In the third installment of Wheel It Studios’ remarkable programme to showcase the real face of the dispossessed diaspora of Jane-and-Finch Ruben “Beny” Esguerra and Paul “Savilion” De Francesco‘s wonderfully-gifted artists from the New Tradition Music’s Mobile Studio Program introduce us to Ride It Out – featuring some familiar names such as Zak’isha Brown and Nathan Baya, and brand new ones: notably the 11 year-old [at the time of the recording] Elissa Reid. The [latter] young star not only performed here but also composed the song, “Young Love”.
The artistic repertoire on this powerful album once again negates the narrative that Jane-Finch is what successive civic and police administrations in the Greater Toronto Area view – often with cynically-raised eyebrows – as a proverbial gangland. Quite the contrary. The artistry of those living in near-depraved conditions has a different narrative. For instance, The New Tradition Music’s Wheel It Studios project was born after The Palisade Media Arts Academy and Rhyme and Reason programmes shut down.
It was then that Mr Esguerra and others decided to create a mobile studio project so as not to rely on specific locations [frequently at risk of shutting down] to promote collaboration and unity amongst artists from the different neighbourhoods in Jane-Finch, flying in the face of extraneous street-related tensions. As a result they partnered with the Boys and Girls Club, setting cultural and artistic goals that have been successfully met and each year. [In fact the group is already working on Wheel It Studios Vol 4, delving further into the artistic reservoir to reflect the inspirational life into a region so dispossessed that [life] on the wrong side of the law seemed to be the only way out of despair.
However, thanks to the dogged efforts of Wheel It Studios co-founders, Ruben “Beny” Esguerra and Paul “Savilion” De Francesco the diamond-in-the-rough artistry of the dispossessed youth living in the projects was unearthed, guided and refined to perfection. Many who bore witness to their earlier album will remember the emergence of the stellar craftsman and woman named Nathan Baya and Zak’isha Brown – represented here on “Ride It Out” and “Sorry”, and the “Shout Out Interlude” respectively. Meanwhile, Vol. 3 of the Wheel It Studios project recorded during the height of the global pandemic – between 2020 and 2021 – introduces us to the stellar new voice of Elissa Reid.
As with art that matures in craftsmanship and dimension as it progresses, the elegance of music and lyrics in this repertoire has evolved exponentially. Lived-experience, almost always [experienced] on the darker side of city life is not poetically expressed on paper, but also more smoothly executed on record. This is evident from the sculpted phrases of “Ride It Out” to the poignant emotions in the narratives of the various interludes and “Money Won’t Change Us”, and languid sophistication of such songs as “Without You” and “Young Love” and the soulful fervour of “Sorry”.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s prodigiously-gifted Luis Orbegoso makes his presence felt playing trombone, while Jonathan “Alacran” Amador and the mysteriously and affectionately-named master beat maker, Dopeworm also help to create compelling magic on Ride It Out.
Throughout this remarkable recording, flexible voices expand from the near-white simplicity of young Elissa Reid’s to the heightened dramatic scope of Sishais’, Tracey Kayy’s and YsBrazzy’s on “Ride It Out” and Don Richie’s on “Sorry”. This is what keeps us listening in quiet awe at the not-so-hidden talent that lies buried just under the surface of a much-maligned [wrongly so]area in Toronto. The co-leaders of this project – Beny Esguerra and Savilion deserve final – and special mention – from excavating these significant artistic gifts of a racialised and dispossessed community.
Track list – 1: Ride It Out; 2: Money Won’t Change Us; 3: Dreams I had; 4: Shout Out Interlude; 5: Bored; 6: 2morrow; 7: Without You; 8: Summer Vibes Interlude; 9: Young Love; 10: One Code; 11: Diablo; 12: Lo Low Interlude; 13: Sorry: 14: Late Night Instrumental
Personnel – Improv and voice – Sishais: [1, 4, 5]; Tracey Kayy: [1, 4, 7, 11]; Nathan Baya: [1, 13]; Mystro: ; Txnic: [1, 3, 10, 12]; Lyrical Flips: [1, 6, 8]; YsBrazzy: [1, 2]; Elissa Reid: [8, 9]; Don Richie: ; Zak’isha Brown: ; Esme: [12, 14]; Lo Low: ; Otsíkh:èta: ; Stephen Nouveau: . Back-up vocals – Mikeila E-Carranza: ; Alexa E-Carranza: ; Aaliyah E-Carranza: ; Millie Carranza: ; Savilion: [1, 3]; Ruben “Beny” Esguerra: . Beat Makers – Lo Low, Blur Mar, Stasis, Paul “Savilion De Francesco, Ruben “Beny” Esguerra. Instrumentalist and Engineers – Paul “Savilion” De Francesco: project co-leader, production, engineering and vocals; Ruben “Beny” Esguerra: composition, session work, project co-leader, violin, flute, turntables, percussion vocals, engineering and administration; Luis Orbegoso: trombones; Jonathan “Alacran” Amador: bass; Dopeworm: beat making.
Released – 2022
Label – Independent [released on Bandcamp]
Runtime – 40:42