Iverna Island: A sonic paradise for Toronto Womxn in Music

North By Northeast is an annual gathering place for locals and visitors alike to share sounds and expand their knowledge of both developing and established artists. This year's lineup is incredible - from June 15 to 17, Toronto is closing off Yonge-Dundas for a Street Festival, and open air shows at the Square. From June 8 through June 17, we'll see the Club Land series take shape, which will feature curated lineups by the city's own gems.

TiKA is bringing activism to the fore. On Sunday, June 10 at The Baby G, she is launching her own curator series - Iverna Island - a grass-roots festival featuring Womxn of Colour performers and artists, dedicated to encouraging, empowering and uplifting their excellence. The day begins with a workshop that ensures each artist is supported by their peers - establishing a safe space and stage - before diving into a full production showcase of vibrant sounds and styles. This traveling festival recognizes that Womxn of Colour face barriers that hinder them from performing and establishing a creative career that only through collaboration and community can lasting success be found.

Founded by Iverna’s granddaughter, TiKA (a performance coach and stage performer) the showcase space will act as a safer space for entertainers to encourage one another but will act as a space of activism through music.

The name of the festival honours the memory of Hilret Iverna Cato (July 17, 1941 – April 13, 2009), a Black woman from Portland, Jamaica who immigrated to Oakville, Ontario, Canada to become a founding member of the Ontario Multicultural Association, the head librarian at Erindale College Library, an advocate for the Toronto creative community, a scholar, and a community worker. After working tirelessly for years in the community, Hilret Iverna Cato suffered physical and mental deterioration resulting from persistent racism, classism, sexism over three decades. A portion of proceeds from Iverna Island will go to Reclaim Your Voice.

BanTOR Radio is proud to be a partner of Iverna Island. Read our exclusive preview to prime yourself on all the talented, multifaceted womxn performing this weekend. Come out to expand your mind, embrace new sounds and heal your soul with good vibes.

Iverna Island
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The stage is a place where I feel [free]. I am strong because of [my faith, family and friends]. Community is defined by [what you can do for others, not what they can do for you]. My art is a means to [speak my truth], and I use my voice as [a vessel]. [Perseverance & resilience] is the way to break barriers.


Liza creates music for a specific headspace. The Toronto artist honours her unique vocal style, drawing from strong R&B/Neo-Soul inflections and Ethiopian Music Culture. Her February 29 EP highlights her unique sound with diverse production (crediting work with CVRE, Juda, Nahum and Vincent Basil on the tracks) and a sonic diary that ebbs and flows through every verse. Themes of anxiety and desire weave through the works with authentic intricacy, yet are open enough for interpretation. This vulnerability and honesty makes Liza’s music applicable for audiences looking for something true. Her latest, “Here To Stay” (produced by CVRE) weaves through emotions and a soulful pace with grace.

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I am strong because [I know my worth]. I believe collaboration is key to [fulfillment]. Community is defined by [people’s willingness to support one another]. My art is a means to [tell my story], and I use my voice as [an instrument]. [Giving yourself permission to take up space] is a way to break barriers. The stage is a place where [I feel I belong]. To create meaningful change, [self-reflection and awareness] is paramount. I am driven to [fulfill my highest potential] , and when I need inspiration, I look to [spirituality].


One of the most brazen artists from the city, Faiza’s presence is hard to miss. With exceptional delivery, sharp bars and heavy hustle, this artist is “counting up stacks and putting in work.” So says the verse in her single, “Bands,” from her latest EP, Audacity. But fuck. It’s true. A project that resulted from her time spent in Atlanta, and executively produced by Giangelo Power, Faiza was deft in the process, the dedication and drive evident in other opportunities that arose. With an appearance on CTV’s The Launch, Faiza broke barriers and pushed boundaries by sharing her authentic art without fear. On Audacity, she turned the tables on sexism (“Body Babe”), embracing who she is (“Thick and Melanated” prod. LE7TY), being vulnerable with grace (“Let’s Just”) while accepting challenges and conquering anything that comes her way.

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I am strong because [other people’s opinions of my capabilities do not limit my abilities to create, and be myself]. I believe collaboration is the key to [furthering development]. We can learn and absorb as much as we want on our own, but at some point we all learn from someone else. My art is a means to [tell my truth and the experiences that have led me thus far]. I use my voice as [an instrument], to break barriers. The stage is the place I feel [complete].


 Wild World” opens with an ethereal vibe, and Tanisha’s voice paints the picture. With pipes that illustrate emotion in vibrant fashion, Tanisha has put in the work. Completing the Canadian Music Incubator with Coalition Music in 2015, Tanisha expanded her career through collaboration and networking, with entrepreneurial spirit. At 23 years old, this singer-songwriter has independently landed onto commercial radio, Apple Music & Spotify Playlists as well as debuted her first music video on Much Music's "Brand New Sh*t" TV show. She is the founder of NWYE (Not What You Expected) – a full service record label, entertainment, media distribution and management company based in Toronto. Both crushing and exceeding expectations, Tanisha pursues her passion with purpose. Listen to “NAH (The Anthem)” and  “Hope You Feel” produced by frequent collaborator, Yuri Koller, for a sonic primer to her set.

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To create meaningful change [your consistency, hard work and truth and honestly behind everything that you do] is paramount. I believe collaboration is the key to [networking, building new relationships, opening new doors and challenging yourself to think outside if the box]. I am strong because [I am a WOMAN], as simple as it is or may seem, the
World often underestimates our intelligence and ability to create, love and mend. Let’s not let them keep forgetting that we are the GLUE.


“For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing,” is the Martin Luther King Jr. quote that opens the visuals for WILL’s track, “Shots Fired.” Powerful and moving, The T&T-born, Toronto-based WILL makes music to stir the soul. A Honey Jam 2017 alumnus, and participant of CBC’s Searchlight series in 2017, WILL captivated with her performance. Singles like “Pallisades” and “Worked Up” are only a few examples of WILL’s dynamic presence driven by layered cadence, an R&B pace and vulnerable lyrics. Collaborations with artists like rapper, City Fidelia, and the dancehall-meets-EDM sounds from REBRND and The Free, highlight WILL’s versatility and originality.

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Surrender and listen to Vaness on her single, “Crossroads.” The Toronto artist delivers an element of spirituality in her poetic execution of every lyric. There’s sincerity in each thought, that is earnestly open and relatable. You feel connected. Her Monte Booker-produced single, “If I Could” asks and answers questions – there is a thoughtfulness to Vaness’ sound. We can’t wait to hear Vaness share her journal of songs on stage at Iverna Island.

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Myst Milano

Radical. Inspiring. Multifarious. Myst Milano challenges perceptions and everyone in the room (...to dance) with her multi-threat repertoire of being a DJ, producer, rapper and visual artist. You may have seen her spin in the city (peep her extensive tour date lineup) or support other artists behind the decks. But it’s her ability to spit fire bars on brooding, industrial, bass-heavy sounds with fierce unapologetic force that bring everything to the front. Her Kali Ma EP is her latest self-produced piece that blends her talents, highlighting a seamless understanding of who she is as an artist, and how to create and deliver something different. “Kim Possible,” “Us, Us, Us” and “MAGIC” from her 2016 BADLANDS EP are top picks. Do not fuck around.

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If “Sandman” was your entry point to Dey’s sound, it’s no question she possesses a new kind of IT factor. Organic and fluid, Dey’s poetic verses paint imagery both watercolour and abstract that are reflections of the self. Livity in human, and music form, Dey honours her roots with pride and grace, her words radiating peace. She has collaborated with Ashton Martin, sharing her smooth vox on “For You” and Spek Won on “Lost Angels,” while oldie-but-goodie “ladi dadi” proves the carefree and good vibes were there from the start, and while it may not be the beginning for Dey, a rooted, humble nature will take her far, as there is lots in store for this enterprising songstress.

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 Photo by Jen Squires

Photo by Jen Squires

I believe collaboration is key to [perspective]. Community is defined by [selflessness]. [Empathy] is a way to break barriers. The stage is a place where I can [know myself]. To create meaningful change [sacrifice] is paramount. I am driven to [inspire]. When I need inspiration, I [listen]. My purpose in life is [unfolding].


Joanna Mohammed flows through brooding sonic foundations with power. “Move On” is a her latest - a bold single of retribution and surrender that embodies a classic feel with cinematic delivery. It’s soundtrack music for life. The diversity in her music is evident on her collab with Toronto’s Bus Up Shop on their remix of her first single “The Middle” complimented by a dancehall rhythm. Raised in Scarborough, Aphrose’s Trinidadian heritage was retained through the speakers, as Soca, Calypso, Reggae, Soul and Gospel played through the household. She took on her mother’s birth name, Aphrose, to honour her, and other powerful women in her life that have given her “strength and purpose.” She’s sharing this with Iverna Island’s audience on Sunday, and we can’t wait to witness her story unfold further. Her forthcoming EP, Fire, is set for release in Fall 2018. Watch the video for "Move On" here.

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Community is defined by [collaboration, safe space, shared values]. My art is a means to [heal and soothe, and I use my voice as a healing tool]. The top three things I would bring with me to Iverna Island are [my guitar, Peppermint tea, and a camera].


‘Raw recordings every full moon’ reads Clairandean’s Soundcloud bio, and the ever-changing cycles are evident in her mood music. With spiritual sentiment and verses of prose, Clairandean is one of the city’s best kept secrets waiting to be swept off the pages of a diary. Currently recording songs in her bedroom using harmonies and soft echo to create "lullabies for romantics at heart," minimal, folk-inflected and invigorating tracks like “Shameless” and “Moonshaker” highlight Clairandean’s use of pared-down acoustic sounds, powered by her voice and storytelling that expands on vulnerability, change and frank reflections on being a womxn.

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Khadijah Lopez

Khadijah Lopez knows truth, and tells no lies in her lyrics. The Etobicoke-born, Mississauga-raised songwriter was a veteran of the GTA’s slam poetry scene, an actress and a visual artist before she ever recorded a song. Lopez writes smoky, stripped-down, and intimate songs, but also works in a sly sense of humour that both complements and draws out her vulnerability, with a borderless sound that owes inspiration to Toronto’s bass-heavy R&B, to Jamaican dancehall, and to the American neo-soul of the late 1990s. Take “Karat,” a tale of falling for fake promises and fighting influence, because she knows where she stands. The singer-songwriter adds unappalled layering and texture to her music and has worked with the likes of Jordan Manswell and Adam Podang – take tracks like “Every Door” on her stunning 2017 Paradigm EP. The entire album an honest experience that breathes life into every note. Lopez has connected and collaborated with a who’s who of Toronto’s emerging producers and R&B singers – including Devontée, Akeel Henry, Jay Glavany, and Sammy Passions.  She credits her network of collaborators with helping her push her own forward-thinking and personal approach to music, and their collective work shows. Lopez is also a recent graduate of The Remix Project – a Toronto-based arts incubator that has a long track record of helping develop some of the city’s keystone artists and producers.

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I believe collaboration is key to [evolution]. As a race, as individuals, we cannot grow in isolation.
My art is a means to [self liberation] and I use my voice as a [weapon against my demons].


Last year, IaamSaam released her powerful debut EP, PsychEval. Citing the work as “[her] diary put to music”, iaamSaam laid herself bare as she depicted her struggles with depression and suicidal ideations while experiencing the grief of losing her mother at infancy. The JA-born, Mississauga raised artist delivers sharp bars while simultaneously weaving through spoken world flows. From various choirs, piano recitals, and the role of Dorothy in her middle school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, iaamSaam is no stranger to the performing arts. She was accepted to the University of Toronto with a scholarship to major in Theatre and Drama Studies, but made the bold move to drop out to pursue a career in music. While growing up in a Christian household in which she primarily listened to gospel, classic rock, and disco, hip hop was first introduced to her by her older brother in the form of Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak and Jay Z’s The Black Album. It was that experience that drove her to be a rapper. Poetic and brazen, IaamSaam layers industrial production with her graceful vox – take “ClosetHustle” for example – its juxtaposition represents her versatile sound. Driven and ambitious, IaamSaam experienced Red Bull Music Academy’s Bass Camp incubator program in Montreal. ‘Collect all the bones, treat 'em like its gold…’ Her latest EP, IaamGangster, shows impeccable growth and said hustle coming into fruition. At six tracks, it’s short and sweet, yet packing a punch with nothing to prove. “I make music for myself," she says." "At the time that I was creating this project I needed someone to tell me that I was boss enough to overcome every obstacle I was facing as a female in the hip hop industry.”

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TiKA is an artist, DJ, creator, cultural producer, TV/Online personality, activist, and advocate for the empowerment of female artists and creators. TiKA makes an impression on everyone she encounters and her joy is infectious.

Now TiKA’s love and passion for culture and music has led to the release of 2 EPs, Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid + Carry On. With features in Complex, Noisey, MILK, Afropunk, Saint Heron, The Fader, CBC, The Source, among others, TiKA is receiving critical acclaim for her voice, her energy, her love. Her music. She has opened for major R&B heavyweights like John Legend + NAO and is being coined as an incredible performance artist + visual hypnotist. Complex Magazine listed TiKA as “One of the most prolific creatives in Toronto.”

In late 2015, TiKA spoke openly about her struggles with trauma & depression and created a body of work to encourage others going through the same. The Carry On EP was released in late 2016. Carry On serves as a spiritual soundscape for anyone going through a healing process. The unexpected offering garnered TiKA an amass of critical accolades from all over the world. The first single OHMYGOD is an 80s-inspired gospel record featuring international producer, Harrison and rapper/producer Clairmont The Second. The record garnered high numbers on Spotify and iTunes and continues to feed many spiritually. 

While her vocation as an ambassador and creator of music has been well established, her image and sound as a new artist is being unleashed to make a very durable impression in order to gracefully provide what this generation has been missing musically.

Listen to BanTOR Radio's 2016 interview with TiKA here.

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About Reclaim Your Voice:

Reclaim Your Voice is a grassroots nonprofit organization which creates safe spaces for stories of abuse to be shared.

Combining raw testimonials with inspirational spoken word pieces and motivational speeches, Reclaim Your Voice is an experience that uplifts both the mind and the soul.

Each Reclaim Your Voice event helps to create awareness of the injustices of abuse by offering an intimate look at abuse through the eyes of people who have experienced it. Not only do attendees have the opportunity to listen to detailed personal stories, but during the sharing circle attendees can express themselves creatively through a tailored group exercise. Each event gives three people the opportunity to take a huge step on their healing journeys by speaking candidly about their experiences while receiving the support of a welcoming and attentive audience.

According to Statistics Canada, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, and only 1 in 10 report it due to humiliation or fear of re-victimization. Men are less likely to file a report, for the same reasons and other social stigmas. From these daunting numbers, it is apparent that abuse thrives on silence. By sharing your story, you can help save lives.

Reclaim Your Voice was created to not only support the experienced as they own their stories, but to celebrate their courage, strength and resilience. Join us in the name of peace and healing for all.

Attend. Listen. Heal. Prevent.