Two-time Juno Award-nominated and Polaris Prize listed, Toronto-born and-based Trinidadian-Canadian singer/songwriter Tanika Charles spent a formative part of her life in Edmonton, when energy sector opportunities brought her family there. But whether they were in Toronto or Edmonton, music was a constant presence in the Charles household: Her father would return from two weeks on site with the latest jazz records for Tanika and her brothers to play and jam out along.
Several years later, Tanika’s eldest brother would be the first to coach her on how to sing and how to record a song. As a young adult., Charles relocated to Vancouver, where she picked up gigs as a backing vocalist and got a taste of tour life. When she returned to her birthplace, the Trinidadian-Canadian artist’s long-held dreams of becoming a professional artist began to come to fruition: She assembled her first backing band, and with that band recorded her debut EP What? What! What?! With the release of her debut EP, Charles quickly became a local scene fixture.
Back in 2016, Charles independently released her full-length debut Soul Run within her native Canada. The album was sensation nationally, with the album receiving a Polaris Music Prize nomination and a Juno Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. The following year, Italian purveyors of funk and soul Record Kicks released Soul Run internationally to critical applause from the likes of Exclaim!, Music Republic Magazine and others. Album singles like “Endless Chain,” “Love Fool,” and album title track “Soul Run” received regular radio rotation on stations across Canada, the US, the UK and France.
Charles’ sophomore album, 2019’s The Gumption was released through Record Kicks. The 12-song album picked up where Soul Run left off, further establishing the Canadian artist’s sound and approach in which classic soul is mixed with modern production. Thematically, the album saw Charles tackling moments of vindication, uncertain love, forbidden fruit and the state of the world. “It’s a little more mature,” Tanika said at the time. ““It’s not feeling guilty about being up front, not being afraid to address situations that aren’t comfortable for me. I’m comfortable in my skin now in a way I never was before.” The Gumption was long-listed for the 2019 Polaris Music Prize and nominated for the 2020 Juno Awards R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.
Along with her latest backing band, The Wonderfuls, Charles has toured across Canada and eight other counties to support Soul Run and The Gumption. Those tours have prominently featured stops across the local, national and global festival circuits, including Rennes Trans Musicales, NXNE, Lärz Fusion, Pop Montreal, Canarias Jazz Festival, CBC Music Festival, TD Toronto Jazz Fest, Birmingham’s Mostly Funk, Soul and Jazz Festival, the Pan Am Games and a list of others.
The Canadian artist’s music has appeared on HBO’s Less Than Kind, ABC’s Rookie Blue, The CW’s Seed, CTV’s Saving Hope, CBC’s Kim Convenience and Workin’ Moms and a nationally broadcast KFC ad campaign. She also has appeared as a reoccurring guest on CBC Kids and as a lounge singer on Global TV’s Bomb Girls. Between a busy schedule as a touring musician, Charles appeared in the touring production of Freedom Singer in 2017. She returned to that role in February 2019’s Now We Recognize.
Charles’ third album Papillon de Nuit: The Night Butterfly is slated for an April 8, 2022 release through Record Kicks. The album, which features guest spots from Toronto-based emcee DijahSB and multi-disciplinary artist Khari McClelland was written and recorded during and after pandemic related lockdowns and restrictions. Much like its immediate predecessor, the forthcoming album is reportedly anchored in growth and maturity.
The album’s title is derived from an unlikely source, a creature that soars after the sun has set, but often goes unnoticed until light is shone on it. Referred to as “papillon de nuit” by some, the animal is more commonly known as a moth, possibly revealing a linguistic bias. “I always thought it was a strange insect,” the acclaimed Canadian artist says in press notes. “Once while in Paris, a friend swatted at one and I asked: ‘Was that a moth?’. I was told: ‘No, that’s a papillon de nuit.’ I thought that was the most beautiful description for this otherwise overlooked creature. When I later learned of the symbolism associated with it, I felt that really spoke to both my own situation and also what we’ve all been going through.”
Last month, I wrote about the funky, old-school soul-inspired bop “Rent Free,” a fiery tell-off to the energy sucking vampires, deadbeats, naysayers, haters, time wasters and other shitty people of life, centered around Charles’ effortless, Motown era-like delivery. We’ve all had those sorts in our lives, and this song is the sort of song that tells you that it’s okay to push those toxic people out of your life for you to feel better — or to succeed.
The album’s latest single “Different Morning” is a collaboration that features Toronto-based emcee DijahSB, whose album Head Above the Waters was featured in Exclaim Magazine‘s Top 50 Albums of the year and landed a Juno Award nomination — and a performance slot at the award show. Sonically speaking, “Different Morning” is a slick and strutting synthesis of Larry Levan-like house and neo-soul centered around twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line, swinging J. Dilla-like beats, and ebullient horn blasts. And over that celebratory two-step inducing production, Charles contributes soulful vocals that gradually build up confidence with a celebratory and triumphant verse from DijahSB.
“So much of our days are spent dwelling on the same mistakes, the same misfortunes. That thing we wish didn’t happen, or what we wish we hadn’t done,” Tanika Charles explains in press notes. “‘Different Morning’ is about starting a new day without that baggage, about finding a way to correct course and move past it. What starts as a pitiful interior monologue evolves into a celebration of getting over that hump by being your biggest cheerleader. DijahSB is someone who was able to carry that triumphant spirit that the second half of the song needed. ‘I’m alive today’ is enough of a blessing, enough of an accomplishment, and enough to be thankful for.”
Directed by Cazhhmere, the accompanying video for “Different Morning” features the Canadian artists in a lush, Alice in Wonderland-like maze at night dancing and rocking out to the song. Shit, I wish I could join them because they’re having fun, and just enjoying the moment.