The Kensington Market Project

Sign for Kensington Market – photo by Josh Evnin

By Jennie Horton

The Kensington Market Sound and Music Research Project (KMSMRP) is a research group formed by ethnomusicology students and faculty under the Kensington Market Research Project (KMRP) headed by Dean Joshua Barker and Dr. Emily Hertzman. This research project is part of University of Toronto Anthropology’s Ethnography Lab. Research materials collected will be part of the KMRP’s Kensington Market archive, and the KMSMRP will present their research at the Ethnography Lab in 2018.

The KMSMRP is headed by Farzaneh Hemmasi (Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology) and includes current and former graduate students Dennis Lee (MA candidate Ethnomusicology), Greg Wilson (MA candidate Music Technology and Digital Media), Jardena Gertler-Jaffe (MA Ethnomusicology, 2017), Jennie Horton (MA candidate Ethnomusicology), and Ryan Persadie (MA Ethnomusicology, 2017).

Though each researcher is working on individual projects, they explore many common themes and topics—including how Kensington Market, its residents, businesses, and visitors are impacted by larger patterns of development, real estate market shifts, and cultural policy in Toronto; how the neighbourhood communities and music scenes situate themselves in relation to conceptions of Kensington Market culture and its history; how businesses in the Market are affected by Toronto’s economic and cultural development policies and how they interact with municipal government; and, investigating Kensington Market as an immigrant neighbourhood currently and historically.

The KMSMRP, which began in May 2017, has carried on through the summer and is now manifest as a directed reading course led by Prof. Farzaneh Hemmasi. The collaborative nature of the project allows the group to share findings, read and discuss relevant literature, and provide insightful feedback on each other’s work. Through collaborative ethnographic fieldwork, each researcher has developed their own research projects as outlined below.

Dennis Lee, “Coalition: Contemporary Circuits of Punk and Heavy Metal Through Kensington Market” – Dennis is conducting research at Kensington Market’s punk and metal venue, Coalition. Attending shows and interviewing musicians, a co-owner, and booker at Coalition, Dennis’s project focuses on how this venue fits into the larger punk and metal scene in Toronto—a smaller scene than expected for such a large city—taking into consideration issues of gentrification and rising rents that makes it increasingly difficult for venues to operate, and for musicians and fans to live in the city. The project also examines how Coalition functions as a hub in the larger network of venues used for touring by independent bands.

Greg Wilson, “Kensington Audio-Visual Histories” – Greg’s work utilizes archival collections, field recordings, and audio and visual manipulation to construct documentary soundscapes to be used in an original work of sonic art. Using images found in the Toronto City Archives which depict daily life in the Market, his project identifies specific locations in the photos and uses these locations as sites for recording. Greg’s research also considers the capacity of soundscapes and sonic environments/ecologies to act as a shared cultural heritage. The materials gathered and created for this project can also be used as a tool for augmented reality apps of Kensington Market, or as a standalone set of images and soundscapes in an online or real life exhibition.

Jardena Gertler-Jaffe, “Music and the Labour Movement in Jewish Kensington Market” – Jardena’s work focuses on Kensington Market’s history as a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood, specifically on tracking changes in musical repertoire and musical culture as Jewish residents moved out of Kensington to north of Toronto. In researching this period—from the 1930s to 1960s—part of Jardena’s ethnographic work entails interviewing people who sang in Jewish choirs or played in orchestras, as well as those who had direct contact with the aforementioned group. She also utilises the Ontario Jewish Archives as she researches changes in Jewish repertoire as the community moved away from the Market.

Jennie Horton, “Music Venues in Kensington Market: Business Models and Cultural Policy” – Jennie’s research follows four venues in Kensington Market — Pamenar, Coalition, Grossman’s Tavern, and Poetry Jazz Café — and how they are affected by current municipal policy under Toronto’s “Music City” initiative. In light of recent venue closures across the city, Jennie uses Kensington venues to understand larger issues of gentrification, rising rents, zoning problems, and how venues interact with municipal government—while at the same time considering how these venues’ location in Kensington Market makes their situation unique. Jennie’s fieldwork consists of attending shows and city council meetings, as well as interviewing musicians, business owners, and officials affiliated with the Market.

Ryan Persadie, “Round Venue: Queer People of Colour Performing Burlesque in Kensington” – Ryan’s work explores female queer of color burlesque performances at “Round Venue”, a small nightclub in Kensington Market. At these burlesque events, queer-identifying women of colour make up the majority of the cast, and their performances—often heavily politicised—critique, resist, and challenge white supremacy in the Canadian nation. Ryan’s research also investigates “Round Venue” and Kensington Market as potential spaces for belonging for queer people of colour, in contrast to Toronto’s gay village, which adheres to homonormativities that default whiteness. By attending performances and interviewing queer-identifying burlesque performers, Ryan’s research investigates these concepts, as well as examines “Round Venue” as a micro-neighbourhood of queerness within a larger, heteronormative Kensington Market.