What is East Coast music, anyway? | Cultural Festivals | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

What is East Coast music, anyway?

As the ECMAs—the East Coast Music Awards and festival—return to Halifax, scene insiders say there’s more than one definition.

It’s a good time to be a music fan in Halifax: From May 3-7, the 35th annual East Coast Music Awards and festival are setting up shop in the city, delivering a hefty dose of live music from every imaginable stage and showcase around. With everything from Halifax-based reggae to PEI art rock on offer, it’s a vibrant reminder of just how much music is worth listening to in this part of the country (and also doubles as a chance for you to hear it all up close).

At three and a half decades in, it’d be easy to say the ECMAs have never been bigger or more diverse (though that last part isn’t strictly accurate, as it’s worth remembering the many varied and longstanding music traditions in the Maritimes). But, as public perception of the region begins to refocus wider than the fiddle-folk that’s long defined us (wonderful and important as it is), what is modern east coast music? Team Coast asked a bunch of 2023 ECMA artists what music from here means to them. These are their replies.

click to enlarge What is East Coast music, anyway?
Dali Van Gogh says East Coast music is "unlike anywhere else in Canada."

“To us, East Coast music embodies a unique blend of cultural traditions and influences, including Celtic, Acadian and Indigenous sounds. It's a music scene that's full of heart and soul, with a strong focus on storytelling and community. There's a little something for everyone and it's unlike anywhere else in Canada.

Over our almost 15 years as a band, we've seen the definition of East Coast music evolve and expand to include a wider range of genres and styles. While traditional East Coast music remains a vital part of our cultural heritage, we're also seeing the emergence of new sounds and voices that reflect the diversity of our region.

As a rock band, we're proud to be a part of this vibrant music community and to contribute to the ongoing evolution of East Coast music. We're constantly inspired by the creativity and talent of our fellow musicians and are excited to see what the future holds for this rich and dynamic music scene.”

—Dali Van Gogh, Halifax hard rock band

click to enlarge What is East Coast music, anyway?
"I wonder if there’s still a distinct 'East Coast sound,'" says India Gailey.

“East Coast music is all about community to me. I love hearing the stories and expressions of friends through their work. When I was a kid, it seemed like so much of popular East Coast music was about Celtic revival, folk, dad rock. But now it is so much more diverse, both in representing voices that might not have been as valued 20 years ago, and also in global conversation. With international influences surrounding us, I wonder if there’s still a distinct 'East Coast sound,' but the connections between people, the shows in tiny churches and bars, the buying each others t-shirts—these ephemeral things might happen anywhere, but here in the Maritimes they’ll always be dusted with a distinct vibe, whatever that East Coast flavour is in the moment.”

—India Gailey, Halifax cellist/composer

click to enlarge What is East Coast music, anyway?
"Since relocating to Halifax," Jah'Mila says, "I have been impressed by the strong support and camaraderie among artists."

“Music is an integral part of my life, and as a Jamaican artist living in the East Coast of Canada, it holds even greater significance for me. My music is a fusion of the rich cultural heritage of my homeland and my experiences of adapting to my new home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My debut album, Roots Girl, reflects this cross-cultural journey, encompassing my deep Jamaican roots and the transformative experience of my Canadian adventure.

The East Coast music scene is constantly evolving, with emerging artists and established musicians pushing boundaries and breaking down barriers. Since relocating to Halifax, I have been impressed by the strong support and camaraderie among artists.

As the region continues to flourish, I am confident that this sense of unity and encouragement will only grow stronger. It is not just the music itself that makes our scene so special, but the relationships and connections that are formed among the people who create it. I truly believe that our music and artists will continue to gain global recognition, making the East Coast a hub for musical talent and creativity.”

—Jah’Mila, Halifax reggae singer-songwriter

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.
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