Canadian hip hop royalty comes to Halifax next weekend. Rapper and actor Michie Mee—considered one of the genre’s pioneers in Canada, after rising to fame in Toronto’s hip hop scene in the 1980s and 1990s—is set to headline a new festival celebrating Black music in Nova Scotia. Crescendo Fest is a two-day event “designed to turn up the volume on Black music artists” that serves as part conference, part concert: On Friday, Aug. 4, attendees can meet, network and take part in music entrepreneurship workshops at the Lighthouse Arts Centre, and on Saturday, Aug. 5, the festival will take over the Grand Parade for a free evening concert. Along with Michie Mee and others, homegrown talents Reeny Smith and Maggie Andrew are set to perform.
The festival is the brainchild of North Preston singer and organizer Micah Smith. The 2022 Music Nova Scotia Award winner for “Emerging Industry Professional of the Year” has shared stages with the likes of Joel Plaskett and Matt Andersen, and also counts Reeny as family: The two are cousins. Smith sees the festival as a chance for Black artists in Nova Scotia to “carve out our own space” and “introduce new talent” to the rest of Atlantic Canada.
“We have so much talent here, and there should be more opportunities [for Black artists],” Smith says, speaking by phone with The Coast. “We don’t always have to bring in people from outside—we have enough homegrown talent.”
All of the festival is free to attend, from the panels to the concert—“I didn’t want money to be a barrier for anybody,” Smith says. She’s crowdfunded more than $2,000 to help cover the costs of the artists performing. (The aim is for the festival to break even.)
“The role of Black music has always been crucial to the confidence and identity of African Nova Scotian/Black artists,” Smith writes in a GoFundMe post for the festival.
“We have existed in the dichotomy between the Black Nova Scotian reality and living in a predominantly white and immigrant community. Our music has always given us a sense of belonging. It has helped many of us grow—giving us confidence, creativity and freedom. It breaks down societal norms and stereotypes. It gives us the boldness to go against the grain. Our music is something we can be proud of, something we celebrate. It speaks to the complexity of our people, our story, our legacy.”
When is the concert? Saturday, Aug. 5 at 7pm
Where is the concert? The Grand Parade (opposite City Hall, between Barrington Street and Argyle Street)
Who is performing? Nonso Amadi, Michie Mee, Maggie Andrew, Reeny Smith and DJ Nasty Nuck
What does it cost? Admission is free, but donations are accepted here.
One to watch: Maggie Andrew
The 24-year-old Halifax-raised singer-songwriter earned an ECMA nomination for African Canadian Artist of the Year in 2023. Andrew’s recent single, “Biting Ice Cream,” shows a Remi Wolf-esque ear for pop anthems, and Pigeons & Planes has endorsed her sound as “music with teeth.” She recently turned heads at the ECMA’s Black Vibes showcase in May, with a set list that ventured from alt-pop to rock.
“We were all blown away,” Smith tells The Coast, “and I feel like everybody else needs to experience that—because I feel a lot of the time, when people think of Black artists, they think hip hop and rap, but there’s so much more to what we do.”