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Toronto-based artist TiKA is back after a six-year hiatus from music with her latest EP, Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid (STABLU).

The title was inspired by her decision to do more listening and less reacting, after experiencing an emotional two years of depression, heartbreak and self-discovery. The EP experiments with different sounds and rhythmic patterns, as well as showcasing her penchant for personal songwriting. It features local artists Shi Wisdom, Sydanie and Tamera Russell.

Born in Oakville, Ontario, and raised in Rexdale by a family that initially wasn’t very supportive of her music and career, TiKA graduated from the Etobicoke School of the Arts in Toronto with a degree in Music Theatre & Violin. As well as mastering the violin, TiKA is also a trained pianist and a registered songwriter, who used to sing fluidly in the church. By 2011, she introduced the world to her personality on her debut single “Do It When The Rest Won’t.”

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TiKA has been in the industry for the last nine years, with stints on MTV Canada, a part in Trey Anthony’s acclaimed play Da Kink In My Hair and her own songwriting company The Filling. TiKA’s rich, raspy vocals reveal intimate tales of her experiences based on the vibe of the instrumentals. Her music aims to uplift and blend genres to bring people together. Her recent video for “Tenfold” exemplifies this by bringing together many of the city’s Black artists.

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TiKA’s best known in Canada for her brand The Known Unknown, which began in 2009 under the name Intimate & Interactive. It started as a pop-up event series to showcase local new talent with open mic nights and later extended into a monthly music and lifestyle blog. TiKA built a name for herself in Canada with her honest, no-nonsense approach to auditions for the events and as a key figure for breaking new artists. The brand is now in the process of hitting the airwaves as a radio show and has started putting on events in New York, with plans to expand to other states too.

From TKU came her other event series #BAREGYAL, which celebrates women of color and provides them with a comfortable space to get to know each other and showcase their talents. The #BAREGYAL events are set to resume in Toronto in June. Accompanying this movement is her podcast #GYALCAST, which has become the number one podcast in Canada for Black women. TiKA feels it’s her social responsibility to represent her fellow Black women in a positive and diverse way. She’s also an advocate for shape diversity in the media and believes that self-love is the most important thing.

First of all, welcome back! After all of your new self-growth and awareness, who is TiKA as an artist now compared to who she used to be?

Thank you so much! It feels so nice to be welcomed in this way. I used to be fascinated with the idea of fame and I created music based on that principle. Now, after some necessary lessons, I operate from a completely different place. When I realized that I was a minimalist who craves simplicity, it dawned on me that my personal views were somewhat skewed and I began to self-evaluate. Music became less about acquiring fame and more about my life, my choices and wanting to be able to exchange knowledge and understanding with real people. I don’t think it’s ironic that people really identify with this music. It comes from a real place. I yearn to connect with people who aren’t afraid to feel. That will always be the goal for me.

Were you nervous about the reception STABLU would get because you allowed yourself to be so vulnerable this time around? Which track stands out the most for you?

I was so incredibly nervous about releasing STABLU. I don’t know any artist who wouldn’t be nervous! But I do this thing now where I always ask myself, “If not now, then when?” That always gives me the necessary, forceful shove in the right direction! As of late, “Can We” is still difficult for me to listen to. It’s SO raw and it shows the most vulnerable side of me and I appreciate that I had the opportunity to put [it] into the world.

The Known Unknown is currently being developed into a radio show. What can we expect content wise that differs from the existing events and blog?

The intention of [TKU] is to provide a platform for urban independent Canadian music and content. We have various shows being developed on our station and it premieres on a brand new streaming service called Zambah. We have everything from a Toronto countdown show to #GYALCAST (a no-holds barred podcast​ that provides an open-space for Black women from Toronto to speak openly about pop culture, love, sex and relationships.) I’m incredibly proud of this platform.

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Solidarity in the community, music industry and among women of color seems to be a recurring theme in your career so far. Why is solidarity so important to you? What do you think needs to change for this to be achieved?

Solidarity is so important because everyone is fighting for exactly the same things; to be heard, appreciated and acknowledged. We all yearn for connection and fellowship with other like-minded beings, especially musically. We need to be able to work together and see the bigger picture. Toronto is currently going through a very real and important musical renaissance and we have to understand that we’re responsible for building these pyramids. The only way that this is going to work effectively is if we stand in solidarity and support one another.

In order for this to be achieved, I think we just need to drop the guard. Many of us are jaded due to a constant lack of support from our own. Now that Toronto is universally viewed as a cultural game-changer, Torontonians are trying to drop the screw face and the ego and build this city up appropriately. As far as WoC go, I never had the strongest relationship with my mother and always had preconceived ideas about women. I eventually had to unlearn and unpack my own baggage to get to know some of the most talented, creative and inspiring women I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with, much less be friends with. I have MANY sisters and endless support. I’m so blessed.

What can we expect from your upcoming album Anywhere But Here? Is there a release date yet?

Anywhere But Here will be released this summer 2016. We will have a firm release date very soon. The album itself is 80s inspired, dreamy and ethereal. I recorded the album with my producer Casey MQ, an incredible producer from Brampton, ON; who really understands my musical concepts, ideas and pushes my envelope. I’ll also be delving into more live instrumentation on stage. The album is really different, so I’m excited for people to hear this.

When is the next The Known Unknown show coming to New York? Are you still planning to expand to LA?

TKU definitely wants to expand to the US again. It’ll happen eventually when the stars align. For now, I’m focused on building these pyramids in Toronto.

And finally, with multiple businesses and a budding music career to deal with, how do you find the time to make sure that you have a good work/life balance? 

Self-care, self-care, self-care. As someone who survived trauma and depression, I had to learn the hard way how to put myself first. I don’t apologize anymore for doing what’s best for me. Meditation, yoga, prayer and exercise are constants for me. Also, I make it a priority to do something creative and learn something new every single day. Creative people need to work to funnel our/their ideas, but frustration often arises because people don’t always see what you envision in your head. I need balance and that comes from doing something fun, new or exciting. I’m grateful for the little things and work hard to foster my creative friends. I intentionally live life to the fullest and encourage others to do the same.

Picture Credit: Kadeem Ellis