Honey Jam still sweet after a decade

17 Aug 2005
>> Dessy Di Lauro performing at Honey Jam 2005. © Gentle Aura

Can you believe it? It’s been ten years already and Honey Jam is still going strong. Loyal fans of the all female showcase came out to celebrate a decade of passionate music with Phemphat CEO, Ebonnie Rowe this past Sunday. Those who attended were treated to diverse performances of Hip-Hop, R&B, Jazz, Blues and Reggae. As Rowe says: "We have always tried ... to give our audiences what they never imagined and to leave them awe-inspired by what they witnessed." Once again, the Honey Jam showcase sure stepped to the plate. God knows there was a lot going on in the city that week-end -- with the likes of Nas, Kanye West and Fat Joe in town. But Toronto''s love story with honey jam proved unshakable as the Mod Club was packed for the annual event.

Phemphat was formed in 1995 and has produced “Honey Jam” for the past 10 years. Honey Jam has been the launching pad for many promising artists with Nelly Furtado, Jully Black and Tara Chase being just a few of its successful alumni. The host of the original Honey Jam, Michie Mee, was back to host the show. She also treated the crowd to a raunchy and beat-filled set at the end of the show. She showed us that she still got it with a rousing performance. Her stage show was also memorable with a crowd pleasing routine by the Baby Boy dance crew. A metaphor perhaps as to how Honey Jam has come full circle but while no doubt looking out to a bright future. Tara Chase remembers Ebonnie Rowe's earnest work ethic and determination back in the early days which helped her share the vision. "I knew she was not playing" Chase adds. Looking to the future, Jully Black hopes to see an increased injection of Honey Jam's infectious spirit across the community all year round. She believes that Honey Jam can "bridge the gap so all generations are aware of the Honey Jam legacy."

Judging from the crowd, Jully Black's wish is coming true. The diverse crowd which came out reflected how far the event has come. And they sure got their money's worth. The line-up for the evening included, Belle, Cali, Jillian Cameron, Dessy Di Lauro, Kellylee Evans, Eklectic Soul, Frankee & Jade, Joy Lapps, Martha Joy Lim, Michelle Lindo, Lori Nuic, Nikki Ponte, Verbal Sweetness, Tasha T and Renee Wynter who provided a stirring rendition of the up-beat track “Beautiful World” with the help of the Philosopher Kings guitarist James Bryan.

Joy Lapps’ performance was especially unique, using the steel-pan to re-create contemporary hits. There were hits and a few misses but all the artists were embraced in the spirit of support that is an integral part of the Honey Jam experience. In addition to Joy Lapps' dizzying steel-pan performance, other majors hits which brought great applause from the crowd were the amazing dance choreographies, an ambitious but very successful attempt at belting out a Whitney Houston tune, and much more. Can't wait 'till next year.

The winner of the showcase was Lori Nuic whose powerful vocal ability foretells a bright future. She will be provided with the much sought after production skills of Saukrates.

>> Joy Lapps performs an electrifying steel-pan rendition of Bel Biv Devoe's old school hit "Poison"

It's good to see that the showcase also offers concrete ways for these emerging artists to move above and beyond. From a $1,500 guitar give away to a promising performer to that golden chance to work with someone of Saukrates' caliber. Judging from the success of Honey Jam's alumni thus far, we will certainly hear more about some of last week-end's performers in the future.

It's an undeniable fact that Toronto holds an amazing pool of talent. We need to have venues and avenues such as this to showcase what our city has to offer.

It was an evening of celebration ending with a jam-session which had each artist free-styling to R&B steel-pan, hip-hop and reggae rhythms a diverse buffet fit for the most discerning of musical palates. Congratulations to Honey Jam for ten inspirational years.