This week, host Allison Dyjach interviews Rufus John, Selam Deb, and Ayesha Ahad about the upcoming Legacy KW showcase.
To check out our full interview with Rufus, Selam, and Ayesha, head over to our podcast page: On the Scene
Excerpts from the interview:
AD: Legacy KW is 9 days away. Rufus, how are you all feeling?
RJ: I’m feeling a lot of things. Mostly I’m feeling joy. Mostly I am feeling excitement. But there is you know, a little bit of ball of nerves. You know, a little bit of stress and frustration, but that comes with any type of event that you’re organizing, right? Yeah, but the positives definitely outweigh some of the challenges.
AD: Tell me a little bit about what Legacy was like, back in the 90s, early 2000s. I know Rufus and Selam, you were both part of Legacy KW when you were younger. What was it like?
RJ: For me, I moved to Kitchener when I was 10 years old, and I moved to Waterloo, and it was predominantly white. And there was particular musicians, particular things that I was into that the kids at the school was looking at me like, “What is this guy? This guy’s like, this guy’s like, different, right?” Lo and behold, I was scooped up by some of our community leaders. And they’re like, hey, we do the showcase. Why don’t you come here because we know you can sing. And then first thing, I walk into a room and there’s others that look like me that live here. And then second, I could share the things that I was interested in. And they understood and they got it. And I could sing a particular artist and people would know who that was. And I felt like I found my tribe, I found my calling. In terms of, you know, expressing myself artistically, legacy helped me hone my chops as a performer, because it allowed me to make mistakes, learn from my mistakes, come the next year, and let’s try it again. But let’s learn from what we did the previous year. So I learned so much from just participating in the showcase when I was growing up.
SD: I think, firstly, Rufus is downplaying his involvement. He was like, literally a star at that time. So for me, I moved to Kitchener Waterloo in high school, from Toronto, I grew up in a predominantly black and brown community. And so I was used to being like, really immersed in our cultures. And then coming to kW was like a culture shock. I was like, What is this? Where are the black people? And thankfully, we found each other. The elders brought us together all across Kitchener Waterloo, for Legacy. And so as a singer, and as a dancer, as an artist, it gave me like an outlet to be myself. And yeah, those were one of the most powerful experiences, to be in spaces where you felt seen, and like 90s Music 90s Hip Hop and R&B and early 2000s was like a renaissance. It was like black renaissance of the next level. So we were immersed in that. We were part of history in a really powerful way. So yeah, it was amazing.
AD: How did the idea come about to bring legacy back to KW this year?
RJ: It was a bunch of one off conversations. One with Selam, actually. And first the idea came into my mind was, where’s the artistic space for the black youth growing up? Where do they congregate? Where do they go? Like, I’m curious. Because when we were growing up, there were certain places. Like we knew at the terminal after school, that was the place because everybody had to go to the terminal to get home. Okay, we knew that was kind of the hangout spot. You knew Legacy as well, that was the place to meet. Where is that today? If that doesn’t exist, what part can I play? How can I be of service? How can I provide something where these youth can come together? And then I was just starting to like, let me just talk to people. I had a conversation with Selam, where are the spaces? Because she has a son, right? I’m like, maybe he knows, maybe I don’t know what’s going on. But I just know, I don’t Snapchat. And then what solidified it for me was, I was like, Okay, let me just see if I can get some funding. And I had a great conversation with one of the committee members of this funding body. And she shared with me that this came across the table with everybody in the room. And somebody on this committee, he was like, “I remember this. I remember this. And he literally just had a conversation with them about, no, you don’t really understand what this is like. This was a thing for us growing up.” I was like, Yes, this is why we need to bring this back. Because clearly, it had a huge impact on my generation. And I’m hoping we can have our version of that, of course, this round.
AD: Ayesha, you’re performing in the show. I’m curious, how did you get involved in Legacy this year?
AA: I saw the auditions going up. I did music a while ago and I didn’t have a great relationship with music to be honest when I ended. And so I saw these auditions and I was like, you know what, maybe this is a good opportunity for me to just just see if I can do this again. And so I started, I auditioned and I got the acceptance letter. And I was so excited. And then I knew Rufus was doing this. And my mom and Rufus actually knew each other a long time ago. Okay. And so I told my mom, and she got so excited. And so that’s how I got into Legacy.
AD: What was the audition process like?
AA: Yeah. So my audition was just filmed in my bedroom. So I was just kind of singing in my bedroom. I sang an original song of mine, I didn’t know if I would make it or not. And so when I got accepted, I started talking to the mentors. And that was my first kind of step into it. And just recently we had an in person rehearsal. We got to meet everybody, and as more and more people came into the rehearsals, the energy was just vibrant in the room, the energy that we were all able to give each other. And the mentoring that went along with that is something I’ve never experienced before. And it felt like I was actually able to connect with my culture. And so it was just overall just kind of life changing, to be honest. Really.
AD: Yeah, thank you for sharing that’s so special, and what a what a gift to this community that this event is happening and the connections and relationships are being able to be made. Because you’re right, it’s one thing to, you know, perform on a stage, you sing a song, you go home, you know, maybe you chat with someone after the show, but yeah, but this is, you know, building connections, building relationships. I didn’t realize that there was such a strong mentorship piece. Tell us a little bit about that, Rufus.
RJ: Yeah. As a child and youth worker, I kind of piggybacking off of what you said, the show was great. Like, the like, the show was phenomenal. It was great. But I’m like, what are they taking away from that? Besides it just being another performance? And I’m like, I want them to come away with something tangible. What are the transferable skills? Well we need this mentoring piece. Where, what are some of your challenges when you’re on stage? Let’s talk about that. Let’s suss that out. How do you technically use your voice? So now they can utilize these skills across the board, not just at Legacy.
Legacy KW‘s 2023 showcase will be held February 25th at 6pm at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts. Performers include: Ramsay Almighty, Gerima Harvey, Rufus John, Ayesha Ahad, KiKi Wilson, Jaleel Debs, J-One, Cydney Morris, Isy Aboagye, Legacy Gospel Choir, Hamgrady, Jaellen Achioso, Legacy Dance Cru, and Nerissa Williams
Rufus John is a black Caribbean-Canadian singer/songwriter, entrepreneur, Child & Youth Worker, award-winning youth mentor and the founder of Music Is My Weapon and The Freedom Marching Project. Over the course of the pandemic Rufus released his most recent musical collection The Freedom Marching Project, an EP that features over 40 Black, Indigenous and Racialized (BIR) Artists from around Canada.
Selam Debs is a singer, writer, poet and creative. As an antiracist educator, speaker, yoga & meditation teacher and Holistic Life Coach, Selam believes that music is a catalyst for telling our stories and transforming our communities through activism, healing work, spiritual upliftment and Black joy!
Ayesha Ahad is a local singer-songwriter and one of the performers at this year’s Legacy KW showcase.