Inaugural Canadian Black Music Award carries more significance for winner Hunnah

Jan 29, 2021 | Arts, Headlines

The announcement of the Canadian Black Music Awards recipients gave Hannah Wondmeneh something to celebrate during the pandemic.

“Last year was a really hard year for a lot of people,” Wondmeneh said. “It was hard in general to navigate life.”

Wondmeneh, a singer-songwriter from Toronto who goes by the stage name of Hunnah, won SOCAN and SiriusXM’s emerging artist award with her submission of her songs Away and Think About It.

Think About It was my first single and one of the first demos I made,” Wondmeneh said. “Away was a bit more recent and emotionally driven.”

The award was more significant to Wondmeneh because it showcases the talent of Black Canadian artists.

“The award meant more knowing that it’s specifically meant to recognize Black talent in Canada because there’s an incredible pool of people,” she said.

When Wondmeneh first started making music, she felt isolated and alone being in rooms with white men and how she found that it could be demoralizing.

“Being a Black woman in the industry, I think finding other people in my community to work with and definitely to lean on and find support through is important,” Wondmeneh said.

She has also explored what it means to be a Black woman in society and express softness and vulnerability.

“It means the most to me that Black women will connect to my music or that it’ll mean something to them, to people that share my lived experience,” Wondmeneh said. ”

Charlie Andrews, executive director of the SOCAN Foundation, has created Canadian music awards such as the Indigenous Songwriter Award. The Canadian Black Music Award’s goal was to advance equity in the music industry.

“We felt that this was an important opportunity to celebrate Black excellence among the Black community of music creators in Canada,” Andrews said.

The awards were a first for SOCAN, however, receiving more than 300 applications for the award was higher than what they expected for a new program.

“It really validates that one, there is an incredible roster of Black music creators in this country,” he said. “It also validates that there’s a demand for us to continue holding space and incubating and fostering these diverse creators.”

Paul Cunningham, SiriusXM’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing, was surprised by the number of submissions.

“We were blown away by the outstanding talent and submissions from Black music creators from across the country,” Cunningham said.

SOCAN and SiriusXM have partnered in the past with the Canadian Country Music Awards as well as the Young Canadian Songwriter Awards. The decision to collaborate again wasn’t difficult.

“That’s what’s so great about working with them and having this trusted and really innovative relationship that we can create initiatives at a rapid pace,” Andrews said.

Moving forward, SOCAN plans to work on the next edition of the Canadian Black Music Awards. In the meantime, they’re focusing on making its 30th anniversary special this year.

“We’re open to new ideas on how we can be innovative and really ensure that we’re positioning ourselves to really respond to the needs of music creators and publishers,” Andrews said.

Along with winning the award, Wondmeneh also received a $5,000 grant.

“I would say that it’s important that grants like this exist beyond the award,” Wondmeneh said. “There are so many obvious barriers that exist for Black artists or Black creatives.”

She said she plans to work on an EP that she hopes to release this year. Wondmeneh also hopes the investment into Black creatives can continue, with this award being a great step in showcasing support for their work.