The Ottawa Grassroots Festival kicks off online on Friday, and there are plenty of headliners on the bill who need no introduction, including Juno winning artists James Keelaghan, Lynn Miles and Leela Gilday. But part of the fun of festivals has always been the workshop stages and the chance to discover artists you’d never normally see. And the great thing about this year’s Grassroots festival is that those daytime shows are free!
You may never have heard of these performers, but I guarantee you, they are worth checking out. Here are five up-and-comers who are worthy of your attention, with videos ou can give a listen to.
You may think you haven’t heard of Gurdheep Pandher, but I guarantee you have, because he’s been showing up in your Facebook feed. He’s the guy that lives off grid in the Yukon who’s been making videos of himself bhangra dancing all over the northern landscape. And if you haven’t seen one of the videos yet, chances are you’ve at least seen a news story about him. Gurdheep is exactly the breath of fresh air we all need right now in the midst of this pandemic, a guy who’s all about spreading joy and cheer. I can’t wait to see what he puts together for the festival.
There’s nothing I love more than coming across an artist that I struggle to describe to others. That’s when you know you’re dealing with someone really original. So how would I attempt to describe Kar33M? Hip hop? A little. Soul/RnB? A bit of that too. But there’s also a touch of jazz perhaps and some African rhythms. It all adds up to something that’s not entirely like anything I’ve ever heard before. I’m looking forward to seeing his live performance.
If you haven’t already heard of singer-songwriter Kimberly Sunstrum, chances are you will soon enough. Her delightful songs weave together the influences she absorbed growing up in sub-Saharan Africa and Canada: classic R&B, South African pop, old-time country and 70s Motown – and her lyrics touch on her mixed-race identity, feminism, queerness, love, and family. It’s airy and uplifting and further enhanced by a gorgeous voice and seemingly effortless, easygoing delivery.
Bilingual singer-songwriter Mia isn’t even out of her teens yet but she’s already played the RBC Bluesfest, the Blacksheep Inn, the Festival of Small Halls, the Blueskies Music Festival, and the Stewart Park Festival, and there’s a good reason for that: she’s one heck of a powerhouse vocalist with a terrific collection of songs. The Ottawa Citizen named her one of the city’s ten artists to watch in 2020, and although we’re in 2021 now, I’m not ready to stop watching her just yet. She’s quite riveting.
Joshua Jairus Porras
Joshua is a Christian rapper from the Philippines, who moved here with his family in 2016. He frequently rhymes in Tagalog, and his performances have a staccato quality to them that make me move almost involuntarily when he rhymes. I suspect he’ll have us up and dancing around the living room this weekend.