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X AVANT XV: TRANSMISSIONS | Oct 1-18 | All Events FREE to Stream!

Published on: September 10, 2020

curated by Pratishtha Kohli and Olivia Shortt

 October 1 to 18, 2020

OK Miss featuring Du Yun / Thin Edge New Music Collective
Leanne Simpson Trio / Rich Brown / Kaie Kellough & Jason Sharp
Tara Kannangara / c_RL/ Classic Roots / Mingjia / Norman Otis Richmond
Ron Gaskin Tribute


All events FREE to stream

The Music Gallery, Toronto’s Centre for Creative Music, presents the fifteenth edition of the internationally acclaimed X Avant New Music Festival from October 1 to 18, 2020.

All shows will be available to stream online and will be a mix of on and off-site concerts produced by the Music Gallery; (still) located at 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media and Education.

Highlights include:

  • Abstract punk ensemble OK Miss featuring 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner Du Yun
  • Word/sound/power from 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize winner Kaie Kellough with Jason Sharp
  •  Alanna Stuart (Bonjay) gathers Jamaican-Canadian artists and supporters of different eras in discussion around a community meal.
  • Performance from Toronto’s own “Groove-Based Indie Jazz” star, Tara Kannangara.
  • Toronto’s foremost contemporary ensemble, Thin Edge New Music Collective
  • Interview with Toronto Black music historian emeritus, Norman “Otis” Richmond
  • Anishinaabe singer songwriter Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and avant-jazz explorer Mingjia livestreamed from the Music Gallery

Praise for X Avant & The Music Gallery 

“For adventurous music lovers, it’s difficult to resist the appeal of Toronto’s not-for-profit arts centre Music Gallery and their annual flagship festival, X Avant. After all, where else can you see early electro-acoustic pioneers, up-and-coming Canadian musicians, and internationally-acclaimed poets?” – THUMP

“Building a coherent sensibility from diverse inspirations and challenging narrow conceptions of Canadian music..” – NOW Magazine 


X Avant XV: Transmissions

October 1-18 2020

In a time of transmissions and transitions: welcome to the Music Gallery’s 2020-21 season. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything for everyone; never has arts presentation faced such existential questions as it does today. While we fear viral transmissions, we need to continue cultural transmissions in order to maintain a semblance of ourselves during this time.

This is the focus of the Music Gallery’s 2020-21 season. Focusing on the old, the new, and music as a vehicle for subversion of cultural and structural norms; 2020-21 will be largely characterized by the curatorial work of Artistic Associates Pratishtha Kohli and Olivia Shortt. Mentored by Artistic (now Executive) Director David Dacks last year, their work builds on the strong foundation of the organization while pointing to new ideas and future forms of music programming.

X Avant XV: Transmissions surveys the transition from one era of artistic vision to the next as we spotlight past MG favourites while welcoming new ones. In doing so, this edition of the X Avant festival continues to cement the role the Music Gallery occupies in the Toronto music ecology. This edition’s innovative experiments in music challenge governance, hierarchies and hegemonies in the sense of exploring who curates concerts, and which artists are centred in the programming. Our festival is programmed by the Artistic Associates, collaborating laterally with the Artistic Director.

The festival focuses on what it means to transmit artistic knowledge and creative vision to our audiences and each other, while re-imagining what a music festival can look like in a pandemic.  Simultaneously, the festival considers the ongoing restructuring of the music industry and challenges the gatekeepers of live music, taking a hard look at the past, present and future of the Music Gallery, the city of Toronto, and Canada, as a baseline for musical activity.

This festival deliberately centers queer, Indigenous, black and POC artists, focusing on individual journeys into musical experimentation. This challenges notions of who has historically been given license to create “art music” in public spaces, where this art is allowed to exist, and what genres of expression are attributed to different communities. Moreover, all events are free – anyone with internet access can check out the entire scope of these ideas. By highlighting the diversity and talents of both growing and veteran experimental artists outside of our usual milieu of live performance, we hope to grow, adapt and transmit new ways of serving our community of sonic explorers.

Thin Edge Music Collective +Tara Kannangara

October 4, 2020 | 7 PM

Since 2011, Cheryl Duvall and Ilana Waniuk have built something incredible with Thin Edge New Music Collective, becoming one of the most forward-thinking contemporary ensembles in Canada over the last 10 years. We first encountered them as part of our Emergents series back in 2013 and since then they have mounted increasingly ambitious shows at the MG and beyond. As is to be expected, they’re bringing something special to X Avant: the ensemble continues to nurture emerging voices, who comprise a considerable number of their 70+ commissioned works. It’s all part of their distinctly eclectic and community-oriented outlook—endeavouring to bring 20th and 21st century music to an ever-expanding listenership.

Opening for Thin Edge is JUNO-nominated artist, Tara Kannangara who meshes Pop, Electronic/Synth music, Jazz, and Alternative, into a singular voice that is captivating audiences all over North America. Tara has melded everything she’s learned into genre-bending music that will make you cry, dance, smile and feel everything in between.

Growing up in Chilliwack, BC, she studied classical piano and voice from an early age. She then serendipitously picked up the trumpet in high school at first focusing on classical before moving into Jazz and other genres. Tara studied at the University of Victoria for classical trumpet and vocals but later moved to Toronto to pursue music at the University of Toronto where she came into her own as a performer and songwriter.

Rich Brown

October 9, 2020 | 7 PM

Of all the artists appearing at X Avant this year, Rich Brown has the longest history with the Music Gallery. Rich started his professional career playing in 1992. Since that time he has released 3 albums as a leader, and appears on over 70 recordings ranging from Jazz to Funk to traditional Arabic and Asian music. Rich has performed with a wide variety of artists including Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steve Coleman, Angelique Kidjo, Kurt Elling, Kim Mitchell, James Blood Ulmer, The Parachute Club, and David Clayton Thomas to name just a few. He also leads his own groups — rinsethealgorithm and The Abeng — and was nominated for a Juno Award in 2016 in the category of Jazz Album of the Year: Solo for his latest album ‘Abeng’.

Goteborg Art Sounds and the Music Gallery present
c_RL with Olivia Shortt

October 11, 2020 | 1 PM

One of the most exciting events for us in October 2020 for us was supposed to be co-curating Goteborg Art Sounds festival in Sweden. Plans, ahem, changed. Fortunately, it has worked out that the Music Gallery can still follow through with programming – and everyone can see it!

c_RL are composed of Allison Cameron, Germaine Liu and Nicole Rampersaud – all of whom are frequent guests of ours, onstage and off. One of the great improv/noise ensembles in Toronto in recent years, their album Friends achieved a great deal of Bandcamp acclaim since its release 5 years ago.

Here, they take advantage of the medium in which we present by offering a series of additive works. One musician improvises, passes it to another, who improvises on top of that, and so on. Additionally, the trio were to have journeyed to Gothenburg with our festival co-curator, Olivia Shortt for a unique expansion of their sonic alchemy. Solo or ensemble-based, these four have non-stop creativity!

The Aga Khan Museum, in association with the Music Gallery, presents
Kaie Kellough & Jason Sharp

October 15, 2020 | 7 PM

Kaie Kellough and Jason Sharp were a memorable highlight of X Avant in 2017, in collaboration Tanya Evanson and Kevin Lo on “Interro”, a searing indictment of border security harassment. Both have gone from strength to strength since then, notably Kaie, who was the Canadian winner of this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize (and recently nominated for the Giller Prize). We are glad to be working with the Aga Khan Museum again – site of 2018’s epic Land Of Kush concert, with Jason in the band – to see these artists return to Toronto. As a music/spoken word/poetry duo, they are known for their remarkable, percussive avant-jazz sound. Together they will explore the liminal space between syllables, sounds, words, and rhythm with live video accompaniment.

The Music Gallery, in association with the Aga Khan Museum presents
OK Miss + Classic Roots

October 16, 2020 | 7 PM

This energetic night is headlined by Ok Miss.  This project was begun by 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music winner Du Yun to create a singular experience—a group existing as both rock band and chamber ensemble, while fostering all that exists in-between. The group has appeared in many assorted holes and halls, sites and museums, ranging from punk shows to live-scoring silent films and sold-out musicals.

As an avid performer and the bandleader for Ok Miss, Du Yun’s onstage persona has been described by the New York Times as “an indie pop diva with an avant-garde edge” and “flamboyant” by the Chicago Tribune. Through Du Yun, the band will release their new album Iron ️Heart on China’s leading music label Modern Sky in 2021.

Opening up and setting the tone is the pulsating presence of Classic Roots. Drawing inspiration from his life and culture, Classic Roots developed his original sound through his integration of traditional Anishinaabe drumming and singing imbued with the bass culture of techno/house to establish a sense of cultural freedom and experimentation which resonates with distinctiveness throughout the world of contemporary electronic club music.

Leanne Simpson Trio + Mingjia Chen, Chris Pruden, Julian Anderson-Bowes

October 18, 2020 | 7PM

To close out our festival we have an out and out live show, albeit with no audience. It will be just like old times at 918 Bathurst as we present two soulful singers who balance light and darkness in their songs and stories, accompanied by with abstract yet beguiling music.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist, who has been widely recognized as one of the most compelling Indigenous voices of her generation. Her work breaks open the intersections between politics,  story and song—bringing audiences into a rich and layered world of sound, light, and sovereign creativity. Leanne is also a musician combining poetry, storytelling, song-writing and performance in collaboration with musicians to create unique spoken songs and soundscapes.

Beijing-birthed, Toronto-dwelling vocalist-composer mingjia (she / her) writes music that’s equal parts fantastical & relatable, & performs it with courage & honesty. Seen here in a trio, she mainly performs with her chamber ensemble tortoise orchestra & other artists such as pomes, pleasure craft & pusher. I Care If You Listen describes mingjia as “(having) strong command of timbral combinations” and “one to watch”. since quarantine began mingjia has been reading Ross Gay & learning to play the guitar.


Rough Ideas: A Celebration of Ron Gaskin – October 1, 2020 – 7 PM; The late Ron Gaskin’s work touched everyone in Toronto who craved adventurous music. His rakish disposition was a fixture at live events and on the radio for decades, as he introduced this city to defining musicians in improvisation on a regular basis. Larger festivals were made better by his insightful curation, and the Music Gallery benefited from his musical sensibilities for years as a curator and host of Radio Music Gallery. He was a champion and a cheerleader for vital music. On the first night of X Avant, in which we celebrate the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next, we come together to honour him. Join us for a Zoom wake – we invite people to share their recollections of Ron over the years, interspersed with some music from friends. As always, expect the unexpected when it comes to Ron’s wild and woolly life and times in music. To submit your name for participation, click here.

Norman Otis Richmond Interviewed by Chaka V. Grier, October 2, 2020 – 7 PM; Norman Otis Richmond is Toronto’s Black music historian emeritus. With more than 50 years in, around and beyond the music business, his work has explored art, politics and everything in between. Host of “Diasporic Music” (once on CKLN-FM, now online) and co-founder of the Toronto chapter of the Black Music Association he is expert in the many cross-currents of Black musical manifestations from jazz to traditional African to soul and much more. This event picks up where our summer “Music Gallery at Home” Interviews left off and features journalist Chaka V. Grier (NOW Magazine, Musicworks) diving deep with Otis to relate old and new stories about a continuum which only grows stronger with each passing year.

The Music Gallery & Alanna Stuart’s ‘Hybrid Lab’ present
Simma: A Community Meal & Reasoning on Toronto’s Jamaican Music Imperative, October 8 2020 – 7 PM

From time, Jamaica-to-Toronto’s influential music scene has carved its own path out of necessity and sheer badness. Simma is a documentary-style conversation that gathers Jamaican-Canadian artists, selectors and media folks of different eras around a table of oxtail and Ital stew. Together, they reflect on their shared history and realize new futures.

Simma is inspired by the Bonjay vocalist and producer’s recent experience going back to her dancehall roots via Kingston, Jamaica’s music scene. From collaborating in-studio with dancehall collective Equiknoxx to witnessing legendary artist Tanya Stephens lecture at the University of the West Indies, Stuart, a first-generation Jamaican-Canadian, returned to Toronto with a desire to nurture a deeper relationship between the aspiring music city and the birthplace of bass culture. Canada has the world’s third-largest Jamaican diaspora, but, unlike cities in the UK, the country’s music industry has yet to adequately recognize and fully harness its connection to Jamaica’s cultural power. 

What would Toronto, the epicenter of Canadian music, sound like if it sufficiently nurtured this link?

For more information and media assets contact:

Sergio Elmir, Marketing Supervisor

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