Del Mahabadi, 2021 Finalist

Del Mahabadi is the Founder and Chief Executive Director of the nonprofit music organization Waveland. She is driven by the power that music holds in influencing our society, and is committed to building vibrant and inclusive communities via Canadian music.

Read more about Del and her work with Waveland over the years.

Waveland started in 2012. Tell us how it’s grown since then.

Waveland is a bootstrapped organization. The growth has been organic, and definitely not linear. Over the last 9 years, I have learned a lot from the arts & culture sector in Toronto by simply experimenting and making a lot of mistakes. The learnings from my failures have been the fuel for the growth that Waveland has experienced. One of the biggest lessons has been the importance and impact that community and collaboration has on achieving any goal. When I began to align Waveland’s goals with that of other organizations and individuals who also shared the same vision and passion for Canadian music, that is when the real growth kicked in. 

Why are you so passionate about the Canadian music scene?

Canada is a land of many things, and music is one of them. Music breaks down barriers between people and cultures, and leaves us feeling refreshed, heard, inspired, and most importantly - a sense of belonging. Canadian musicians are a reflection of the cultural diversity this country offers, however that diversity is yet to be achieved in the music industry. My passion for the Canadian music scene stems from my desire to build positive and inclusive communities through music, and evidently, a more inclusive Canadian music industry.

It's been a tough year for artists. How has the pandemic impacted Waveland’s programming? How did you pivot?

The pandemic has presented opportunities for growth in ways that I didn't see coming. A lot of the programming at Waveland revolves around building deep connections between 1) musicians in our community, 2) local residences, and 3) international visitors through intimate concerts. It’s very challenging to capture and nurture that connection virtually. This pushed me to think outside of what I know, and through trial and error, our programming is now delivered virtually. Not only that, but the pandemic has been the birthplace for two new projects as well, Everbloom Virtual Music Festival, and Songs for Seniors virtual concerts. 

What makes Toronto’s music scene so special? What do you think the future holds for it?

What I find most unique about the Toronto music scene is how quickly it is progressing towards becoming more inclusive, with an emphasis on creating safe spaces for all. This is exceptional growth that we as a city should be very proud of. Prior to the pandemic, our in-person event attendees were a mix of international and local guests due to our partnership with Airbnb. We learned that a lot of our international visitors identified as POC and/or LGBTQ+, and were excited to attend our events because for some, it was the first time they could be themselves and/or feel safe in spaces like these. Toronto has the potential to be a music city that is leading the path in creating inclusivity and safe experiences within its music industry, and I am very invested and excited in helping it get there.

How does it feel to be nominated for Margo Bindhardt and Rita Davies Award?

Receiving that phone call was the highlight of my year so far! It feels great to be acknowledged for my contributions to the development of arts & culture in this city. It truly is a passion of mine to see this sector flourish in Toronto and it makes me happy to know that my peers feel I am making the impact I’ve set out to make! Being nominated for the Margo Bindhardt and Rita Davies Award in particular makes me feel valued, and motivates me to continue advocating for the Canadian music scene. I hope that my nomination will inspire others who relate to my story to also invest, create, and build within the bountiful music sector in Canada.