Polyphonic Ground initiative aims to make Toronto a global music city

Carla Gillis

Apr 29, 2019

Twelve live music presenters have come together to help Toronto build and sustain itself as a global music city. 

The new initiative, Polyphonic Ground, is taking a power-in-numbers approach to help a diverse group of music programmers strengthen industry practices, better advocate to government, business and industry, and get more people out to live music performances. 

Small World Music Society is behind the initiative, which also includes Uma Nota Culture, Revolutions Per Minute, iNative, Ashkenaz Foundation, Lula Music and Arts Centre, Batuki Music Society, Link Music Lab, Music Africa, World Fiddle Day, Good Kind Productions and MonstrARTity Creative Community.

"You can't go to school to learn to be a live music presenter," says Kayla McGee, Small World Music's managing director and Polyphonic Ground's community lead. "There is no real infrastructure for live music presenters and no shared platforms to allow us to work and grow together. And there are so many gender and cultural barriers in the way. In my super-nerdy way, I knew this was an issue that needed to be tackled, but Small World Music couldn’t do it alone."


McGee says her suspicions about the lack of infrastructure and platform-sharing were confirmed once she started working with Ontario's Live Music Working Group, a group of industry players helping Music Canada Live promote and advance Canadian live music. 

"There are no established best practices for presenting live music," she says, "no mentorship opportunities, presenting organizations are stretched to the bone, and, most importantly, culturally diverse audiences and organizations are very siloed. The formation of Polyphonic Ground intends to combat all those challenges and more."

Polyphonic Ground is focused on improving access to professional development opportunities. Upcoming events include a diversity and live music panel series, a Developing Diverse Leaders event and a best practices workshop.


But their first order of business is the launch of a monthly series on the second Thursday of every month at Revival (783 College) that sees two of the participating organizations co-present a night of music.


No performers have been announced yet, but the Yiddish- and Jewish-focused Ashkenaz pairs up with Small World on September 14; African-music-minded Batuki pairs up with Uma Nota, which brings the sounds of Brazilian, Latin and Caribbean funk and soul to its parties, on October 12. On November 9, Link Music Lab and Good Kind (which produces SoFar Sounds) co-present, and Lula (music of the Americas) and Music Africa (behind the annual Afrofest) co-present on December 14.


"We want to present live music that draws in the culturally curious," says McGee. "With the double-bill series, we encourage audience curiosity, discovery and an exploration of the amazing array of musical talents available to Toronto audiences. Audiences can experience African and Persian music together in one night, or Latin vibes and Indigenous drums, or Bollywood and Klezmer. The possibilities are endless."


carlag@nowtoronto.com | @carlagillis