Bonjay
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Bonjay

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFM
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"Free download from Bonjay"

For four years the duo played around with their unique reggae-electronic sound, yet never released an actual album. And then came “Gimmee Gimmee,” the poppy, West Indian-inspired song that sprung up on just about every music blog. In other words, “Gimmee Gimmee” produced a great demand.

Enter Broughtupsy, Bonjay’s debut mini-album that promises to satisfy fans… for a little while at least. But because the album isn’t available until October 5th, we thought we’d supply you with a freebie just to hold you over. - Nylon Magazine


"Bonjay 'Broughtupsy' EP review"

If you’re looking for a name to drop this fall, look no further than Bonjay. They’re so hot right now, it’s ridiculous; and on merit. They make progressive, ambitious and experimental music that mashes dancehall, indie, and just about every form of electronic music made in the last ten years together. But how good is it exactly? Well, it’s not bad at all. But it’s not all gravy either.

Bonjay consists of Pho on “beats and effects” and Alanna, a Santigold style figure who switches between vocal styles at the drop of a hat. She raps, she sings, she does breathy vocals, she does opera and she does it all pretty damn well. And in fact it’s Santigold’s mixtape made in collaboration with Diplo, Top Ranking, that’s the best reference for Broughtupsy. A sound rooted in dancehall and syncopation that’s more than happy to throw anything else into the pot as well. For sheer “I can’t believe it works but it sure does” bravura “Shotta” even rivals Skream’s epic dubstep remix of “In for the Kill” by La Roux in pitting a soaring vocal against a downright filthy, bass heavy beat. It’s impressive stuff.

The problem is that most of Broughtupsy lacks the emotional depth of La Roux, or the humour and savvy of Santigold. Ok, this might be booty shaking, bumping and grinding dancehall, but that doesn’t mean it should be as unremarkable as “Frawdulent.” You can imagine a room full of people in all the right bars in all the right cities nodding their heads in appreciation, but it just leaves me scratching my head. And it’s frustrating, because when Bonjay show what they’re really capable of on “Want A Gang” it’s genuinely special. “Want A Gang” has it all: a dope, bass bin rattling beat, a soaring chorus that pops out of nowhere, a nice little sing song rap and a delicious outro that lets the beat ride for a solid two minutes. For the first time Bonjay really come into their own, and it’s over all too soon. But it does more than enough to serve notice of some serious talent. Broughtupsy works as a short, largely sweet taster of what Bonjay are capable of. However they haven’t quite realised that potential yet. Keep an eye out for them, tell your friends and anyone who you want to impress about them (and remember where you heard them first…).

-Will Georgi - Okayplayer


"Soul and R&B: Year in Review 2010"

Bonjay's first single "Gimmee Gimmee" hinted at their potential, but Broughtupsy explodes their horizons wide open. Alanna's voice creates a space between massed R&B vocals, Caribbean-flavoured neologisms, and indie rock edge to create a remarkable lead presence. Pho's production is active but never manic, not buzz-saw heavy but an appealing combination of elastic and robotic. His re-injection of Alanna's voice into the mix creates even more exciting layers in the music. As dancehall continues to influence dance music production in urban centers around the world, Bonjay is at the forefront.
David Dacks - Exclaim! Magazine


"From Haiti to Canada, Tunes Personal and Political/ Bonjay 'Broughtupsy' EP review"

"Bonjay, from Toronto, merges the brittle thuds and electro hoots of the producer Ian Swain’s tracks with the multifarious voice of the singer Alanna Stuart on the EP “Broughtupsy” (Mysteries of Trade). The further they go from the thump and chant of standard dancehall, the better they get. Mr. Swain deploys chunks of silence and isolated throbs to make the beat suspenseful in songs like the pop enigma “Want a Gang” and the eerie “Small Hours.” And while Ms. Stuart is perky enough as a rhymer, it’s her singing — switching between innocent and combative, making sudden wide melodic leaps, answering herself with tiny sound bites of choral vocals, imitating jungle birds — that makes the songs ricochet so widely." - The New York Times


"Music Weekly podcast: Simon Reynolds on Retromania; Bonjay"

Listen to podcast - The Guardian


"First sight: Bonjay"

"a Toronto-based duo who mash up dancehall bass culture with electro dance vibes and hypnotic R&B hooks." - The Guardian


"Good God! You Have Got To Know This Band"

"Bonjay, the musical duo from Canada made up of Alanna Stuart and Ian “Pho” Swain, are about to take over the U.S. music scene in a big way." - Zink


"The Great Escape, Day Three"

"a thoroughly refreshing mix of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ sultry sass, Dirty Projectors’ complicated pop and the klaxons and dancehall of the clubs Bonjay was conceived in" - The Fly UK


"Interview: Bonjay"

"a group we’re properly excited about" - Stool Pigeon UK


"Q&A Special: Electronic Musicians Bonjay"

"A potent combination of growling electronics, sub-bass frequencies and expressive vocals" - The Arts Desk


"Indie-dancehall duo Bonjay are sim simmering With their new mini-album, these local mavericks are finding their place in the scene"

In four years of making music together as Bonjay, vocalist Alanna Stuart and producer Ian “Pho” Swain have already lived many lives.

The inventive indie-meets-dancehall duo formed soon after meeting in Ottawa. Stuart approached Pho while hearing him DJ at the monthly Disorganized party he produced alongside two other guys, who are now known to club-music fans as Jokers of the Scene. Swain is an Ottawa-raised hip-hop head with an ear for creative production while Stuart grew up in the GTA, raised on a steady diet of West Indian music, and had been making her way up as an R&B vocalist turned indie songstress.

Bonjay’s first recordings were beat-and-bass-heavy interpretations of indie-rock tunes, specifically Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” and TV On The Radio’s “Staring at the Sun.” Both received immediate attention in the blogosphere and beyond. “Maps” was released as a limited 7-inch on Ghetto Arc in 2007; that led directly to a Bonjay remix of Brazilian up-and-comers Bonde do Role for Diplo’s Mad Decent label.

Full disclosure: I personally fell hard for Bonjay’s fresh amalgam around this time and invited the duo, who had both relocated to T.O. by late 2006 — he to study for his masters at U of T and her to be close to family — to play at my Synchro club night in February of 2007, where Pho is now a co-resident. Using the performance to launch their Bangarang Business mixtape, Bonjay wowed the crowd and added to their buzz.

Still, “Bonjay would have remained a cool hobby if it was just up to me,” chuckles Swain as we sit gathered in a Bloor West café.

Stuart, who has been working towards a career in music from the age of 14, saw more serious opportunities.

“Until Bonjay, I was always trying to pursue music in a way that felt right to me,” she shares. “I think the difference between working with Pho and working with other people is that I feel like we really had something that was our own. I never second-guessed myself in working with him; he’s always encouraged me to learn and develop, whereas other people, especially with my being a young female artist, were, like, ‘No. We produce the songs, we write your bio, you go in the studio and you sing how we say you sing.’ That is not how I like to work.”

She spills the story of receiving play on FLOW 93.5 when just 17. Unbeknownst to her, the song’s producers had changed her name.

“I was driving to high school with my friends when I heard it played,” she recalls, “and then the announcer said, ‘That was a song by Donna Boogie.’ I hate that name.”

Wisely, the teenage Stuart turned down a major-label contract in favour of going to university. The group’s decision not to rush the creative process, even though they had built early buzz, was equally astute.

“When we got a manager, one of the first things he said was, ‘There were a lot of people rooting for you guys back in 2007 and they were really disappointed that you never really did anything,’” Swain recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, I didn’t even notice; I was in the library.’

“We had some great shows at that time, but we never really fit in,” he explains. “By 2008, everything in dance music had to be tough — basically, 130bpm [fast tempo] dancefloor weapons — and we didn’t really feel at home in that. We’re music fans more than dance music people.”

Stuart, who was more closely linked to the indie music community, having sung backup for Peter Elkas and others, adds, “I’m glad that, according to a lot of people, things didn’t really go anywhere because I think we needed to reset people’s perception of us, as well as our own minds, in terms of what we wanted to do. [Waiting] meant we could start on our own terms rather than riding a wave of hype and hoping that it lasted.”

With the release of last year’s Gimmee Gimmee EP and the newly released Broughtupsy collection of six true originals, Bonjay is growing towards reaching their potential.

“‘Broughtupsy’ is a patois term for well-mannered,” Stuart explains. “We played with the meaning because the link we found [among] the songs is that a lot of them told coming-of-age stories.”

Broughtupsy is Bonjay at their most unique. This is also evident in their new cover of indie artist Caribou’s “Jamelia” and the enhanced live show they’ll tour across North America in November. Their album is due in Fall 2011.

“I never want to create music or art that I feel I can’t maintain,” says Stuart. “I don’t want to portray something that I can’t relate to myself, even if people say that they want it. I want to do something that I’m happy with and proud of. That’s why I’m not Donna Boogie any more.” - Eye Weekly


"10 Canadian Bands Destined to Break in 2010"

Who: The dynamic duo of Alaina and Pho, who create their own seriously funky brand of dancehall-tinged club music.

Home base: Toronto

Why they're great: This awesome twosome is like Toronto’s answer to M.I.A. and production whiz Diplo. Their music may be geared toward purely physical rapture, but the folks behind Bonjay (the name comes from the Grenadian Creole vernacular for “Good god!”) are a savvy songwriting and production force to be reckoned with.

Recommended if you like: Beats, bass, booty-shaking. - CBC Arts


"Bonjay: Genre-Sliding from Baile Funk to R&B, Electro to Soul"

“You know grew up on dancehall when: singing opera on a tune called ‘Shotta’ doesn’t faze you,” Bonjay tweeted last week.

The Canadian Baile-Funk-meets-Electro-whizkid duo toes weird genre lines all the time (Dancehall to Opera, etc.), and so far critics haven’t known what to make of them. CBC, who named them one of Canada’s 10 Bands to Break in 2010 described them as “Toronto’s answer to M.I.A. and production whiz Diplo” while Fader described their sound as “T-Dot diasporic lo-fi dancehall.”

Naming themselves for slang for “Good God!,” the duo — electro whiz Pho and songstress Alaina — met up in Ottawa, playing the scrubby, off-site city party Disorganised and getting bigger and bigger. They built up speed with a series of remixes for the labels Ghetto Arc (XL), Ninjatune, and Mad Decent and released their first EP, Gimme Gimme, late last year. The single of that same name starts off with Alaina’s sliding, wily vocals over a stripped-down Rye-Rye-esque staccato. But at some point, her words are gone and all we have are blippy syllables of speech. What I love: at the opening, her powerful pipes seem to pull and melt the song’s sound; at the end, they’re no higher on the ladder than a drum machine. ”Faat Gyal” plays the same trick — shifting between a pure Baile Funk intro, then falling soft and going R&B. Again, you aren’t sure where the shift was. And the genius lies in how the composition of the first half of the track allowed for that kind of unnoticeable arc.

Those are the kind of genre shifts this band is capable of. In their personal statement on their site, they make the claim it’s how all music’s gonna be from now on: “Another generation of young musicians is emerging. Inspired by the underground music of the last 30 years, they are unencumbered by the restrictions on style and attitude that traditionally divided genres…” - MTV Iggy


"Bonjay Capture Toronto Sound on New Indie-Dancehall Album, 'Broughtupsy'"

Forward-thinking electro-dancehall duo Bonjay has been causing a commotion in Toronto's indie music scene. After covering-slash-remixing songs by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Feist and Brazilian electro-pop project Bonde do Rolê, singer Alanna Stuart and beatsmith Ian 'Pho' Swain took their one-time musical side-project on tour, winning fans everywhere from SXSW to Pop Montreal, and released their first EP, 'Gimme Gimme.'

Back on the road once again, this time in support of their new album, 'Broughtupsy,' Bonjay is gaining serious momentum, prompting many to ponder the backstory behind the intriguing combo, like what was their own "broughtupsy" like?

"I had an interesting 'broughtupsy,'" Stuart tells Spinner. "I think my upbringing really set the tone for what I do because my mom was a foster mom, and we had so many foster brothers and sisters coming in and out of our house from Brazil, Jamaica, French-Canada, etc., that I was always exposed to different sounds and different way of living."

Swain, on the other hand, had it a bit more conventional. "I have great parents, and I would say I had a sturdy, responsible, liberal Canadian upbringing," he laughs.

One of the driving forces being Bonjay's unique sound is the simmering, dancehall-tinged vibe that the duo explore in their music. For Swain, a seasoned DJ with years of experience playing alongside eclectic DJs, like Ottawa's Jokers of the Scene and Toronto's Denise Benson, their sound is more than just dancehall.


"I think very few songs on the album sound like dancehall-reggae, but, for me, it was the inspiration," he says. "We took the songwriting different places from the usual dancehall thing. I think what you hear is us learning the different way we can take our music, and having done this, we're a lot more confident about where it goes from here."

On the harmony side, Stuart's voice evokes her decade of training for Gospel competitions as a youth, as well as her short-lived stint as R&B singer Donna Boogie. It's that confidence that bleeds out of the speakers when you crank up 'Broughtupsy' on your stereo, her breathless patois-soul queen voice riding over Swain's moody riddims. For many who have heard their work, Bonjay is the very definition of Toronto music.

"When I do start to think about where I got most of my ideas from," reminisces Stuart, "... [or] music that I was exposed to most recently that I can actually hear on 'Broughtupsy' ... it was all of Toronto; our music is just put into context when you line it up with the different communities and different sounds coming out of the city." - Spinner.com


"Bonjay ‘Broughtupsy’ (Review)"

Following the success of mixtape “Bangarang Business” and hit single ”Gimme Gimme, the acclaimed Toronto based performance duo Bonjay satiate the hunger of ravenous loyal fans with their new album ‘Broughtupsy’.

‘Broughtupsy’ features vocalist Alanna Stuart and producer Ian Pho in all of their experimental glory, branding a synthesis of dancehall, electronic,dub, and sultry soul, that are sure to mark firm territory in the listener’s mind space.

Bonjay, a west Indian colloquialism meaning “Good God”, couldn’t have been a more fitting title.

Stuart hypnotizes on the track “Small Hours”, where she can quietly be heard panting cryptic sexual commands in a whispery West Indian patois with Pho’s exceptionally produced dub beat pounding underneath. Other standout tracks include “Creepin” and “Frawdulent”.

Littered with an array of other saucy dancehall tinged glitch and dub pieces, ‘Broughtupsy’ is likely to solidify Bonjay’s status as a mainstay on the global eclectic music scene for years to come. This exciting proper debut is not to be missed. - URB Magazine


"(EP review) New music Oct. 7. 2010: Paul Cargnello, KT Tunstall, Bonjay, Cheryl Sim, Fran Healey, Mark Ronson"

Bonjay

Broughtupsy

Mysteries of Trade

Toronto duo Bonjay have been pushing their funky stylings for some time, leading one to wonder why they haven’t exploded yet. Lead singer Alanna Stuart has spunk to spare, and partner/producer Ian (Pho) Swain has things locked down in the beat department, with an arsenal ranging from hip-hop to dancehall and electro. They impress on this evocative six-track EP. The first single, Stumble, finds Stuart whispering, cooing and squawking over double-time bass and snare. Then she hits her upper register for Shotta, sounding like Kate Bush over a woomp-and-handclap rhythm. She busts out the rap-reggae raunch for Frawdulent, shows sinuous soul on the funky/dreamy Want a Gang and sets a spooky tone on Creepin. This is next-level club music, with texture and depth to spare.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Podworthy: Want a Gang


- The Montreal Gazette


"BONJAY at the Drake Rating: NNNN"

The APE showcase at the Drake was at capacity early and stayed that way all night. Styrofoam Ones and Kid Cudi both turned in great sets, but it was Bonjay’s dancehall-house-electro-hip-hop that we were still thinking about the next day. They’re getting better with each show, and they were already awesome to begin with. BB - Now Magazine


"Fall down go BOOM!"

Directly across the street at Teranga, dancehall reggae boomed out of the second-floor windows. This one was a new party called, appropriately, Boom, hosted and MCed by Alanna Stuart of indie-electro-dancehall duo Bonjay and DJed by Pho (also from Bonjay) and Tom Wrecks.

Despite very little promotion, the bar was still packed and sweaty, with a diverse and colourful crowd. More of a focus on DJ technique than across the street, as well as more modern music.

We got a sneak preview of some new Bonjay songs, in which Stuart mixes more West Indian influences into her vocals. Watch out for these guys – they’ve come up with a very unique synthesis of flavours that feels particularly Toronto. Okay, maybe it feels a bit more Scarborough than downtown, but that’s still Toronto in our books. - Now Magazine


"Bonjay - EPK (clippings)"

http://bonjay.net/live/Bonjay_EPK_2010.pdf - ...


"The Fader"

Bonjay have been rocking our minds with their dancehall version of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Maps" over South Rakkas Crew's Bionic Ras riddim.

- Nick Barat


"XLR8R"

Canadian party rockers birth a soundsystem that's equal parts Baby Cham and Babyshambles. - Stacy Dugan


"Dazed + Confused"

I don't have it here but yunno they had nice things to say. . . - CLASH-ASH-ASH-ASH-ASH!


"Pop Montreal: Bonjay, Thurs., Oct. 2 at the Portuguese Association"

If all was fair in clubland, Toronto's Bonjay would have a place next to M.I.A. The Toronto duo of producer Pho and feisty singer-rapper Alanna drop a wicked mix of booty-moving material. "Tonight, we'll be bringing you dancehall, soul, electro and everything in between," Alanna announced early on, and she did not lie. The pair was warming up the room for London's The Bug, who was to be accompanied by another righteous female reggae MC, Warrior Queen.

-T'Cha Dunlevy - Montreal Gazette


"Room to go boom"

Brazil has its baile funk, England its grime, Angola its kuduro. Could a distinctly Canadian flavour of bounce be in the making? “That’s what we have in mind,” says DJ/producer Ian Swain, aka Pho, of the Toronto duo Bonjay. “I don’t know about an overall Canadian thing, because each city is so different, but if Toronto had a unique sound, what would it be?”

Very likely, it would start with Jamaican dancehall and bring in rap, electro, R&B, indie rock—hell, maybe a bit of bhangra too. That’s certainly what Pho and his vocalist partner Alanna Stuart concoct with their sharp tracks and wicked remixes of Kano, Bonde do Role and such.

The pair in fact connected in Ottawa, where Pho ran the Disorganized parties with Jokers of the Scene, and their personalities dovetailed—Stuart calls Pho “very methodical and very thorough,” while he says, “She connects with people, she’s out there, she’s much more of a doer—let’s bang it out.”

They first made their mark, before even settling on the Bonjay tag (island slang for “good gawd!”), with their thumping variations on TV on the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. “Sort of in the same way a smell can trigger a memory,” says Stuart, “certain beats and rhythms would trigger recollections of certain songs. When Ian played the Bionic Ras riddim, ‘Maps’ came into my head sporadically. It wasn’t as though it was a conscious effort to mix indie and dancehall. It just happened.”

What’s happened since then is the just-too-dope Bangarang Business mix CD, and next up is a 12-inch of originals (look out for “Faaat Gyal” and the airhorn-honking “Stumble”), covers and re-edits with Philly’s Flaming Hotz label. “I don’t know if we’re going to be doing any more mixtapes. A lot of people are going, ‘We wanna hear more Bonjay!’ And we want to play and sing more Bonjay.”

Stuart and Pho will likely reserve mixtape action for Boom, their monthly at an African restaurant in Kensington Market, based around dancehall rather than the more common electro theme but still open-ended and anything-goes. “It’s almost like Bangarang Business in party form,” says Stuart, “like a really raw house party in your Jamaican grandmother’s basement.”

- Montreal Mirror


"More Pop Montreal 2008"

The second day of Pop Montreal was personally cut short, but not before getting a chance to catch Toronto dancehall duo Bonjay recast some of the best indie rock hits with a bouncy, soulful groove at the Portuguese Association. Singer Alanna Stuart packs the attitude of M.I.A. or Santogold with some serious pipes, as evidenced on the group's fantastic covers of TV On The Radio's "Staring At The Sun" and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps." - Chart Attack


Discography

Stumble/Creepin UK single - One Bird Records (June 2011)
Broughtupsy CD/Digital mini-album - Mysteries of Trade (Oct 2010)
Broughtupsy 12" EP - Mysteries of Trade (Sept 2010)
Gimmee Gimmee EP - Mysteries of Trade (2009)

Photos

Bio

Heavy, heavy bass. Static, propulsive rat-a-tat beats. Spacey future soul classics. The dancehall pop sounds of Toronto duo Bonjay set the spine a-tingle with basement rattling tunes set to vocals that stand the hairs on end. Born out of the legendary Disorganised parties, what began as a simple crowd pleasing party lark has developed into a serious commitment to songwriting and production, including remixes for labels like Mad Decent, Ninja Tune and Ghetto Arc (XL Recordings).

Drawing their name from Spice Island slang for “good god!”, singer Alanna Stuart and multi-instrumentalist Ian ‘Pho’ Swain have opened for bands such as Twin Shadow, tUnE-YarDs, Glasser, as well as playing alongside club acts Kid Cudi, Diplo, South Rakkas and Kingdom – a mix that fits a unique proposition of dancehall innovation, twisted pop sentiments, and R&B hooks. It’s an unlikely mix, but one that makes sense coming from two strong, contrasting personalities brought together in one of the world’s emerging melting pots.

"The Toronto musician. . . creates St. Vincent and Otis Redding-like dancehall blasts" - Daytrotter, December 2010

“They’re so hot right now, it’s ridiculous; and on merit. They make progressive, ambitious and experimental music that mashes dancehall and just about every form of electronic music made in the last ten years together" - Okayplayer, Oct 2010

“Popping up on everyone’s new music radar since their performance at The Great Escape" - NME, May 2011

CONTACT
Bonjay direct: hey@bonjay.net

Management and booking: Guillaume Decouflet info@valeoprod.com

Press (Canada + rest of world): Kim Juneja
kim@takeaimmedia.com

Press (US): Aleix Martinez + Sarah Avrin
aleix@girlie.com + sarah@girlie.com