Best in Class: A Roundup of Year One DJ Residencies at Ace Toronto

Year One DJs at Ace Toronto

One year ago we opened Ace Hotel Toronto and called it what it was: a new destiny. We envisioned it as a home for us, for the city, for freethinkers who use sounds, dance and turntables to forge familial bonds through heavy bass and woozy synths. So we started with the people we knew, who introduced us to people they knew, inviting in a rotation of local clothing brands, record labels, beloved radio shows and artists to help us light up 51 Camden St.

It’s brought thought leaders, experimental nightlife and unorthodox ideas — the kind this city’s known for — through our doors. You could hear disco, deep house and Soundcloud Madonna edits on Friday; the best in African electronic music at Evangeline on Saturdays; then end the evening with the new faces of LA’s future beats scene soundtracking The Lobby.

Yohomo’s night, Can I Be Me? Photo by Stephen Attong.

These weekends, in some ways, have felt like the different neighborhoods and countries that comprise the multicultural fabric of Toronto all dancing together under one roof. Present-day South African sounds to ’70s Persian funk to early aughts Virginia hip-hop to unearthed street soul from 1980s-era UK — the mood’s been ever-present and ever-changing. Like if you could somehow burn the entirety of Toronto onto a CD. And my god, the moves we’ve seen.

We’re reflecting with joy on what these nights have meant to us and, we hope, to you. Toronto is a city so steeped in talent, so full of personalities and pockets hungry to share their music and create community out of it. Like other metropolises, this city carries its influences of pop culture, immigration and escapism into whatever venue it can find.

We’re honored to share this 17-person class of individuals who were the first to bring it into Ace Hotel Toronto along with an essential track from each.

*Featured image, from left to right, of: Freeza Chin, Minzi Roberta, Cameron Reed, Xavier Miller,  Armand Digdoyo, Ana Luisa, Marcus Adade, Laura Schütte , Ajeya Gonzales and Phill Villeneuve by Neil Watson

PARTY: Curated by Arts & Crafts

ENTITY: Cameron Reed for Arts & Crafts Records

TRACK: “Papa Wemba” by Pierre Kwenders

Curated by Arts and Crafts, the legacy Toronto label and veritable revolving door for Canada’s rich musical talent. “Pierre Kwenders and his Toronto/Montreal-based Moonshine collective were among the first people I wanted to be a part of this DJ series,” says A&C’s Cameron Reed. “

“‘Papa Wemba,’ a single taken from Pierre Kwenders’ Polaris Music Prize-winning album José Louis and the Paradox of Love is a perfect distillation of the vibrancy and eclecticism that makes both cities so great.”

Cameron Reed, Arts & Crafts

PARTY: Can I Be Me?

ENTITY: Armand Digdoyo and Phill Villeneuve with Yohomo

TRACK: “One Touch” by Bambii

“Yohomo is all about local love. In the people we feature on our blog, the folks we work with for our parties, our podcast, our artistic collaborations … it’s always been, and always will be, about working with our brilliant Toronto queer community. Bambii is a mother boss in this sense and has always repped Toronto in an honest, beautiful way.”

She incorporates her West Indian roots into everything she does and we have loved watching her DJ and producer journey. This song is what summer 2023 will sound like to us: it’s warm, it’s energic, it’s sexy, it’s a club, it’s a beach, unexpected and feel good.”

PARTY: Sounds Like it Looks

ENTITY: Xavier Miller with Adidem Asteriks

TRACK: “Designer Shit” by Dom Kennedy

The clothing label Adidem Asteriks ties together its lifestyle looks through sound. Xavier Miller, co-founder of the brand, believes it’s important for your audience to connect with the music you play and to feel the emotions it conveys in hopes that they’ll understand you better without even saying a word. His lifestyle and thoughts are represented in every bar of this song. So much so, he calls it the theme song to the story of his life.

PARTY: Cuarenteca

ENTITY: Ana Luisa with Cuarenteca

TRACK: “Bubalu” by MJ Nebreda ft. Nick Leon

Cuarenteca brought us dance-ready global sounds. One song Ana Luisa played at Evangeline was “Bubalu” by MJ Nebreda ft. Nick Leon, a go-to track in every set, by two of her favourite producers currently active in the Latin electronic/club music scene, who inspire her with their approach to music-making.

“Bubalu is a sexy, fun and emotional half dance track, half love song, with MJ’s vocals swimming through a bouncy dembow rhythm and silky smooth synths. This is the kind of track that makes you want to dance, cry and kiss your crush.”

Ana Luisa, Cuarenteca

PARTY: High Frequencies

ENTITY: Laura Schütte with Invisible City Records

TRACK: “Summer Jazz” by Accura

Invisible City is the label and record store sharing the hidden gems from everywhere.

“Accura’s Summer Jazz, originally released in 1994, and reissued by Invisible City Editions in 2022, is a fusion of genres, melding together elements from hip-hop, jazz funk and downtempo.”

Laura Schütte with Invisible City Records

The Invisible City series at Ace Hotel Toronto was also about fusion and genre fluidity, bringing together an adventurous selection of new and old from around the globe. With a focus on cross-genre music that doesn’t always fit into boxes, Invisible City celebrates eclecticism, diversity and discovery, whether it’s discovering something entirely new, unearthing overlooked songs of the past, or rediscovering old favourites. It’s about building community, enjoying music and having a good time.

PARTY: Telephone Explosion

ENTITY: Jon Schoten with Telephone Explosion Records

TRACK: “Babylon” Uh Huh

Telephone Explosion takes open format seriously. Jon Schoten, owner of the label, believes “Uh-Huh” showcases what the TER DJs offer up at the Evangeline bar.

“Lots of different sounds, textures and of course, big vibes. Hints of dance, jazz, dub and rock all packaged into one track but not sitting too firmly in one genre. That’s kinda what TER is all about!”

Jon Schoten, Telephone Explosion Records
PARTY: FOMO at Evangeline

ENTITY: Ajeya Gonzales with FOMO

TRACK: “What You Need (feat. Charlotte Day Wilson)” by KAYTRANADA

FOMO hosts a regular queer night at Evangeline, bringing their genre-bending attitude and community-centric parties. Released in 2019, the same year FOMO launched, this song by the queer Canadian artist and Montreal-based producer KAYTRANADA, and Toronto-based recording artist Charlotte Day Wilson, showcases an eclectic blend of genres like dance and R&B, which reflect the many sounds from within the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

PARTY: Room Service

ENTITY: Marcus Adade with MNFSTO Sounds

TRACK: “Organise” by Asake

Canada’s music incubator Manifesto and their MNFSTO SOUNDS make space for emerging artists making Afrobeat, hip-hop and R&B.

“This record embodies the energy and feeling that circulates through our Room Service series at Ace Hotel. Last November, I was in New York and got invited to this Nike HBCU Homecoming event. Closer to the end of the night, the DJ surprised me and friends when he played this record. (At the time, the song had been out for two weeks and was considered to be a deep cut.) You can sense a community of people coming together to experience the joy and excitement around this record — majority of the people that joined in the experience did not even know the song but felt compelled to dance, to sweat, to smile and more importantly, enjoy the company of others in this sacred space.

Marcus Adade with MNFSTO Sounds

This is the same feeling that we are bringing to Ace Hotel with our weekly series, whereby the music creates a sonic voyage for our guests to immerse themselves in the spiritual vibrations.

PARTY: Ace Afrique

ENTITY: Razaq El Toro, Martinese, and Sonic Griot with Afrique Like Me

TRACK: “Smile (featuring Manoo)” by Shota

Afrique Like Me is the trio bringing African electronic music every night and everywhere.

“We shared this song because it encapsulates the energy of Afrique Like Me and is a song all three of us would play in a set. We each bring a different flavour to the collective, and this is a song that combines our love for percussion, instrumentals and vocals, respectively. It also straddles the afro-tech/afro-house sound we like to experiment with. It’s a great, vibey example of African electronic music that you can jam to any time of day.”

PARTY: Random Access

ENTITY: Josephine Cruz and Freeza Chin with ISO Radio

TRACK: “Say You Love Me” by Keys N Krates

“Our Random Access night was a great chance for us to show the diversity of our DJ roster and their musical taste. ‘Say You Love Me’ by Keys N Krates is a great representation of such diversity. You can hear the different musical influences from all three members of the group in the song with elements of house, gospel, R&B and tribal club music.”

PARTY: Shades

ENTITY: Karim Olen Ash

TRACK: “Make U Mine” by Toyin Agbetu

“Shades is about the lineage of Black house music. This track by Toyin Agbetu is quintessential soulful, early ’90s original house. When coming up with the series I wanted to celebrate and focus on the Black diasporic experience where it relates to the origins of house music and the pioneers that paved the way. After hearing this song with some friends, it really resonated with the type of sounds I wanted to bring to the series. The title of the EP is also called ‘Shades of Black’ which perfectly expressed those ideas.”

Karim Olen Ash

PARTY: Dreamscape

ENTITY: Minzi Roberta

TRACK: “Dreams” by Solange and “Closer” by Jamilah Barry

Dreamscape curated by Minzi Roberta is about sonic expression by emerging visionaries of the city.

“‘Dreams’ by Solange starts playing in the background at first, giving me that feeling of euphoric nostalgia then, the track transitions into ‘Closer’ by Jamilah Barry — the song speaks to me because of its self-affirmative message, which reminds me of the faith I have for myself and the world. Its slow-dancey rhythm also matches the cozy + warm vibe inside the lobby of Ace Hotel Toronto.”

Minzi Roberts

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