Photo C/O @hamiltonwinterfest

By: Natalie Clark

Hamilton has been getting its fair share of the winter weather this season, so in what better way to embrace it than to explore all that Winterfest 2019 has to offer?

Winterfest is a two-week long affair that features winter events in and around the city. Beginning Feb. 1, there will be free and paid events held throughout Hamilton such as open skate, live music and various themed events. Take a break from studying and enjoy the winter weather while taking part in this timely Hamilton tradition.

 

Live Music by Matt Mays

Juno Award winner and Hamilton born indie rock singer/songwriter Matt Mays will be performing at Hamilton Central Public Library on Feb. 10. Mays is currently on his Dark Promises Tour and will be making a pit stop in his hometown for an intimate show. Head on down to Hamilton Central Public Library for some of the best music Hamilton has to offer. This is a paid event and tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite.

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Frost Bites Performance Festival

Frost Bites is a four-day event in partnership with Hamilton Fringe featuring some of Hamilton’s best theatre performers. Each night, artists will perform “bites” of theatre shows that are meant to last no longer than 20 minutes each. The festival will also be taking place on Feb. 14 to Feb. 17 at two community locations, the New Vision United Church and St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church.

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Celebrate Black History Month in Hamilton

On Feb. 13, Winterfest will be holding a lecture featuring guest speaker Kojo “Easy” Damptey, an afro-soul musician and scholar-practitioner. Born and raised in Ghana, he attempts to address societal issues and enact change in the world with his lyrics. He will be speaking on behalf of stories of existence, resilience and resistance. The event is free and will be held at the Historic Ancaster Old Town Hall. All are welcome to join the celebration and commemoration of Black History Month.

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Learn to Knit

Stressed? Bored? Dying to pick up a new hobby? If any of those resonate with you then this beginners knitting course may be up your alley. For $90 you’ll learn the basics of knitting over the course of three classes, running on Wednesdays from Feb. 13 to Feb. 27. Grab a group of friends and head down to the Art Aggregate in East Hamilton for all the tips and tricks you need to know about knitting.

 

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Tai Chi Open House

In honour of the beginning of the Chinese New Year on Feb. 5, Barton Stone Church will be hosting a Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi Open House on Feb. 9. This event is free and includes a demonstration and class, as well as various hot drinks including tea and apple cider! There will be volunteer staff available to chat with you about their class schedule, as well as information about the benefits of Taoist Tai Chi. The event is sure to be a warm evening full of new learning experiences.

 

The Canteen

The Canteen is one of Hamilton Winterfest’s signature events. Featuring live music from a variety of artists, including Hamilton-based singer/songwriter Ellis, a cozy fire, winter marketplace and various other events, this event is worth the trip to the Battlefield House Museum & Park National Historic Site on 77 King Street West. The location is also known as one of Canada’s most significant monuments of the War of 1812. Aside from participating in the event’s attractions, you are also welcome to explore the museum and historic grounds on site. This is an all-day event taking place on Feb. 16 starting at 10 a.m.

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By: Sunanna Bhasin

In 2011, Adele released what she called a break-up album titled 21. After a painfully long hiatus, Adele is releasing 25, which she calls a make-up album. The teaser track, appropriately named “Hello,” was released to the public on Oct. 23, 2015. Having been out for just a few days, it has already generated positive feedback from fans, who are excited to see what is to come on Nov. 20. Covers of the track are already all over YouTube, and it seems like the music-loving community in general has a case of Adele fever. What is it about “Hello” that makes it resonate so completely with listeners? While Adele may have a flawless track record, there is something hauntingly beautiful about “Hello” that makes it stick out after only a single play.

In “Hello,” Adele refuses to go back to that dark place — whether it is a failed relationship or some other struggle — rather, she faces her past head-on and questions what went wrong. Instead of questioning in order to recreate the old scene, she sings about learning from past mistakes, accepting them and moving on.

“Hello” starts out apologetic with a slow, wistful verse: “Hello, it’s me / I was wondering if after all these years / You’d like to meet, to go over everything.” Yet, this song isn’t about resignation. Resignation would be too easy and would not allow for any personal growth. This is a song about acceptance and learning. It’s about re-visiting the past to learn from previous mistakes by considering both sides.

After the first couple of regretful verses, there is a gradual crescendo into an empowering chorus that makes listeners realize that it is possible to move on from a terrible situation and be okay with it: “Hello from the other side / At least I can say that I’ve tried to tell you / I’m sorry, for breaking your heart.” These lyrics are an indication of reconciliation with a partner or past problem as well as with oneself. Adele teaches us an important lesson with “Hello”: it is enough to try. Once you come to terms with a problem, internal or external, you are free to move on to the next stage in your life. That is when you can make up with both your present and past selves.

Does this track’s popularity stem from the fact that Adele is the one singing it? Absolutely. I don’t think anyone can dispute her powerful, warm voice. However, the lessons this song teaches are unique to the music we hear daily. We often hear of the messed up, unapologetic protagonist that moves on without looking back. This can be falsely empowering, while “Hello” reflects people’s realities by saying that ghosts from our past can haunt us, but that we do have the power to look them in the eye and reach some sort of resolution. Adele tells listeners that it’s okay not to say goodbye to your past because it is truly a big part of who you are. It’s better to say “hello” to your present and future and use the lessons you’ve learned along the way to become a better person and make the present worthwhile.

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If you haven’t seen the trailer for Amy yet, go watch it now. The recent documentary from director Asif Kapadia is a haunting sketch of the life of Amy Winehouse that revives her music for new fans, and gives former fans the second dose of Winehouse they had all been waiting for.

The film traces the artist’s rise and fall from her teenage beginnings as a jazz club frequenter, to her international fame with the Grammy Award-winning Back to Black, and finally to her tragic overdose at the age of 27.

With footage from home videos, television and radio interviews, and heartbreaking post-mortem interviews with her closest friends and relatives, the film gives an explicit glance into the tragic and not so uncommon life of a high-profile celebrity.

As a longtime Amy Winehouse fan, I was unsure of what to expect from the film. My interest in her was mostly confined to her music, and I knew little about her life aside from her public battle with addiction and her death five years ago.

While her music has clear reference to her struggles with mental illness, broken relationships and drug use, a clear portrait of her experiences has never before been available to the public. This glimpse into her life gives a new meaning to her lyrics that makes her music even more powerful than it was to begin with.

Amy Winehouse grew up in London, England, where she started her career as a jazz singer. She lived in a middle-class home with a set of friends that would stick around until her last days. Her story does not sound uncommon or tragic when first told, but as she aged, fell into depression, became reliant on drugs and alcohol, and lived a life exploited by the public, a great talent grew smaller.

A powerful aspect of the movie is its ability to couple Winehouse’s experiences with the corresponding music she wrote in those moments. The film will go into detail about a part of her life, such as the on-again off-again relationship with her eventual husband Blake, and follow the scene with a live recording of the song reflecting this time in her life. The documentary does a beautiful job at highlighting lyrics with elegant script up against record studio footage and scribbled poetry in notebooks.

One of the most tragic parts of the film comes when hearing from her parents. They both noticed her depressive behavior, but shrugged it off as a passing phase as opposed to addressing it. Her mother was made aware of her daughter’s lifelong struggle with Bulimia when she was a teenager, but didn’t see anything wrong with the behavior until much later in her life. Her father acknowledges that his absence from home and the affair that kept him away from his family led to her early substance abuse, yet he never made an effort to get her help until it was too late.

Seeing how the people closest to her reacted to her struggles was devastating. It all made her death seem inevetable rather than preventable.

It would have been nice to see more about her early musical influences rather than just elements of her personal life, but the film does touch upon her young love of jazz and its influence on her first recordings.

Previous fans as well as those unfamiliar with her music and story can enjoy the film. It is a well-made documentary that does a lot with found footage and conveys a tragic yet compelling story that any music fan would appreciate.

A year after the release of her EP Sail Out and a series of successful features and guest appearances, Jhené Aiko is back to woo us with her sweet voice on her first full studio album Souled Out. While the album suffers from some of the bumps and bruises of her past works, the singer proves that her formula of calming melodies and breezy production still leaves the listener satisfied.

For those unfamiliar, Aiko has had a strong year musically, and it shows. She demonstrated how valuable she can be on other artists’ songs, working with Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino, while proving her ability to stand on her own with songs like “The Worst”. In that time it seems she gained the confidence needed to “sail out” towards an album that relies less on the talents of featured artists, and more on her own abilities.

The result is certainly mixed. On one hand, Aiko’s greatest strength is her voice, or more specifically, using her smooth voice to her advantage in terms of production. While she may not boast the range of Adele or Beyoncé, Aiko possesses an effortless breezy tone that sets her apart from the crowd of other RnB female vocalists. As such, Aiko makes sure to include tracks that pair well with her sound; ethereal and synths, clean guitars, and reverb heavy drums all play a part in constructing Souled Out’s aquatic sound.

Unfortunately, these qualities can also have the unfortunate drawback of simply boring the listener. When Aiko fails to mix up the rhythms in her melodies, the songs tend to blend together, leaving little impression to those tuning in. Many tracks across the album simply sound too similar to each other, leaving an album filled with a bit too much filler. For those who weren’t a fan of her past work - whether it’s her solo tracks or features - it is likely you will find the same flaws in Souled Out.

Still, when Aiko succeeds it’s hard to ignore. Songs like “W.A.Y.S” showcase Aiko at her strongest. Pulling the listener up and down, “W.A.Y.S” is a prime example of her ability to convey raw emotion almost effortlessly, and is easily the best track on the album. This emotion only becomes stronger thanks to the high quality production of veterans Thundercat and Clams Casino. “W.A.Y.S”, an abbreviation for “why aren’t you smiling” a kind of catch phrase of her late brother, deals with loss and the chaotic nature of life without holding back. Because of this, it is easy to get wrapped up in the emotional whirlwind that Souled Out offers. This same energy exists in “Eternal Sunshine” and “Promises” leaving the second half of the album the highlight of the project.

In the end, Souled Out isn’t perfect. The songs at times blend together, lacking distinction, but Aiko’s ability to translate her emotions so effectively into her music makes it worth the price of admission.

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