10th at The Garrison featured up-and-coming talent Tylor Jay Santos and Jonah Yano, LOONY, Garçons, Hoodlem and TOBi.

Istolethesoul FM: on representation and unification

Istolethesoul FM is Toronto’s first pop-up radio station, launched in 2018 by Paul Chin & Jayemkayem. It was started to fill a need for community radio in the local music scene, and has quickly gained notoriety among budding and established talent across the globe. The group is dedicated to creating interesting experiences for both artists and fans of music to enjoy together with the vision of creating an umbrella under which all music communities regardless or genre can stand. Istolethesoul transcends scenes and genres with a brand mandate of putting great people in the same room, all in the name of music.

Let’s break down Istolethesoul FM’s ethos. What do you love most about this platform from a community perspective?  

Istolethesoul FM is an exercise in representation and unification. We bring a lot of good people together in the name of music, and leave the anxieties of the scene’s infrastructure behind. Egos and the things that get in the way of community building don’t come through this door. We wanted to create a space where you can be represented and have ownership of something in our city without the need of these infrastructural trappings, or having to reach a certain level of success that, frankly, most people won’t get to.

We have JUNO award winners and Polaris Prize nominees playing on the same day as people who started a label a few months before they came out on our station. We have people that play in jazz bands, people who aren’t musicians at all. Everyone has an idea or way they want to engage with music in Toronto. If you have a dope idea and you love music, cool. We can turn that into a show. It’s been amazing to see how people respond and jump on board to be apart of it. We’re doing this out of a pure place. It’s deeply touching to know these people, who are so talented and could be doing this anywhere, say “We wanna do this with you guys. We believe in it. We believe in you”. It’s incredible.

Istolethesoul FM joined forces with Museum of Toronto on June 15th for a #NXNE exclusive full day program featuring the city’s greatest DJs and music legends. A 10-hour radio broadcast was hosted at The Hideout Toronto with a panel discussion led by Maylee Todd, Dalton Higgins, Jonny Dovercourt, Laurie Lee Boutet and Josephine Cruz and sets by: Jayemkayem b2b Freeza Chin, Mike Roc, Boosie Fade, Karim Olen Ash b2b Ace Dillenger, ASEY, New Currency, Shaine CRSB b2b Teo Nio, Paul Chin and Scratch Bastid.

Myseum: on flipping traditional formats and re-shaping the narrative

Museum features engaging programs and experiences to showcase the history, spaces, culture(s), architecture, and people, that represent Toronto’s unique place in the world. It started with an idea of building a museum for the 21st century and getting rid of the things that hold conventional models back. Instead of building a singular space, Myseum curates pop-up exhibits all over Toronto and promotes the overlooked histories of the city, challenging people to explore.

The whole idea of taking a modern format and re-telling narratives that have already been told in a different way is fascinating. Do you have any advice for people who are chasing cultural fulfillment in their day-to-day? How did you get here? 

Before Myseum, I was working in an antiquated organization trying to bring them into present time. I feel a lot of people in our generation know how that feels. One of my big passion points is the historical narratives that we explore in general. We have overlooked a lot of groups, and have misunderstood perspectives. For feminists, LGBQT, and people of colour, there’s a lot of overlooked history. I had an opportunity to start a museum focused on looking at revisionist histories and to build something.

If you ever feel like what you’re doing is fulfilling, you should never give that up. If it’s something you have a feeling for, always keep an eye out for an opportunity that will let you do that. For me, I took a huge pay cut initially, but there’s something to be said about the amount of energy you can put in to something and the quality of work you produce when its something you really want to do. You’ll only see your real potential if you pursue something you’re passionate about. Never stop looking for an opportunity to do that. – Josh Dyer, Director of Marketing, Myseum 

On the surface, NXNE is a series of parties, showcases and conferences, but at the core, NXNE is deep-rooted in a powerful emergence of unification. NXNE shapes futures, and drives down to a key principal: find what you love and do it. 

Follow NXNE on Instagram
Follow RALPH on Instagram
Follow Istolethesoul FM on Instagram
Follow Myseum on Instagram