Despite the pandemic, Honey Jam founder Ebonnie Rowe insisted the female musicians showcase must continue

When Ebonnie Rowe first saw the pandemic unfold, panic set in. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Honey Jam – an annual showcase and mentorship program for emerging female musicians in Canada – founded by Rowe, a longtime talent scout.

She was ready to celebrate the showcase milestone, which helped launch the careers of Nelly Furtado and Jully Black, with a booming year of arena-style events, featuring major performers (she was working on the booking of Alicia Keys).

“In an instant he went poufRowe recalls. “None of these things could happen. They all involved a rally. They all involved travel.

When Rowe consulted with industry colleagues for advice, they told him, “Just cancel the year and move all your plans to next year. “I got angry,” Rowe said. “Where is your passion? How do you give upSome of those who told her to cancel, she said, were not people of color and couldn’t understand, “I thought, ‘You don’t know what wrestling is. Because if you do and you have to struggle and push so hard every day of your life, you don’t sit, give up, and take a nap. It is not an option.

In June 2020, Rowe volunteered at Block 4 BLAC, a social distance group fundraiser for the Black Legal Action Center – the first in-person event she has attended since the start of the pandemic.

“It was so wonderful and uplifting,” she says. In August, Rowe hosted her first Honey Jam event in person for 25 artists: A Chat with program alumnus Jordan Alexander. The actress, who has a starring role in HBO Max’s upcoming “Gossip Girl” revival, is also a singer-songwriter who performed at Honey Jam storefronts in 2013 and 2014.

A similar small event with Canadian musician Serena Ryder followed a few weeks later. Even though Rowe couldn’t accommodate a crowd, she started hosting the Honey Jam 25th Anniversary concert, which was broadcast live from El Mocambo on October 1. The 21 musicians of the evening nevertheless received the star treatment, with personalized decorations for each artist, a queen’s lounge, cake and sparklers.

“Even though it was just us, we did everything,” Rowe says. “It was a magical experience. More than 10,000 people have tapped into an event that normally attracts 500 to 700 attendees, which Rowe considers one of the silver liners of the pandemic.

“Anyone from anywhere in the world could have logged in and did,” she says. “It was breathtaking. And obviously, it was fantastic for the artists.

Rowe’s efforts to strengthen equity in the music industry won her the first Trailblazer Award from the Canadian Independent Music Association, which she received on June 23.



It’s a perfect storm for Rowe, who closed this year’s auditions for Honey Jam on June 8.

While the trials are usually held live and are an event in themselves (“sometimes,” she says, “more people come to the auditions than to the show”), this was the first year of video submissions. . “I hate it,” she admits. “I never want to do it again. I want to feel your vibe. I want to hear the reaction of the crowd.

Rowe plans to hold small in-person auditions for the shortlist before the selected artists perform at the August 12 showcase at El Mocambo. But before that, she will have to cut more than 100 submissions.

“I am very impressed with the level of talent,” she said. “The only problem is that it’s extremely difficult to reduce it. Maybe we could make a 10 day honey jam? “

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