It’s no secret that the music world is not a level playing field. There are all sorts of factors that play into an artists ability to succeed, and the sad reality is that talent, dedication and drive can only take someone so far. Women, people of color, those who are different abled; really, anyone who wasn’t born a white male is going to face the many barriers that bias creates. It’s why the music industry needs more people like by Yvette Angela and Deneita Evans, founders of UNCDTNL.
*images from UNCDTL Facebook page
UNCDTNL is a two-woman collective that came into existence to fill a void in the music industry. The urban music sector has always been an underserved one when it comes to Canadian music. Seeing that, Yvette and Deneita work to support rising hip hop and R&B artists and female executives right here in Toronto. Their mission is to identify and create opportunities for women of color in the music industry. They’ve collaborated with festivals like MANIFESTO in the past, and tomorrow night they’ll be unveiling their newest effort at Canadian Music Week.
UNDCTNL will be launching a brand new mentorship program, and will be celebrating that launch tomorrow night at their CMW showcase at the Baby G in Toronto. Deneita and Yvette have teamed up with a new network of women in the music industry to get this program underway, while also attracting other like-minded women in music to join their efforts. The idea for this program came about from these women’s own personal experience with the various challenges that exist within the hip hop and R&B music scene in Toronto. They saw a gap in opportunities for women of color to access the education and work experience they need in order to navigate this competitive industry. Eager to build a platform for women across the diaspora at both the front and back of house Yvette and Deneita, will work alongside social media expert and music YouTuber, Cassandra Chambers, Hanan Dinong and Ruth Kayembe of Dreamhouse Collective, content creator Selam Kashay, Vanessa Adora (Communications), and Ebyan Abdigir (Journalist). Together these women will help to mentor and support music industry hopefuls, providing them with a network of industry professionals that can help them obtain the educational and professional opportunities they need to succeed. And it all starts with a great night of music, taking place tomorrow night ad featuring Ebhoni, Witch Prophet and Sydanie.
I got the chance to chat with Deneita and Yvette ahead of the showcase about why they do the work they do and why it’s so important. Check it out below.
How did you get involved with the work you currently do?
Deneita – It was by fluke or one of God’s plans because originally I wanted to be a marriage counselor but in highschool we had a group called Black Student Alliance and we were responsible for putting on Black History Month assemblies. Two weeks before the assembly, our Director got suspended and for some reason, everyone looked at me to take her place. We had nothing set for it and basically as a team, but now as the leader (Director) we had to get the whole thing together within two weeks. Coordinating a big group of people to put on skits, dances, spoken word, singing, and more, and seeing how that all came together to show in front of the whole school was amazing. We got a lot of compliments and praise from the students and faculty and then I thought to myself, “Okay, I really like this.” From there, I went to George Brown College for Special Events Planning and interned at TIFF Bell Lightbox, volunteered and worked for numerous festivals and collectives. Which brings me here, where I started this company with my partner Yvette, and we’ve been going hard ever since.
Yvette – Simply being a music head and a people person. In high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do until maybe my final year. I decided on public relations half-way into university after switching out of social work. And then I decided my ultimate goal was to work at a record label. I began volunteering at anything that had to do with music, so all the music festivals in Toronto while doing my internship at Sony. I was there, involved and always one of the hardest workers. From there, coordinating music showcases came naturally, and being involved with creatives was an easy passion for me. Sprinkle in my desire to work with youth, and everything just started to make sense from then on.
What is your WHY? (The reason why you do the work you do)
D – The reason why I do what I do is because I see and feel what entertainment, especially music does for people. Furthermore, what’s it done for me all these years. How it touches their souls and spirits and how it moves them. It’s an experience I want to witness over and over again. There are so many artists out there that haven’t been heard but have a story to tell and that story is what could save someone’s life or just be that thing that keeps them moving throughout the day. Another side is, I believe that everyone has their purpose in life and if I can help facilitate that with what I do, I’m all in.
Y – Humbly, my ‘why’ would be because I’m good at it. Not only do I have a passion for music and helping people but I’m naturally good at it. I have a golden ear and I have a tendency to be ‘that’ person for many people that I come across. I believe in the notion of committing to a career that makes you happy and fulfilled, and my calling just so happens to be that. Even if there is an element of my job/task that I don’t know, I learn. The passion fuels me enough to learn and elevate every single day. I can’t see myself doing anything else, that is why I do what I do.
What are the biggest challenges/setbacks you’ve had to face?
Y – It would be self-sabotage, sometimes your own head gets in the way of things and you forget about everything you’ve accomplished because you want to do more. I’ve battled with that tremendously, and it’s set me back. Every step is progress, losing sight of that has been a challenge! But with patience, meditation and simply pushing through – it eventually fades. It could become a challenge but I know how to prevent it from setting me back.
D – For me it would be forgetting the power and ability I have within myself. There are times I lean too much on others and I forget how much I’ve accomplished on my own. So lately, I’ve been betting on myself a bit more. Challenging myself in many ways to really bring out what I know is inside of me. Taking more control and conquering the limits I may have placed upon myself.
How do you do manage to do it all?
D – With everything I got going on, I’m learning more by the day how important balance is. Making sure I carve out time for myself to rejuvenate and just be. Also, we’re working on multiple projects/shows, so that’s one of many times it’s great to have a partner so we can split things between the both of us. Divide and conquer! I do make weekly objectives for personal and business, then more detailed daily objectives as well. There are days that you can’t do it all and you just need to focus more on one thing and give it all your attention. Quality over quantity, always.
Y – Prioritizing! And my planner, I write everything down. I aim to be more organized so I tend to be obsessed with agendas, sticky notes and pens. It manages my tasks, deadlines and meetings beautifully. I use it for my personal life and my career. So if I have a gym class in the evening but a phone meeting right after, I make literal note of it so it is visualized. Without organization and a mini office, things can get fuzzy so I’m grateful I’ve grasped that concept to balance it all out.
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
Habitat for Humanity or Boys and Girls club. I (Yvette) have volunteered for Habitat for Humanity when I was young and it was one of the most rewarding experiences. We renovated a house, and fed the homeless for a whole weekend. It’s a simple concept but can really change your outlook on life. I recommend it for everyone to give it a chance, take some time out of your busy life and get to it! We would also love to volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club, mentorship is very important to us and we want to dedicate some more time to that. We recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of youth for an amazing mentorship program at a juvenile detention center in Brooklyn, it was everything to us. Being able to talk and really connect with them was a life-changing experience that we’ll never forget.
Join us at the UNCDTNL CMW showcase tomorrow night at the Baby G in downtown Toronto. Tickets are available here. And keep up with Yvette and Deneita and everything UNCDTNL through their social media links below.