Joanna Majoko, 2021 Recipient

Toronto-based vocalist, composer, and bandleader Joanna Majoko has established a reputation for herself as one of Canada’s most exciting young singers, and is a regular presence on the bandstand with some of the country’s top musicians. Born to German and Zimbabwean parents, Majoko spent her childhood in Zimbabwe. She is equally at home singing neo-soul, orchestrating a jazz standard and playing the caxixi and the claves. This year Majoko has released her debut EP, No Holding Back, an astonishing, powerful statement on her personal history, the fruitful collaborative relationships of her musical present, and her vision for the future to come.

Jazz artist and 2021 finalist Joanna told us a bit more about her work and what she's up to next. Read more below.

You spent the majority of your childhood in Zimbabwe, how has participating in the music scene there influenced your style?

I think most importantly it’s influenced how I approach performance and the feeling I strive to inject in the music I create. Those elements can include passion, intent, rhythm, story and harmony.

Congratulations on the recent release of your debut EP No Holding Back. Tell us more about this accomplishment, what was it like recording your first album?

Thank you so much! This being my first time releasing music as a solo artist, it has been an experience mixed with new accomplishments, obstacles and lessons. To be honest, the first sensation I experienced was fear - fear that my music wouldn’t be “good” or palatable. But I’m sure many, if not all artists, experience this fear. And slowly that feeling went away and with every milestone we hit in the recording and post-production process I grew more and more excited to share my music and celebrate the fact that I was achieving an integral milestone in my career.

You have been a master class artist at both Humber College and University of Toronto. What is the most rewarding thing about being involved in musical education?

Hands down the most rewarding thing about being involved in musical education is that moment of inspiration shared between student and teacher - that moment of impact, where you’ve positively effected the student or listener. Inspiration is an integral element to teaching because it directly translates the importance of the information being exchanged. It has always felt like magic to me and it’s an exchange I hope I never get used to.

How have you stayed engaged and connected with the jazz community in the past year?

I’ve been fortunate to have done so through my involvement with virtual concert series hosted by Toronto Jazz Festival, Winnipeg Jazz Festival, Kensington Market Jazz Festival, JPEC.

How does it feel to be a finalist for the Emerging Jazz Artist Award?

It feels AMAZING! It was surreal when I initially received a call from Jeremy Ledbetter, who has quickly become a dear friend and fellow collaborator, and he asked for my blessing to nominate me. From the moment of nomination, I felt humbled and grateful, so to receive the call that I had been selected to be one of the finalists, I was actually brought to tears. This accolade comes at a time where life has felt more and more difficult as a musician in our current climate. This achievement has brought me a lot of joy.