Grand River Black Music Festival and Conference In Kitchener Puts Its Melody Where Its Mouth Is

It’s hard enough to make a go of it in the entertainment business, and the complications are only compounded if you happen to be Black. Getting over those hurdles is the focus of the Grand River Black Music Festival and Conference, produced by Black Exposed Entertainment, a three-day conference of seminars, performances, and other enlightening events that’s coming to teach aspiring players how to win the game of music—as shared straight from the mouth of their peers and heroes.

Canada’s first not-for-profit Black music festival and conference, the GRBMFC, will present a stellar lineup of artists and industry professionals when it takes over the central location of the Kitchener Public Library downtown Kitchener, the weekend of June 14 to 16. Featuring powerful live performances, exchanges of industry wisdom, unique vendors, film screenings, emerging artist programming, and more, the event will impart valuable, real-life tools and knowledge—all of it pitched to empower emerging black artists, producers, digital creators, and future filmmakers living in Ontario.

Fifteen major acts will present inspiring concert sets. Topping the roster are legendary R&B singer, songwriter, and actor Jully Black, rap icon Solitair, gospel collective the Toronto Mass Choir, Juno-Award-winning R&B vocalist Erroll Starr, Canadian Afrobeats pioneer Zochi, and jazz synthesist outfit Reharm.

On Sunday afternoon, June 16, Solitair will headline a free, 2,500-capacity outdoor festival at Civic Centre Park. This family-friendly program will also feature a Black Emerging Artist Spotlight, spoken-word performances, DJ music, and a Black Artisan and Food Village. Pop-up concerts will be held throughout the region throughout the weekend, adding to the pervasive sense of fun and surprise.

On the conference front, more than 20 panelists will share their intimate experience of the music business through workshops, lectures, and other highly informative sit-downs. Executives and artists who have truly been there and done that will lay out proven strategies for getting signed, promoting your work, navigating the digital realm and just being Black in the music industry.

Headline performer Jully Black will deliver one of the event’s three keynote speeches when she appears as part of its Black Women in Music panel. Solitair and Zochi will take part in seminars too, as will producer/CEO/singer-songwriter Carlos Morgan, also the festival’s founder. Other speakers and conference participants scheduled for the weekend include marketer/manager Will Strickland; radio host/VJ Michael Williams; TV and radio personality/promoter Master T; entertainment reporter Rudy Blair; multi-instrumentalist/producer Joel Joseph; DJ/promoter Ron Nelson; publicist/blogger/SiriusXM radio host Eric Alper; producer/songwriter Roy Hamilton III; and label exec Tony Winger who helped launch Prince’s career.

The film schedule will feature screenings of the short Temple of Love: The Erroll Star Story; Making Music: The Making of “Why I Sing the Blues”, which shows how the LA Big Daddy’s came to cover the B.B. King classic, and Hip-Hop Hope, a documentary focusing on the legacy of Hip-hop in The Waterloo Region.

A total attendance of 4,500 is expected at this truly momentous event.

“As the founder, producer and curator of the Grand River Black Music Festival, I am grateful to be a part of the GRBMF team that created a festival to feature and highlight Black musicians, artists and their music in the Waterloo region,” Carlos Morgan  says. “Recognizing a huge void in the local music scene, the GRBMF hosts three days of incredible performances from some of the best Canada has to offer, showcasing new and upcoming Black artists and presenting insider discussions of various issues and initiatives within the Canadian music industry. We look forward to seeing you and your family at the 2024 Grand River Black Music Festival.”