Music making for social justice

The Kingston Soul Shakedown aims to spread awareness about cultural issues

Think music rooted in social justice.

The Kingston Soul Shakedown, an event run by a group of local DJs and dancers, aims to create a positive space for marginalized individuals.

Ekta Singh, also known as DJ E, combined her social activism and love of international and independent music to help form the Kingston Soul Shakedown group in 2008, after returning from her time abroad.

“Originally it had emerged by a few friends of mine that were involved in DJing that had lived overseas and had a really unique and interesting collection of music,” she said.

Singh, who specializes in South Asian dub and Middle Eastern music, explained that they like to feature artists who are also activists.

“We like to highlight artists that are promoting socially-conscious messages and playing a lot of female empowerment … messages as well,” she said.

Each member of the group brings different specializations based on their personal interests and experiences abroad.

“Another one of the DJs and organizers, DJ Redfoot, has lived in Zambia and Senegal,” Singh said, “and his area of interest has been African funk.”

Singh’s DJing skills, she said, were built over years of experience practicing at parties and clubs, as well as a stint hosting her own radio show with CFRC.

She originally learned to DJ in Monterrey, Mexico.

“I also learned a lot, in terms of trying to perfect the skills I [already had] at CFRC,” Singh said.

What sets their group apart from mainstream music, she said, is that their music is quite specific and not top 40 music.

“A lot of what you will hear is a diverse collection of rare dance grooves from all corners of the world,” she said.

In celebration of the Kingston Arts Council’s 50 years of arts advocacy, the evening will begin with a dance showcase. It’ll include a presentation that highlights the work of local dance organizations, shortly followed by the Kingston Soul Shakedown.

“This is the first Shakedown we’ve had in, I’d say, about six months or five months,” she said, “so it’s kind of exciting and a lot of people are looking forward to it.”

Since the group’s conception, they’ve encountered a successful following of soul shakers, comprised of students, faculty and community members that all share a strong interest in international music.

“They always look forward to when we have our events,” Singh said. “They love listening to music that you will probably not be able to hear anywhere else in Kingston.”

In addition to showcasing different cultural music, the group also supports immigration rights and other marginalized groups.

“Above everything it’s a celebratory space — and, it’s an open space,” said Toby Moorsom, another lead organizer of the group, known as DJ Redfoot.

The group aims to inform people about the challenges others face in their lives and in other parts of the world, he said.

Funk is about a freedom of expression, he said, as well as a disavowal of rules. “[It’s] about shaking away the forms of oppression one experiences in their work day and drudgery,” Moorsom said.

Moorsom has an intrigue with soul and discovering what it means across different cultures and time periods.

“For me, it was digging through old records at garage sales and various second-hand shops when I didn’t have a lot of money,” he said.

The Kingston Soul Shakedown will be at the Grad Club on Nov. 30.

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