Black Canadians




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Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list )

interview Page Main Template GENERAL nathan thane

BIO: Nathan Thomas popularly known by his artist name, Thane is an indie electronic music songwriter, vocalist and live performance artist. His music has been played by top international club DJs including Paul van Dyk, Toka, Flash Brothers, Markus Schulz and is currently in rotation at H&M stores. Although born of Caribbean heritage (Guyanese and Antiguan), he grew up in Calgary and now calls Toronto his home.

My artist name is Thane and I’m an indie electronic music songwriter, vocalist and live performance artist. My music has been played by top international club DJs including Paul van Dyk, Toka, Flash Brothers, Markus Schulz and is currently in rotation at H&M stores.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I sang in the choir for many years but wanted the freedom to write and perform my own music. My first recordings were a 3 song demo and later EP of neo-soul infused pop tracks. I have more recently crossed over into club/dance music. I’m a member of the Songwriters Association of Canada, SOCAN and CARAS. Also, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Public Relations from Mount Royal (College) University in Calgary.

 What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated?
Just being around positive people is a motivating factor and listening to the success stories of other black/Caribbean Canadians who have built a name for themselves in the entertainment industry. For example, I recently heard video director Director X (Drake) speak on a panel and was really inspired by what he had to say about the importance of collaboration and what it takes to be successful in the music business.

 How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect?
Parents who instilled the importance of education and hard work and a lot of learning, training and growing and that process continues.  I’ve made mistakes and learned from them and am constantly learning how to be a better singer, a better performer and self-promoter. I’ve taken vocal lessons and continue to attend music seminars and networking events to hone my craft, meet new people and push myself out into the spotlight. I’m reserved by nature so these are skills that I have acquired. Learning is a lifelong process. Expect to hear my dance tracks on the radio and in the clubs. I’m currently working on a soulful electro remake of a classic ‘80s pop-rock cover, a unique twist that I hope fans and followers will enjoy.

What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for having left behind a creative body of work that’s memorable and of substance – music that will hopefully last beyond my lifetime. I would also like to be remembered as a good human being, someone who hopefully treated others with kindness and respect.

How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure? 
It’s challenging because I work an office job which also supports my creative ambitions so it’s like balancing two careers. My friends and family are equally busy and ambitious so it can be hard to find that balance but you just make it happen. If it’s important to you, you find the time.  

What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
My favourite food: Curry goat with roti or oxtail with rice and peas.  

Favourite book: Anything from the Dan Brown series – The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. Once you start reading, you just can’t put his books down. He has a new book called Inferno that I can’t wait to get my hands on!  

Favourite music: It’s hard to pick a favourite – I’m a musician so I listen to most types of music for inspiration. I love powerful soul vocalists like Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige but listen to a range of music from pop to classical, jazz, blues, R&B, Motown, electronic and dance. Not as much into country music but can still appreciate the talented artists in that genre. Hip hop that delivers a positive message can be powerful.

Favourite movie: The Colour Purple 

What's your experience as a Black person in Canada?
I would say largely positive but it hasn’t been without some struggles. I grew up in Calgary where racial diversity and multiculturalism was not as visible as a larger urban centre like Toronto. I’ve been referred to by the “N word” as a child in school or had ignorant remarks made about my hair or skin colour being different. Even an ethnically diverse urban centre like Toronto has its issues though – I noticed it in particular when I first moved here almost 10 years ago looking for housing.  People would stereotype and assume that I might cause trouble just based on skin colour; this I felt even from other non-whites. Just the way some people look at you or assess you without even knowing anything about the person. Having said that, in the bigger picture, we are incredibly fortunate to be living in a country like Canada where, despite the setbacks, we have the freedom to reach our goals and accomplish our dreams. Sometimes it just means pushing that much harder to prove ourselves as black Canadians which is unfortunate but through struggle and adversity comes strength and personal growth.

What is the Black community doing right or wrong in Canada?
I think there needs to be more mentorship, networking and learning opportunities for young people and better role models to keep young black men, in particular, out of trouble. I would also like to see more celebration and teaching of traditional cultures. I attended a speaker’s panel during Black History Month at which an older panelist eloquently pointed out that not all young black children are going to grow up with the athletic ability to be basketball players and that there could be more support for those with creative endeavours as well, the musicians, writers and artists. As a musician, I could relate to that. In traditional West African society, griots, artists and performers were greatly revered and celebrated for their artistry but somehow we seem to be losing much of the cultural knowledge and traditions. In Calgary, I used to perform with a Caribbean singing and dancing troupe called the Caribees but fewer young people seem to be interested in tradition; hip hop is their only frame of reference for black culture. I think this is limiting given that we have a myriad of cultural expressions stemming from an ancient tradition of storytelling, song and dance brought from Africa to the New World and spread across the diaspora.

Do Blacks support black music, events and businesses? 
I think some do and some don’t.  Overall we could do more to support each other and I feel that those who are established could do more to mentor the younger people coming up.

Some claim we have musical artists in Canada that are as good as or better than those in the US?
Canada has an amazing talent pool waiting to be discovered that is certainly as good as American artists. Blacks in Canada bring an equally diverse flavour to the cultural melting pot from varied experiences and ethnic backgrounds including black/African Canadian, Afro-Caribbean, continental African and Afro-Latino. I think that creates some really interesting sounds.

Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Artists? 
Jully Black, Drake, Deborah Cox, Gary Beals,
Kardinal Offishall, Gerald Eaton (Jarvis Church), Kreesha Turner, K’naan, and Measha Brueggergosman to name a few.

What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada? 
Black people have had a long history in Canada spanning about 400 years. The first black person to ever set foot in Canada was believed to be Mathieu Da Costa in the early 1600s, an interpreter to the early French explorers. Later waves of immigration included the Jamaican Maroons and Black Loyalists (American Revolution) from the United States who settled in Nova Scotia in the 1700s, African Americans who escaped slavery from the US by the Underground Railroad in the 1800s and immigration from the USA and Caribbean throughout the 20
th Century.  

Growing up in western Canada, I also learned a lot about the history of black settlement in that part of the country. One very famous cowboy was John Ware, a former American slave who settled with his family in Alberta. There were also pockets of black communities in British Columbia, mostly ex-slaves and adventurers following the west coast gold rush.  Also, a number of young black men served as porters during the early days of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

One amazing book I have in my collection and a great resource is called The Black Canadians: Their History and Contributions.