Music can inspire. It can bring people together, it can spark conversations, encourage new ideas, educate, and in its own way, make us feel connected. From the moment our hearts start beating we have a great pulsing rhythm within us, a unique song in each chest, one that drives us. In one way or another we all find a purpose in this, and for some fortunate few, that purpose is to take this rhythm within and share it with the world. One such person is Harina Mokanan, a music enthusiast with an interest in the art of connecting and community. Dabbling with everything from hosting her very own show at Radio Western (94.9FM ), to writing about music for Multimedia publication The Come Up Show. She is also one of the creative forces behind the rapturous monthly party known as Afrik - ‘’A Night of Afro Based Rhythms’’. Harina also extends her skills into her passionate work in the nonprofit sector as a former Project Assistant at the community organization African Canadian Federation of London, and a former Partnerships Manager at LondonFuse. Here, she shares with us the freedom in discovery that came with her move to London Ontario as a young child. The journey from being a lover of music to passionately pursuing it, and why representation is so important.
WHAT DREW YOU PAST JUST BEING A LOVER OF MUSIC TO PURSUING THE ART OF BROADCASTING AND EVENT CURATION?
Listening to and discovering music is something that I’ve been doing since I was a teen. I knew I needed an outlet to share this passion of mine, that’s where Radio Western came in. I started to host a weekly morning show and then later transitioned to a Saturday afternoon slot. I was getting positive feedback from the radio show and that pushed me to seek out spaces in the city that were willing to host us so we can bring the music to Londoners in person.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST UNEXPECTED REWARD FOR PURSUING YOUR CREATIVE PASSIONS IN A CITY LIKE LONDON?
Meeting people within and around the industry and getting to work with them. I’m proud to have met both of my Empyrean partners, Tobi and Dah Jah and many more that have encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE LONDON MUSIC SCENE?
A work in progress with endless opportunities.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE LOCAL FLAVOUR HERE, AND HOW DO YOU THINK THE CITY SUPPORTS SMALL BUSINESSES AND CREATIVES IN GENERAL?
I think there’s a real hunger for alternative events. Londoners are and will always continue to ask the question, “What is there to do tonight?”.So when you create something that offers an original experience and meaning, I think it has a good chance of being well received. Additionally, there’s room to flourish in this city, there isn’t an overwhelming or oversaturated amount of events.
TELL US ABOUT AFRIK, HOW DID IT COME ABOUT?
I simply imagined an event in which I could enter a space filled with people that look like me, moving to current and timeless African dance music. Not a novel idea- but essential and lacking in the city of London.
Our very first event was hosted at the former Jambalaya Restaurant on Dundas st.
I remember being excited of what we had to offer and what the night could turn out to be, although at the end of it, we had only about 20 people attend the event. I was slightly disappointed because I thought more people would show up.
As I was packing and gathering our gear, one of the attendees approached me and starting talking to me and thanked me for hosting the event. He went on to ask me when the next event would be- I had told him we hadn't set the date and frankly after the low attendance I wasn't sure it would be smart to host another. He told me to not let the low attendance deter me to keep hosting Afrik and he insisted that I keep him informed, he expressed how much he and his friends had enjoyed themselves. This was endearing to hear because at the moment I could see he was sincerely satisfied, and that moment, my mood had shifted. That pushed me to speak with other attendees as they were exiting, they shared the same sentiment, and that for me was enough to keep on pushing and hosting more Afrik events. Some changes were made and as we hosted each event, Afrik was garnering more attention and more people showed up. Three and half years later, Afrik would reach the capacity of each venue.
''On a day to day basis we come across and interact with people from all walks of life with rich and complex histories, so why can't that be reflected in our music, cinema, art, and everything else we consume and participate in? It's simple mathematics.''
CULTURAL BACKGROUND AND UPBRINGING CAN PLAY SUCH AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN CREATIVE WORK. COULD YOU PLEASE SHARE SOME OF YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT MEMORIES THAT HAVE LED YOU WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and moved to London when I was about to turn ten. I remember that growing up in Saudi Arabia was restraining, so the move to Canada was life changing and there was a sense of freedom experienced in Canada that wasn't present in Jeddah.One of the first things I remember watching on TV was MTV, a channel dedicated to music; that was a wild concept to grasp.
Another game-changing moment for me was my older brother bought me Erykah Badu’s Album Mama’s Gun. This album was something else. It was the first time I had listened to a piece of work by a woman of color who was talking about self-knowledge, self-discovery, and resilience. It was the perfect album for me as an awkward, nerdy, tomboy-ish black girl going through high school.
IN YOUR OWN OPINION WHY IS REPRESENTATION SO IMPORTANT?
It is a necessary element of how we operate as a society. On a day to day basis we come across and interact with people from all walks of life with rich and complex histories, so why can't that be reflected in our music, cinema, art, and everything else we consume and participate in? It's simple mathematics.
HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE YOUR GENERATION OF MAKERS AND CREATIVES OR PEOPLE IN GENERAL, TO LEAVE AN IMPRINT JUST BY DOING WHAT THEY LOVE AND LOVING WHAT THEY DO?
Start small. Pick up the camera, the headphones, clay, fabric, whatever your passion may be. Start small by tending to your craft daily.
DO YOU HAVE ANY UP AND COMING PROJECTS YOUR WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
Currently working on a couple projects at the moment - check Empyrean Productions facebook account for announcements.
WHERE ARE YOU LOCAL (FOOD/GALLERIES/VENUES/ BARS, ETC)?
Sushi-ya to feed my sushi cravings, Runt club for some drinks with good company, and usually wherever I host my parties for a good dance.
WHERE DO YOU TEND TO DRAW INSPIRATION FROM LATELY
My girlfriends! I have an awesome bunch of ladies that ride for me. I don’t know what I did to deserve them, but my goodness these ladies are totally badass in every sense. They inspire me to be better and they also keep me in check. I’ve also been getting inspiration from Instagram lately, I’ve been following some black creators and it is inspiring to see visual representations of black excellence.
WHAT CAPTIVATES YOUR ATTENTION?
In a person? Honesty and vulnerability.
WHAT IS ONE QUESTION YOU WISH PEOPLE ASKED YOU MORE OFTEN?
When was the last time you were selfish with your time?