TiKA is one of the most prolific creatives in Toronto. A longtime supporter of the city’s vibrant music scene via her work as a promoter, curator, and media professional, TiKA has spent the better part of a year reintroducing herself as a musician after a six year hiatus. Don’t let the sabbatical mislead you—her sound is neither rusty nor underdeveloped. TiKA’s new direction points to an artist who has found her voice at last.
On Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid, the new EP premiering today on Complex, TiKA turns profound heartbreak into soulful self-reflection. Jazzy, electro-soul instrumentals are a canvas for TiKA’s melodic contemplation, as her rich, at times raspy voice coils around funky synth oscillations and liquid drum grooves. There’s assistance from 2nd Son, McCallaman, Shi Wisdom, Sydanie, and Tamera Russell, but from front to back, it’s clear that this is a deeply personal project. TiKA’s Soundcloud liner notes for Some Things Better Left Unsaid say it all: “Thank you to everyone who believed in me. Thank you to everyone who didn't. I needed you both.”
In addition to her musical pursuits, she’s also founder of The Known Unknown and #BAREGYAL event series, as well as the accompanying podcast, GYALCAST. It’s hard to imagine how she finds time to do it all. New mantra? You have the same amount of hours in a day as TiKA.
We reached out to TiKA over email, and had a conversation about Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid, and the state of Toronto’s artistic community.
You’ve been a champion of the Toronto music scene for years, as a curator, and media personality. Now, people are being introduced to Tika, the musician. Has making original music always been the goal?
I did music about 6 years ago and it wasn’t a clear reflection of who I was at the time. I had some lessons to learn, and I needed to be more mindful. I moved around a lot, failed a couple of times and subsequently fell into a really deep depression. This was important. It made me realize that I had suppressed a side of myself that was still very much real and not being stroked. I would definitely say that making original music has always been inside of me but has only now become my biggest goal.
Let’s talk Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid. What’s the story behind the title?
In the last 2 years, I felt like I was really emotive as a person and when I learned to stop talking and started listening, that’s when I got answers. All of these songs are when I chose not to react and chose to write instead.
A recurring theme on the EP is lost love. Are these songs born out of catharsis?
Definitely. Definitely. Actually all of my records come from an extremely emotional place, which I know people can relate to. I find that as a person, I’m very extroverted, but I’m also very sensitive and shy. I tuck feelings away quite often and I’m learning not to do that. Most of these songs were how I really felt at that present moment. They all come from a real place.
I’d like to talk about the video for “Tenfold.” In the song, you’re singing “United we stand, divided we fall.” You’ve said that the video explores the need for unification within the black creative scene in Toronto. Can you talk about that?
As a curator and a musician, it’s easy for me to see how talented Toronto’s independent creative scene is. I’ve been working in it for almost 9 years. Somehow we still lack a broader and solid infrastructure that supports the black independent music scene. It’s even more imperative too because Toronto is definitely on a wave right now. Everyone is looking to us for creativity, originality, production, and music in general. And yet we’re still unaware of the international appeal some of our artists are receiving, because we have nowhere to put it all. Particularly in the female community in Toronto, there is SO much talent here it’s insane. And WOC are usually ignored or overlooked, so I made it a point to draw attention to just some of the talent that Toronto has to offer. As a city that is currently in such a musical revolution, I think it’s important that we drop the screwface and the walls and start working together to build what we need. Community. Black creative community, more importantly.
It’s obvious that community is pretty important to you. You worked with Shi Wisdom, 2nd Son, McCallaman, and Sydanie on your EP, all Toronto artists. How did these collaborations come together, and how did your approach differ for each?
Well, McCallaman I knew from a track he did with Andreena years ago. I always recognized his God-given gift and continued to follow his work. Shortly after he produced for Goldlink, he sent me Tenfold. At the time I was experiencing quite a bit of disassociation and wasn’t able to articulate my words. It was also challenging because McCallaman’s approach when he sends an instrumental is not to change it. So, I wasn’t able to restructure the song, which makes for an even more challenging songwriting process. I just knew it needed to be meaningful, light and minimal. Then came Casey MQ who is an incredible producer who I worked with on my upcoming album Anywhere But Here. He assisted with the hook and arrangements and it was done after a few voice notes. When McCallaman sent me the song “Grace,” I initially heard the instrumental and thought it was a sexual song. I usually have conversations with God about my approach to writing music. It’s really important to me to try not to write for the song but to listen to the song and understand what it needs. After some time, I realized that the song wasn’t about sex but about a woman I know named Grace. She’s a close friend of mine who I’ve known for years. She empowered and encouraged me and brought a positive spirit when I truly needed one. I knew the only person I could do this song with was Shi. Out of everyone in the city, I STAN for Shi Wisdom. She has one of the most jaw-dropping, beautiful and effortless voices in the world.
My connection with 2nd Son was amazing. I performed with McCallaman at an event in the city called Balance. He was a performer on the bill. He performed The Betrayer at the show when it was just an instrumental. I was at the bar, heard the song and started singing the words there. After the show, I approached 2nd Son and he told me that he was a fan of mine and I his, and I went to his house the following week and he made me curry chicken and we just vibed. When I wrote “The Betrayer,” it came after a breakup. That was a really tough time for me and I chose to express how I felt at the time through song.
Sydanie is a beast. She is raw. Unapologetic. Unafraid. Black. Gorgeous. Brash. Sassy. Queen. I’ve seen her perform numerous times in the city and felt like it was important to foster her creativity. When I sent her the track she wrote it in literally minutes. Her talent is God-given and undeniable. It only made sense to have her on Seventeen. Seventeen is about when I was 17, wild, mouthy and out of control. Sydanie and I had a lot in common as far as being Seventeen and going through a really rough and traumatic time.This song was also produced by a talented local producer Tamera Russell who is also an incredible producer and singer. I really just wanted to stay true to my roots on this EP and work with people who are local and undeniably talented.
One of my favourite moments on STABLU comes at the very end. As the final notes of the stripped down piano ballad “Can We” ring out, we hear you celebrate nailing the take, and it’s a very sincere moment of absolute joy. Can you talk a little bit about the recording process, and where your head was at that day?
Wow. Yes. Thank you so much. “Can We” is a song I actually wrote when I was 17 years old. I sang it to a member of my family and they told me that I needed to never quit my day job. Can you believe that? I think a lack of family support really hindered me from doing music in general. That day however, I was in great and positive spirits. I was extremely nervous though because it’s SO raw and I’m also playing keys myself. Everyone there was so positive and encouraging. When I finally nailed it, it was like the 8th take. I was really proud of myself for just getting it out.
What can you tell us about The Known Unknown?
The Known Unknown is an independent creative platform to assist artists to funnel out their creative works. It’s coming back as a radio station and blog very soon. I’m just working on all the logistics but it’ll be introducing itself to the city as a brand new platform for independent artists from Toronto to call home.
It’s safe to assume you’re a pretty busy person. What do people need to know about BareGyal and GyalCast?
#Baregyal is a party series I started in the city because I noticed a void in the city for women of colour to feel celebrated and comfortable in a positive space. We bring the party back this June. We then created the podcast, GYALCAST (currently the #1 podcast in Canada for Black women) to provide a space for young black women from Toronto to feel safe and talk openly amongst one another about pop culture, sex and relationships. All of the women on GYALCAST have very distinctive taste when it comes to music as well. They do music interviews with artists internationally and from Toronto and also break records on the show. We have a social responsibility and that’s a really humbling feeling. I make it a point to work with black women. We’re normally overlooked or ignored. I’m also grateful to have Talya Lee from Her Collective working with us. She currently is single-handedly and successfully handling PR for various WOC from Toronto.
There are special things happening in Toronto’s music scene right now, but unless you’re a part of it, you might miss some of the gems. As a long-time supporter of Toronto’s music community, is there anyone you’d like to shine a light on?
Absolutely. If you’ve never heard of anyone please get yourself familiar with TiKA ;), Jazz Cartier, Daniel Caesar, Sean Leon, Savannah Re, Shi Wisdom, SpekWon, BEVSTMode, CMDWN, River Tiber, The Airplane Boys, Harrison, Clairmont The Second, Adria Kain, McCallaman, Sydanie, Faiza, Blues, Desire, Tamera Russell, Bane, WHILLA, Jayd Ink, Jessie Reyez, HMLT, Birthday Boy, Allie,Tanika Charles, Ramsay Almighty, Bambii, Lord Quest, Falana, Derin Falana, Sola, Nue, Ashton Martin, Wolf J McFarlane, Matthew Progress, Keita Juma, Pluto, Bizzarh, Dijah, Keysha Fresh, Phoenix Pagliacci, Haviah Mighty, Elaquent, Xolisa, Wilde, Lord Quest, Tamara Madison, GSX, Staasia, Shadrack, Vanessa Lu, Tre Mission etc etc etc....Shit. I could go on FOREVER.