Live Mixtape connects established, emerging Manitoba artists to ‘create community’ through hip-hop

Daisy Caneda sings a quiet harmony with Hera Nalam as Andrew Sannie and Mooki Awuyah, aka Mooki, rap over a beat Wednesday at a rehearsal space ahead of their live show in the coming days. 

When the beat stops, Nalam beams with a smile as she tells Caneda, aka Daiisu, she loves what she’s hearing — she could just use a little more volume from the 19-year-old up-and-comer.

“It’s really comforting to hear people who know what they’re talking about because it makes me want to become that confident,” Caneda says.

She and the group performed together Friday night at the West End Cultural Centre for an event dubbed Live Mixtape. The event took place once before in 2018.

The event brought together established local and emerging artists to write a series of new collaborative pieces for the show in just a couple weeks before.

Artistic director Elliott Walsh, aka Nestor Wynrush, said it was important to include a mentorship element to the program, inviting a small number of emerging artists such as Daiisu into the fold with more seasoned creators to see how it’s done and get feedback.

“It’s being able to have people that are of the similar life experience and having them show a way but also for you to have a voice and place as well,” he said.

Elliott Walsh (aka Nestor Wynrush) is the artistic director of the Live Mixtape. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

“The theme is about love and love as an ethic, and one of those things we’re trying to do is create community in this space, and I want people reflecting on that, because this is a safe place for us to grow and nurture each other.”

Writing to that theme, emerging poet Jessica Boittiaux, aka Botcho, created a spoken word piece about how we measure love.

“I thought about what love meant to me and I thought of family and how they always said, ‘I love you more, I love you most,’ and just taking that and seeing how much love meant to me,” she said.

Emerging poet Jessica Boittiaux, aka Botcho, rehearses a poem at the WAG Tuesday. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Boittiaux grew up in the North End of Winnipeg. She said the mentorship opportunity was an important example of making art accessible to inner-city youth and emerging artists.

She said she was nervous to perform on stage to a live audience for the first time Friday, but felt buoyed by the sense of community she was feeling from Walsh and others. 

“It’s definitely an opportunity that not many get, new artists getting to connect with really established artists,” said Boittiaux. “I’ve made new friendships. I’ve discovered new art. I’ve discovered that there are ways of artists from different avenues to connect and work on a project together.”

Boittiaux receives feedback during rehearsal Wednesday. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

The event was associated with the mural and culture festival Wall-to-Wall, organized by Synonym Art Consultation and the Graffiti Art Gallery.

In addition to collaborating, Caneda wrote and performed an original of her own Friday night based on themes from the Japanese animated film Howl’s Moving Castle.

“It’s inspired by … someone denying that they feel love because they’ve never felt it before … then slowly realizing that that’s really happening right now,” she says.

It was the biggest live audience Caneda has played in front of yet. She got her start playing live on the streaming platform Twitch during the pandemic. She’s only got a couple other, smaller-scale live performances under her belt.

Caneda, a.k.a Daiisu, rehearses at the WAG on Wednesday. Daiisu was one of several mentees taking part in the program. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

At the beginning of rehearsal Wednesday, Walsh went around the room and asked artists to define what community means to them to help each other understand one another and feel a bit more comfortable being vulnerable.

Before getting to sing and tinker and refine with the Live Mixtape crew, Caneda says she “didn’t really understand the meaning of community.”

“I was always staying at home, even before the pandemic. It was just me and my circle of friends. That’s the only world I knew, so actually this mentorship opened up a whole new world to me that I didn’t know,” she said. “I am just super grateful for this opportunity.”

Walsh said he was happy to help give that to her, Boittiaux and others at the front end of their artistic journeys.

“Because some people decided to invest in me when I was younger … I think that’s just the right way to go: each one teach one.”

From left: Elliott Walsh, Hera Nalam, Daisy Caneda, Andrew Sannie and Mooki Awuyah rehearsing at the WAG on Wednesday. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)