Ones To Watch: Up-and-Coming Talent on Our Radar

Art work by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

As our readers well know, Novella is that friend who keeps giving you suggestions on what to do, wear, read, watch, etc., perhaps at a rate father than you can keep up with. It’s the inner grandma who’s paranoid that you don’t have enough to eat that compels us so. In other words, it’s with love and affection and a kind of cultural anxiety and an insatiable need to dictate. But mostly with love. Without further ado, let our contributors come at you with their choices of up and coming individuals of talent you should take second and third servings of.

Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief 

Kelela Album Art – Take Me Apart

Singer and Songwriter Kelela has consistently been making good music since her 2013 debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me. We last heard from the songstress back in 2015 with the release of her EP ‘Hallucinogen’, which garnered good reviews, and yet she is still not a household name. In October, Kelela will release her debut studio album Take me Apart, and if her current single LMK is any indication of what we can expect from the second generation Ethiopian-American singer, I have no doubt that we will be hearing her name a lot more.

Hoon, Managing Editor

Relief of Julian the Hospitaller from Chris Knapp’s ‘States of Emergency’ published in the Paris Review this summer

Chris Knapp’s essays and fiction have been published in the pages of the Paris Review and the Los Angeles Review of Books, which for many — perhaps too many — writers today, is considered a sign of ‘having made it’. The blurb on Knapp on the Paris Review Daily says that he ‘lives in Paris, and also sometimes Brooklyn, with his wife. He’s recently completed a novel.‘ He’s achieved residence and certain placeness (the latter may be my fantasy) on both sides of the Atlantic, a functioning relationship, and finished a novel. Despite all these good signs, things many – perhaps too many — writers would kill for, I think Knapp is still up and coming. Judging from his short story, ‘State of Emergency,’ he has a lot to say. Knapp weaves the personal with the political, the immediate with the faraway past and future in his essays and stories — the stuff of good writing. If his circumstances have changed since the the Paris Review wrote his short bio, and if his website, which you can visit here, is telling the truth, he also has strong ties to Charlottesville, Virginia; I’m eager to hear what he has to say.

Adina Heisler, Contributor

While Phoebe Robinson has been an active writer, actress, and standup comedian for several years now, it’s only recently that she’s been getting the attention she deserves. Her podcast with Jessica Williams2 Dope Queens, just wrapped up its third season, and her solo podcast, Sooo Many White Guys, recently finished its second season. She also released a book last October called You Can’t Touch My Hair (And Other Things I Still Have to Explain). This is all on top of being a writer for Portlandia and appearing in the show I Love Dick. Robinson is an utterly delightful comedian, and brutally honest about all topics, from race relations in the U.S. to her love of dad-bods.

Meg Summers, Contributor

One of my not-so-guilty pleasures is following every member of the Toronto-based band, The Beaches, and admiring their musical talents, individual styles, and overall “cool girl” vibes. This band seems to always be busy touring both Canada and the U.S., recording and creating fabulous music videos. In fact, their latest, Money, shows off the band’s creative edge and incredible musical abilities to create catchy and aesthetically great pieces. Look out for more from The Beaches as they are sure to continue growing a buzz around Toronto and far beyond. Follow them on Instagram here.

Kimberley Drapack, Contributor 

Morgan Parker — photo by Kwesi Abbensetts

Morgan Parker’s ‘There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé‘ is a standout success. Parker successfully intertwines pop-cultural and political titles to her poems that explore the complexities of what it means to be a black woman, isolation, femininity, and so forth in the context of the 21st century. She also folds in personal references, Marvin Gaye lyrics, and Hip Hop. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Photo: Giphy

That Poppy may have been making videos on youtube for quite a while now with the help of her director Titanic St. Clair, but 2017 seems to be Poppy’s big break. Not only did her Instagram explode over night, her music career has finally caught the eye of Island Records, which have sent her on a North American tour that’s sold out in a few cities already. But Instagram fame and tours aren’t what makes her so interesting. It’s her entire persona that makes her so different from any of the pop acts parading around the music scene this year. Labeled or suspected to be everything from a satanist, Illuminati puppet, robot, and even a matrix like computerized entity, Poppy has created a satirical musical persona that pokes fun and exaggerates the all too common assumption that most pop stars sold their souls for fame. Like her persona aims to be, Poppy is a delightful mix of sugary sweet pastel princess with a mysterious, almost sinister, inner turmoil that often bubbles to the surface in her videos, leaving viewers dying to know if she really does live inside a computer or if she’s been brainwashed by a big record company and completely changed from her former self. It is a fresh take on the idea of what a performer and their performance can be.

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2017 Predictions by the Novella Team

One must, prior to this fun list, acknowledge the strangeness of one’s position in offering such a list. Predictions, however, vague or ominous, seem always to be tinted with a bit of optimism, the future taken as a matter of fact. Not to say that the sun will interrupt the scheduled program tomorrow. But the future, in a sense, is so out of our reach that to take it as a matter of fact and to attempt to look into it sound, if anything, highly optimistic. And optimism is not my go-to response to things, especially in the last low dredges of Christmas-time hangovers. And especially after 2016. Who knows what will happen in the end?

But if not now, when? (Shout out to Primo) There may not be a better time to look toward a future. A better time to anticipate, to prepare for. We tread lightly as we near 2017. And these are some things we think we will encounter during our stay.

– Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief 

I lost count of how many times I’ve uttered “I cannot wait for this year to be over”. My excitement for the new year has slowly started to wane. Watching the news or even logging on to social media platforms, it appears that we are moving backward and it doesn’t seem it will stop anytime soon.

The many protests against Trump winning the election, the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, and Black Lives Matter will play a big part in 2017. Sadly, I think racist attacks will continue, rights for my LGBT brothers and sisters will be heavily targeted, and Iggy Azalea will release another album — so brace yourselves folks, 2017 won’t be the change we were expecting. Hopefully, we will continue to band together to help shake off all the negativity and let love rule.

– Hoon Ji, Managing Editor

[Persian Letters]‘ by Solmaz Sharif, the author of Look, a finalist for the National Book Award, ends with the following lines: “[…] but ever since/ I first heard them say Philistine/ I’ve known I am Goliath/ if I am anything.” It was good to hear from “Philistines” of the literary scene this year. Good to see their voices — Ocean Vuong, Colson Whitehead, and Hisham Matar, among others — discomfit complacent ears. I predict that we will hear more in the next, starting with Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, scheduled to be published early February — you can read one of her poems here. And if I may be so bold, no longer will we be comfortable with reading lists comprised of variants of Mr. Smiths. And if we need the likes of Lionel Shriver to embarrass herself with a sombrero to get some mass media juice flowing in the conversation regarding diversity in the literary scene, so be it.

– Claire Ball, Editorial Contributor 

If you would’ve told me a summary of the events that took place in 2016, a year ago, I honestly would’ve thought you were certifiably insane and brainstorming ideas for an end-of-the-world dystopian war novel. This year went from 0 to 100 so quick, and just when you thought it was all going to be okay… PLOT TWIST! Donald Trump wins the U.S. presidential election. That hurt.

Honestly, after everything that went down in 2016, I don’t even want to try and make any serious predictions or assumptions about 2017 because 2016 was full of things I would’ve never predicted and I don’t want to jinx the new year.

The only thing I feel relatively comfortable predicting is the official end of the over-the-top Kimye era (because that seems to be on its way out already), and as a result, perhaps a tell-all book or interview about her traumatizing experience of being robbed in Paris? I predict a brand new Kim Kardashian, and therefore a new Kim Kardashian brand. That seems legit. That, and a new Taylor Swift album about Calvin Harris. Happy 2017!

– Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

I’ve always been somewhat of an optimist. I like to look at the future as a silver lining for all the negative things that have happened in the past. And for this mentality, I’m quite thankful. However, I also carry another polarizing trait that tends to challenge my inner optimist. Realism. Now, on one hand, my inner optimist tells me 2017 will be the year of magical change, where everything wrong in the world will fix itself like some magical gift from a higher power. But on the other, my inner realist says that nothing will change. The world will continue to spin at the same rate it’s always spun. Leaders will keep their dominance and oppressors will continue to oppress, while those deemed as different will continue to have their hands tied behind their backs and their false freedom paraded for all to see.

However, there is a silver lining in all of this. When you mix optimism and realism, you get a revelation. When you come to understand that change does not start with the person who stands beside you, but rather with you. You’ll understand that you have the power to change injustice. That’s what my prediction for 2017 is. Change in the people. A sudden realization that injustice like police brutality, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, bigotry, hatred aimed at religions, hatred aimed at those deemed inferior, and hatred aimed at those who don’t fit the western ideal of “normal,” can all end with you. Now, that doesn’t mean we should call for anarchy in the streets. If we use violence, we’ll only get violence in return, if we use hate as a weapon, hate will be used against us. 2017 is going to be the year we as a people demand our rights and demand justice. 2017 will be the year we show those who aim at oppressing us that the light of a unified people will burn away the darkness of those who wish to separate us for their amusement.

– Sveta Soloveva, Editorial Contributor –

Andrei Denga is playing on the new stage at Spadina subway station. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

I predict that in 2017 many buskers in Toronto will become professional musicians.

If you ride the TTC, you’ve probably noticed that buskers are now performing on the new musical stages made out of vinyl wrap. This is the first time in its 36-year history that the TTC provided authorized space for subway performers to help them get more public exposure.

Many buskers say the improvement has already helped them in their musical careers. Some landed deals with clients who approached them in the subway. Others started getting more money because stages made them look more professional.

Violinist Andrei Denga, who got his musical diploma in Vologda, Russia, said he has been performing in subways for 25 years but that additional exposure is always good for him. “I always get enough attention, but people could notice me even better now. The musician looks more professional,” Denga said.

It’s cool to see talented people getting the real platform (not another application like Facebook or Instagram) that helps them improve and be recognized in something they are passionate about.

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