Dancehall-bred. Orchestrated like old soul. Driven by emotive vocals inspired as much by Feist as by Yolanda Adams. There’s a rawness to Bonjay: to the feelings, to the voice, to the sounds clashing. It sounds like something new.
This is not background music. From the first coo to the last wayward blip, it demands your full attention.
The two have always been a blend apart, in spite—or perhaps because of—their differences.
Alanna took her first musical steps representing her Jamaican Pentecostal church at youth gospel competitions. She then went through a brief R&B starlet phase in high school—releasing music under a shameful pseudonym—before her discovery of Canada’s indie scene led to stints singing backup for Bahamas, Feist, Arkells and others, and to her initial forays into producing and engineering.
Ian took the road of the DJ/producer-turned-songwriter, evolving from throwing ecumenical dance parties in the attic of a Chinatown restaurant to teaching himself keys by playing along to Talking Heads, Steely & Clevie, and Minnie Riperton records.
Their sound exists at the intersection of Alanna’s intuitive, character-driven songwriting and Ian’s passion for intricate arrangements around unconventional, real-world topics. It’s a deep, holistic partnership: Alanna and Ian co-write, co-arrange, co-produce, and co-mix every song.
At the crux of their symbiosis lies their shared love of dancehall. Bonjay’s initial music-making produced bashment takes on Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio, attracting plaudits from the likes of The FADER and remix commissions from Ninja Tune, Mad Decent and others.
The two came into their own on the self-released Broughtupsy EP (2010), establishing them with praise from the BBC, New York Times, Guardian, KCRW, and Dazed, among others. Featuring an ingenious use of airhorn on “Stumble,” deep bass introspection on “Creepin,” and a post-modern soul stormer in “Shotta,” their acclaimed debut presaged a wave of ambitious, post-urban music. The record put Bonjay in front of crowds across Canada, the US and Europe, sharing the stage with everyone from tUnE-yArDs to Little Dragon. Broughtupsy charmed and hinted at the duo’s greater potential.
Bonjay’s full-length album, Lush Life, delivers on that promise. Following a self-imposed break from the public brought on by a period of intense creative exploration, Bonjay emerge a more formidable musical presence: stronger command of voice and body, more nuanced storytelling, greater depth of instrumentation.
Preparation for the album and forthcoming tours spanned dance and theatre training, vocal intensives, audio engineering scholarship, urban economics research, documentary filmmaking, music theory and deep conversations and collaborations with everyone from St. Vincent to Sly & Robbie. While Bonjay’s signature bass and kick are still in full effect, the full album reflects the duo’s evolution as thinkers as well as artists.
Lush Life’s theme is “the way we live in cities today.” Many of the most compelling stories of today’s cities have yet to be told. The vivid present.
Yearning immigrants and students, artists and scientists, writers and entrepreneurs – ambitious outsiders of all motivations and hues. Uncertain of what success they’ll find, but willing to risk it all to find out. Cities exist to bring these people together to birth new ideas and new ways of being. Along the way there’s beauty—and chaos. These are the stories Lush Life tells.
Bonjay’s début album, Lush Life, is out digitally via Mysteries of Trade.