Leonard Cohen through a millenial’s eyes

How do you encapsulate the life and career of a Canadian icon that defined generations of poetry and music lovers?

Pouring over years of interviews, poems, songs and cultural tidbits, the task of writing an ‘Ode to Leonard Cohen’ becomes overwhelming. As a millennial writer, how could I possibly do the poet and singer-songwriter justice? I struggle to find the proper words to express how culturally defining and life-changing Cohen was for aspiring Canadian writers and singers. But then again, once upon a time Cohen was a young man too before he captured the world with his magical words.

Cohen was a young aspiring writer who graduated from McGill with his B.A, just an aspiring poet, like so many I sat and dreamed with in my own poetry classes in university. He was a dreamer who had a gift — and he changed the world. Suddenly, the man behind the song ‘Hallelujah’, which has been performed by over 200 artists, doesn’t seem so difficult to write about after all.

Cohen approached the world with fearlessness, pursuing his writing career despite other paths he may have taken. His first book of poems, Let Us Compare Mythologies, was published one year after he graduated from university in 1956 and didn’t fare very well. He pursued studies at Columbia and a variety of temporary jobs until publishing The Spice Box of the Earth that was well-received. Cohen could’ve given up after his first attempts at being a successful writer, but persevered. Imagine a world where he would’ve chosen otherwise and the likes of his novel, Beautiful Losers, or the poems from Book of Longing may have never been produced.

Cohen was a Canadian icon because he continued despite all obstacles. Moreover, he was described countless times throughout the years as a humble man. To be humble and successful is definitive of a cultural genius in my mind, and this sets a fine example for millennial writers looking for an example to follow. When asked about his own work, Cohen famously said, “I never had a plan. I had a certain kind of faith…if the work was good enough or, more specifically, if the work was appropriate to move into the world, it would move into the world…”. His persistent conviction allowed Cohen to create freely without being bound to a sense of greed or power.

Many Cohen fans were surprised with his move into music, and he was even discouraged from pursuing a career as a singer because he was getting into his 30’s (noticeably older than other first-time performers of the time). Again, Cohen ignored criticisms and followed his passion for music, leading him to produce hits such as ‘Suzanne’, ‘Bird on a wire’ and ‘So Long, Marianne’. His singing career spanned 50 years beginning in 1966 with Songs of Leonard Cohen to his album You Want it Darker released before his death on November 7, 2016.

Cohen teaches Canadian millennial writers and musicians to never stop believing that your passions and dreams can come true. With dedication, focus, passion, persistence, and stamina, anyone can achieve greatness. Cohen came out of a generation where Canadian singers and songwriters were often pushed aside by American contemporaries, but he never let that stop him. Instead, he used his Canadian identity as an emblem of greatness and even had a brief love affair with Janis Joplin along the way.

Cohen described his love of Canada often, and he really led the way for other Canadian writers and musicians. “I do love Canada, just because it isn’t America and I have, I suppose, foolish dreams about Canada. I believe it could somehow avoid American mistakes, and it could really be that country that becomes a noble country, not a powerful country,” he said.

If you are ever stuck for inspiration in the creative process, I urge you to follow a series of simple steps. Grab any Cohen volume, plug in New Skin for the Old Ceremony on vinyl, make a cup of coffee and open your heart to the world through this rare man’s eyes. Cohen will be missed by many, but he truly lives on in the hearts and minds of young Canadian writers and music lovers everywhere.

My life through the words of The Tragically Hip

Over the years, I’ve often looked at a mountain view in Alberta or a downtown Toronto landscape, and at each of those moments, I think of one of the many of  Tragically Hip songs that really encapsulates how it feels to be there.

The iconic rock band The Tragically Hip defines the Canadian sound. It is as if Gord Downie and his bandmates took rocks from the mountains, soil from the prairies, and water from the Great Lakes to create a melodic elixir of Canadian essence and feed it to our starved northern souls. Canada was lost before this band existed, and boy, do they ever bring us home.

Along with 125,000 Canadians that watched the live streaming of CBC’s final Tragically Hip show on August 23, I cried, laughed, remembered, and mourned. It truly is the end of an era. Gord Downie’s tragic diagnosis of Glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, has rocked Canadians to their core. The show was rumoured to be their final performance, and the band will be duly missed for their years of dedication to the local music community.

You could say I was born listening to The Tragically Hip. As the millennial daughter of two parents who were in their twenties in the 1980’s, “The Hip”, as they are commonly referred to, were all the rage. The band began their journey in 1984 and produced 14 albums during the course of their thirty-year career.  I am proud to say I have been listening to them my entire life.

My first memory of The Hip is when I was about six years old at our family cottage in Ontario. I have a fond memory of walking out to the campfire hearing “100th Meridian” blasting from the speakers and my dad and uncle rocking out in their blue jeans and mullet-styled hockey do’s. Later on, I would realize how much this song defined my own life. “At the hundredth meridian, where the Great Plains begin” is about the journey from east to west and the division between the two parts of our country. Spending my summers in Ontario with my dad and living the rest of the year in Alberta made me realize the contrast and tension between the two regions, and The Tragically Hip helped me identify with those differences.

I considered one particular Hip song the soundtrack to my life; “Wheat Kings”. This song is for the people in “the Paris of the Prairies” and reflects how it feels to cruise across the yellow sea to my home in the foothills of Alberta. I can recall listening to this song with my cousin and best friend, who was also forced to watch our dads rock out together to The Hip. Needless to say, she is as die-hard as I am when it comes to our love of the music. If I close my eyes while listening to “Wheat Kings”, beginning guitar riff and Downie’s haunting voice floating across the speakers, I’m transported home to a creaky prairie heritage home watching the mountains through the window with the curtain blowing in the wind.

My dream to see the Tragically Hip finally came true when I moved to Toronto and saw them play at a free concert in Dundas Square two years ago. I had just moved to Canada’s largest city, and what better way to celebrate than watching The Hip. When “Bobcaygeon” came on and Downie howled “that night in Toronto, with its checkerboard floors”, 10,000 people were singing along with him — I was one of them. Interestingly, the checkerboard floors are in reference to the Horseshoe Tavern on Queen St., a favourite bar of mine as well. This iconic tune has continued to be loved, now reminding me of what it is like to fall in love in Toronto. “I left your house this morning ‘bout a quarter after nine, it was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time” is a lyric I often sing to my partner. It reminds me of the first time he told me he loved under the stars at his cottage on Georgian Bay (cheesy, I know).

Not all of my memories associated with Tragically Hip are happy and sweet. The band had a way of pulling at your heart strings in tough times as well. When a close friend died, I played “Fiddler’s Green” and at that moment, I think only Downie’s voice could soothe me. Later on, I found out the song was written in memory of his nephew that passed away. Downie refused to play it for 15 years, only to sing it at a show in Calgary much later.

In The Tragically Hip’s final show, “Grace, Too” was one of the final songs that caused an uproar of emotion to flood the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston. Downie was visibly upset, and almost every person I know who loved this band cried along with him at that moment.  Belting out the lyrics one last time, I felt the unfairness of it all. How is an amazing musician cherished by his country condemned to get sick and die of terminal illness? I could talk about his legacy as others have done in their courageous soliloquies to Gord Downie, but honestly I am angry. Cancer seems to claim us all.

I will say though: one comfort that The Hip fans can have is the absolute immortality of the band’s music. The Tragically Hip will live on as I raise my child in Canada. It is my turn to wear acid wash blue jeans and rock out to the “Hip” at a campfire while my daughter dances too. [It is her turn to listen to “Boots and Hearts” and learn to line dance. It is my daughter’s destiny to close her eyes and think of our home in the prairies when she hears “Wheat Kings”.

“Does your mother tell you things? Long, long when I’m gone?”

I hope Downie can take comfort in his legacy — he surely has given the world something that will never be forgotten.

The best and worst of Toronto’s Bestival

What is better than listening to music in a kitty costume and feeling completely accepted by everyone around you? Bestival, an annual festival in the United Kingdom, made its way over to Canada to fill people’s minds with great music and an opportunity to dress in style.

Upon entering the festival, I anticipated a fun and loud experience and was not disappointed. The venue was quite extensive —Cosmic Café was the first stage I could see (and it happened to be a moving stage) before seeing the massive main stage. There was an indoor tent that had a heavy dance crowd within. The heard of the electronic soul of Bestival  was of course Bollywood Stage.

There were food trucks spread out in the festival, but limited arts & crafts vendors on site. A knitting café was tucked way into the corner, which allowed people to sit on comfortable coaches covered in a knit canvas. There were several washrooms for guests, which is often an issue in festivals. That being said, the porta potties were gendered with female and male symbols and this struck me as odd.

The gendered porta potty. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
The gendered porta potty. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

I had been excited for Bestival because there were a number of LGBTQ-friendly events listed for Pride Month, including a drag queen costume party and same-sex “fake “ weddings on site. Instead, I was surprised to see gendered outdoor bathrooms and not one pride flag on site. When I checked the inflatable chapel to see if any weddings had occurred, the staff indicated that every “fake” wedding were heterosexual. Though this is no fault of the festival organizers, it was disappointing to see an apparent lack of support around Pride month.

The music itself was spectacular, with Grimes on Sunday night busting her butt on stage even though she reported she was sick. The entire crowd danced through her set. The Cure played a great set, nailing every song and attracting a surprisingly mixed crowd considering the age of the band. They had a two-and-a-half-hour set and ended slightly early, but were otherwise a great performance to watch. The Bollywood Stage was full the entire weekend and left its dancing fans exhausted when the festival concluded.

Overall, Bestival is a stellar new festival for Toronto and Woodbine Park is a spacious venue for the event. With more focus on inclusivity, including genderless washrooms, the party shall continue stronger than ever next year.

What was your favourite part of Bestival? Share in the comments below.

How to rock a music festival with a five-year old

Bringing my daughter to her first music festival seemed like a daunting experience. I stressed over what snacks to bring and what type of sunscreen would be appropriate. Once we were out the door though, our excitement grew as we headed to hear some great music.

Upon entering Field Trip, a music festival that was held at Fort York (250 Fort York Blvd) on June 4-5, we were flooded with the sounds, smells and sights of festival culture. People were milling about everywhere, and there were food trucks bordering the sides of the venue leading to the main stage. We decided the best way to begin our adventure into the festival was to take care of the necessities first; a bathroom break and water.

We headed to the outdoor washrooms and it took a great deal of convincing to get my daughter to go in. I had to tell her it was a spaceship and promise to hold her hand because she was afraid she would fall in. Water was surprisingly difficult to track down at the event, and more H20 areas would be a smart addition to the festival. Once we had our bottles filled, we headed into the circus.

Fieldtrip with my daughter and I.
Fieldtrip with my daughter and I.

One of the most noticeable and comforting things I noticed right away was the fact that there were several kids wandering about with 30-something hip parents holding ciders. The event created a symbiotic relationship between snotty-nosed three-foot nature lovers and rock n’roll parents who weren’t quite ready to give up their love for music. I naturally felt right at home with my little tyke.

We settled in to watch Boy & Bear, a great indie band that played a stellar live show. My daughter was swaying to the music and we pulled out our refreshments to combat against the sun. Disclaimer: Bring fresh fruit. It is refreshing, cool, easy to pack and will provide a good snack. I also brought vegan muffins, but found the baked goods didn’t hit the spot in quite the same way as cooling grapes. Bringing a blanket to sit on and a hat for my daughter was also a lifesaver in the heat.

After a couple shows, we hit the kid’s zone known as the TD Day Camp. It had a bouncy castle that my daughter loved and ping pong tables. It was a nice break for her from the sun, but I do feel more events could’ve been offered for the kids. My daughter spent more time rolling down hills than enjoying the activities offered.


We returned to dance to Santigold, chasing bubbles along the way. Santigold is fronted by lead singer, Santi White, who has a reggae-infused electronic rock feel and a great on-stage presence. She uses props and colourful backgrounds that attracted my daughter’s attention wholeheartedly. After Santigold, we had worked up quite an appetite and went on an adventure to find food.

Food is always a dilemma because I am vegan and my daughter is vegetarian — and she also happens to be extremely picky. I’m saying PB & J sandwiches every single day of her life. I was pleasantly surprised with the vegan options at the festival. We managed to find a delicious quinoa salad (of which my daughter refused to try), a Portobello vegan burger (of which my daughter again refused to try) and a grilled cheese for the little lady. Before we had successfully found the grilled cheese, a colossal tantrum ensued over the possibility of having to eat quinoa salad and this resulted in a time-out on the back of a food truck. She had her arms crossed, lip pouting, and people were sufficiently amused.

After eating, my daughter made some friends by playing in what I assume was supposed to be an art piece, but quickly became a jungle gym for the kids. I allowed her to play for a bit (desperately needing a break for a moment) and then we went on our merry way. We received free drinks from David’s Tea out of sheer luck because they were closing and we were passing by, and after dousing it with sugar, my daughter was happy to have her herbal tea “juice”. Unfortunately, when we were waiting for The National to come on, the drink was crushed by a passerby, resulting in a few quick crocodile tears.

Once The National came on, everyone was happy again. My daughter was getting quite tired so I wrapped her in the blanket, and swayed her in my arms while belting out the lyrics to one of my favourite bands. She actually fell asleep about 10 metres from the stage, which amazed me considering it was a live concert. I knew it was time to pack it in and we headed home, happy and exhausted from our field trip.

Overall, I learned a lot about how to take my daughter to a music festival. Bring headphones to cover their ears. It is imperative for their sensitive hearing and it looks adorable. I also will bring activities for our next venture. Waiting for bands to come on can be tedious and dull for kids and some colouring or a Frisbee can help pass the time. Always bring fresh snacks and a map in case they don’t have printed guides available. It also helped that I made a schedule in advance to make the day as smooth as possible.

I loved Field Trip, and its family-friendly vibes. It is a lot of fun to share my love of music with my kid in a safe and fun environment. We will definitely be going next year, and to many more festivals ahead in Summer 2016!

Here are the women rockin’ the upcoming Junos

Canadian bands and musicians are flooding Western Canada in preparation for the upcoming Junos Awards and the accompanying week-long festival. On April 3, the 45th Junos will be held at the Calgary Saddledome, and many amazing Canadian women are in the running for awards. Personally, I’m looking forward to watching Buffy Sainte-Marie perform along with several other talented Canadian musicians.

Alongside the Junos, Junofest will run from March 28 to April 3 brings together local musical acts alongside Juno nominees across venues in the city. In preparation for this show-stopping event, I went down to check out the Juno Hub, a pop-up shop (824 8th St. S.W) dedicated to all things Juno. The first thing I noticed was the displays from nominees and past Juno award winners that decorated the walls. Upon entering, classic rock musician Buffy Sainte-Marie’s dress was being showcased. Drake’s shoes were also in the window display, having been sent from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto for the occasion. An outfit from Russell Peters was in the shop and shoes from hip-hop artist K-OS were also showcased.

This year’s Junofest will include some amazing performances by 36?, Milk&Bone, Lucette and The Wet Secrets. Calgary is also hosting the Juno Photography Exhibition and the Juno Tour of Canadian Art, which includes art selections by past Juno winners, including 54-40 and The Trews.

I combed through the award nominees, specifically focusing on the female talent being showcased. Classic rock artist Buffy Sainte-Marie has a double nomination for contemporary roots album of the year and as well as aboriginal album of the year. She is one of the headliners at the Junos and her performance is sure to impress. Sainte-Marie originally hails from the Piapot Cree First Nations Reserve in Qu’Appelle Valley, S.K., and is a renowned aboriginal rights activist.

Long-time Canadian band, Metric, led by front woman Emily Haines, has been nominated for group of the year. Walk Off the Earth with singer Sarah Blackwood has been nominated for pop album of the year. Alessia Cara is a popular contender, being nominated for both breakthrough artist of the year and R&B/ Soul recording of the year.

Heavy metal band, Diemonds, which is frontlined by female rocker Priya Panda, has also been nominated for heavy metal album of the year. Diemonds is a well-loved metal band in Toronto and one of the few all-female metal bands in the country.

I hope that some of these female musicians take the win at the Junos this year.  It is important to remember how hard it is (even today) for women to climb up in the industry, especially in the male-dominated heavy metal genre. Fingers crossed for the women involved, and even if they don’t win, supporting Canadian female music year-round may lead them to a Juno in the future.

Rock lives: Female rocker, Urvah Khan and class-act, Old James

Rock n’ roll is not dead, at least not according to lead singer of a scrap metal rock n’ roll band, Urvah Khan. Women’s Post caught up with the female rocker and namesake of the band after her show at Lee’s Palace. Khan was sporting a blonde Mohawk and a traditional Pakistani bindi and jewelry.

“Rock n’ roll is the sound of an oppressed nation. It is a liberation front for people who don’t have freedom. I found my freedom through rock n roll,” she said. “I want to spend the rest of my life creating a sound called scrap rock. We build our music from the scraps of what is left behind, and mix it with Indian and south Asian sounds.”

Photo provided Urvah Khan
Photo provided Urvah Khan

Khan hails from Pakistan and grew up in Dubai. She was 12 when her family moved to Canada. She is a self-proclaimed feminist who firmly believes rock n’ roll can help to spread the message of gender equality. She also passionately loves her chosen style of music and believes that you have to truly love rock n’roll in order to make a killer rock song.

Khan got into rock in her early 20’s after performing a song with the band The Central Nervous System. She was a rapper prior to this performance, but after listening to N.I.B by Black Sabbath, she fell in love with the music. She also sees rock n’ roll as a source of liberation for women in the East.

“I want to make rock music for Muslim girls where I came from. I’m making music for brown women who need to realize freedom is not a choice, it is a right,” said Khan. “Why do we have to walk with hijabs for a man to feel good? Why can’t we just do it because we want to or we don’t want to. As a woman in the West, I can do anything I want. Let’s take rock to the East.”

The headliner band at Lee’s Palace, Old James, believes the message in the music is the key to a great rock song as well.

“Music with a message is what stands out. The difference between our band and every other band is that we have guys that aren’t cool. We aren’t cool. We are happy being in our band, pissing in bottles, and touring the world. It is about the music.”

Old James and Urvah Khan both stole the audience at Lee’s Palace, bringing heavy rock melodies to a venue often filled with popular hipster indie bands. Khan is a fascinating artist to watch live and an avid advocate of on-stage energy, even pulling a fan on-stage to “scrap” with her.

“Sometimes when I’m performing, I run out of breath and my notes aren’t perfect. My rap isn’t perfect but I believe that if my energy is perfect, I can afford to compromise myself,” said Khan.

Lead singer of Old James, Brian Stephenson, is an unstoppable force of nature on stage, bouncing from end to end while hitting every note seamlessly. As a fan that has seen Old James perform previously, each show is different and equally interesting to attend, making them unforgettable to watch on-stage. The band also surprised fans by performing new songs from their upcoming album, due to be released later this year. They performed “Speak Volumes”, their title track, as well as “Lovefire”.

Old James often performs with women and Stephenson was excited that Urvah Khan was on the bill.

“We love her message. She has taken several pieces of different genres and created her own music,” said Stephenson. “With women playing and sharing the stage, there is a massive amount of respect. They are sticking their necks out because they have to put up with a lot of crap still. A lot of the attitudes towards women in music are unfair. It doesn’t matter what gender or colour you are.”

Both Old James and Urvah Khan believe in the power of music with a message. Though their focuses differ, attending a gig where the music is deeply meaningful is inspirational and has the ability to change the world. As it turns out, rock is definitely not dead.

Photo provided by Urvah Khan
Photo provided by Urvah Khan

“Rock n roll came from the blues and came out of an oppressed generation of people. Once I found that out, my band and I decided to create the next wave of rock n roll,” said Khan. “People say that cannot be because the pioneers of rock n roll are done but I don’t agree. Let’s take rock to India, Pakistan and to places where women don’t know what freedom means.”


13 reasons why Cher’s new video ‘Take it Like a Man’ is the gayest thing ever

Queer car wash, underwear models, lifeguards, and a twerking dance off. Yup, gayest thing ever.

As if Cher could get any gayer, her new video for Take it Like a Man has proven that the Queen of the Queers not only still has it, but has set the standard of gay for another generation. Here’s why:


13. The video opens with a group of men wandering around the hood in nothing but underwear.

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12. There is a big gay car wash where most of the soap and water ends up on the boys.

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11. There is a rival group of guys, also in their underwear, who are scandalized in the gayest way possible: sassy lollipop removal from mouth.

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10. One of the guys gets picked up and used to scrub a car.

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9. The boys somehow get shipwrecked, also in their underwear.

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8. Only to be saved by a group of hunky lifegueards wearing the tightest bathing suits imaginable

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7. There are so many lingering crotch shots.

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6. Back at the car wash the boys are actually just washing each other.

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5. There is a dance off

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4. Between guys in their underwear.

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3. They are twerking.

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2. One of the teams is called the Hot Bottoms.

1. It’s Cher for God’s sake.




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Women of the week: ILana Tarutina

Music has always been a big part of ILana Tarutina’s life. She started singing in choirs at the age of 8, then started taking private vocal lessons and piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music. With the knowledge gained from this, she started composing and creating tracks.

“By the age of 14 I was writing my own songs and at 16 I got my first set of music production equipment and started dabbling with arranging and beat making,” she says.

Now, she owns ILE Records, a company that offers songwriting, composition, production, recording and mixing.
“I’m proud of myself for building my production studio from scratch,“ she says.

As a female producer, she is an oddity in her field. She is quick to recognize this fact, yet remains hopeful for change.
“Unfortunately in my industry, men still heavily dominate the role of a music producer. I’m sure that will change within time, as there are more and more female producers on the rise.”

Despite this amazing accomplishment, she is still incredibly humble and is quick to recognize that she is not a perfect fit for everyone.
“As far as me producing for other artists goes, it’s all about what the artist is looking for, sometimes I may be a good fit sometimes someone else may be a better fit. I know what I bring to the table, I know my sound and production styles and I am aware that it doesn’t suit everybody.”

Although her producing venture has been a success, she hasn’t given up on her writing, and cites that her goal “is to write great songs, be it for me or other artists.”

And, yes, she is still a singer—and an original one at that.

“I’ve been told that I have a unique sound, perhaps it’s because I use original sounds in my production, perhaps it’s because when I sing I have a Russian accent!”

As a female producer with a unique sound, it is safe to say that ILana Tarutina is one of a kind. She is also a fighter, which is why she made it in her industry.

“Anybody entering the music industry has to be resilient,” she says. “Expect lots of pit falls and disappointments and forget overnight success. To make it in every industry requires lots of determination and hard work, in music industry that is especially true since it’s 1000 times more competitive than other industries. A song can be an overnight hit, but the legwork to make that song can be years.”

Sound advice from someone who has spent her entire life in the field.

Win tickets to see Bon Jovi!

Are you living on a prayer that you’ll get to see Bon Jovi live in concert? Well, after criss-crossing the globe on his Because We Can tour he’s coming back to Toronto and Women’s Post has a pair of tickets to give way to a lucky reader. Put on your copy of What About Now, book off November 1st,  then enter our contest today.

Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Friday, June 28th, at 2 p.m.