Young, gifted, and resourceful – that’s the model of the musician today. No more dropping off case tapes and burned CDs into anonymous mailboxes, hoping someone will take the time to slog through the pile until he gets to yours. No more marrying your manager or your producer and letting him take the load of promotion off your shoulders. No unexpected discovery while filling up on gas, unbeknownst to you that the dude next to your pump is a talent scout from some big name label (or was that just a personal fantasy of mine?) 

By Olga Kwak

You gotta rise and grind like the rest of the world. Now you gotta build your audience first, then the labels will come. 

Tafari Anthony is no stranger to this path. He’s been DIYing his musical career his whole life. Luckily he has more than just his vocal talent, his song-writing skills, and his ability to play music on both the guitar and piano. He has a graphic design background and musical parents who get what it’s like to work for your art. And he lives in Toronto, which, for better or for worse, is still the place to be in Canada when you’re trying to build a musical audience and attract the labels as well. Tafari notes that Hamilton’s come a long way to being recognized as a music city itself. “There’s a lot of great places to gig there,” he says. He also works with a Hamilton-based PR agency, Auteur Research. 

Tafari released his second EP, Remember When, on September 1. This four-song record has been over a year in the making. When you’re doing it yourself, these things take time to create. “As much as I wanted to have it done right away, it didn’t work out that way.” Going from conception to laying down tracks requires the right people and equipment to put it together. The result is a pop and R&B-infused medley of catchy tunes that blend Tafari’s smooth-as-silk vocals with excellent production that make you want to groove. Think Cee-lo Green, Sam Smith, and John Legend and you’ll know what I’m talking about. 

Today’s musicians have to work on building a brand. Tafari has an advantage over other artists having studied graphic design in college. “I thought [graphic design is] something I could fall back on,” he admits, “and it’s had a huge impact on my ability to promote myself as a musician.” Even when you’re starting out, most artists agree that it’s important that you have an aesthetic that will attract audiences. It’s important not to look amateur – even if you are still an amateur.

But Tafari’s no amateur. In addition to his solo career, he’s toured extensively with acapella group Eh440. He’s performed on cruise ships – a right of passage for many professional gigging musicians. And he’s won awards as well. In 2015 he was chosen to participate in Canada’s Walk of Fame’s Emerging Artist Music Program. That experience taught him that people “still want honest music… I don’t have to make music … just to get somewhere in the business.” Tafari also made it to the top 25 finalists of CBC’s Searchlight Competition in 2016, the annual event that artists from around Canada compete in for awards, exposure, and a chance to speak with major label producers. His song, “Maybe When We Get Older”, received heavy airplay on CBC Radio and he was chosen as one of Eric Alper’s top 5 choices for the competition.

While Tafari would like to be signed to a label, he recognizes it takes more than just talent to get noticed. “You need to already have a following before they look at you,” he admits. That’s why he’s working hard to build it himself. This is the second EP he’s released independently, following 2016’s Die for You. Each music video Tafari’s released has been carefully crafted with powerful messages, like the importance of living one’s truth, a subject close to his heart.

Tafari lives by the motto, “live your truth,” which he often hashtags in his social media messages. It’s important for him because he believes artists create things that connect people, give people opportunities to see themselves through the art. At first it was his way of reminding himself that he needs to be true to himself, but he quickly realized that the message extends past him. It can help others, too.

Tafari’s EP Remember When drops September 1. Watch out for the first single, “To The End.” You can visit him at his official website – www.tafarianthony.com – and you can purchase Remember When on iTunes starting September 1.

Follow Tafari on Spotify.