Woman, life, freedom: a year of protests in Iran

As the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death approaches, Iranian Montrealers reflect on one year of protests and uprising.

A year ago, in the weeks and months following the murder of Mahsa Amini in Iran, Pooya—then a graduate student at Concordia—was hopeful that this event and the protests that followed might be the spark needed to finally bring about change in his home country of Iran.

“Last year, I was personally thinking that this time is the time that something good will happen,” he recalled. “A hope was in our heart and our mind that a change will occur. But right now, when I’m talking to you right now, after almost one year, I’m devastated.”

Pooya, who asked his last name to be withheld for safety reasons, said he has lost hope that the people of Iran have the power to change the regime. His parents and sister, who still live in Iran, recently got work permits and are planning on moving to Canada this fall. “I don’t want them to stay in Iran anymore,” said Pooya. 

On Sept. 16, 2022, Mahsa Amini was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” for wearing her hijab incorrectly. She later died in custody, and witnesses claim she was beaten by officers. Her death sparked protests throughout Iran and the world. 

According to Amnesty International, more than 22 thousand people have been arrested in Iran in relation to the protests, including over 90 reporters and 60 lawyers. Seven people have been executed for their involvement in the protests, hundreds more were killed and thousands injured during protests. 

Despite all this, the chant of “Woman, life, freedom” still rings through the streets and on social media. 

For Forough Fereydouni, psychology student at Concordia and Iranian community activist, there is still a lot of hope in the movement. She said their biggest achievement is the widespread awareness of women’s situation in Iran. The fight isn’t over, and women in Iran are still protesting despite the risks.

“They know the Islamic Republic is going to arrest them, charge them, put them in jail,” said Fereydouni. “And they know suppression is very brutal. But these women are fighting for their rights.”

In the last few months, the regime’s crackdown on protesters has gotten even worse. “They are arresting activists very widely, many activists. They are [charging] them without any logical reason, they are suppressing women in the street very strictly,” said Fereydouni. “They are making themselves ready for the anniversary. They want to scare people.”

Aboozar Beheshti, a Concordia-graduated Iranian activist in Montreal, pointed out that protesting is almost impossible in Iran. “It is not possible to be there in the street and not be attacked by the police,” he said. “And when I say attack, it means attack. It means brutal attack, arrest, charges, prison.”

For Pooya, his hopelessness does not come from a feeling of having missed a chance to change the Iranian regime. It is a question of whether there was any chance to begin with. “I don’t think it’s possible to change the regime only by counting on the powers of people,” he said. “The people do not have guns, government have guns, and it’s a simple equation. They have guns. They kill.”

Despite these setbacks, both Fereydouni and Beheshti believe the movement against the regime can still change things in Iran. The activists explained that now that public awareness has been achieved, they are one step closer to their goal. 

“This new generation in Iran is different,” said Beheshti. “They don’t tolerate suppression. They are very brave. I could not imagine even that something like this [would] happen. They go ahead, they go in front of the bullets, they go in front of the police and they aren’t scared of anything.”

Fereydouni is grateful that the movement remains strong on social media when it is too dangerous for Iranians to take it to the streets. “Yes, we have a long way in front of us,” she said. “Imagine a day every woman, not just activists, fights for her rights, against mandatory hijab—how beautiful that would be.”


Ukrainian Montrealers host evening for one-year anniversary of refugees’ arrival

The event was also hosted in celebration of Easter and those who helped the refugees come to Montreal.

On Good Friday, church Église Espoir in Longueuil, a place of community and faith, opened its doors in celebration of Ukrainian refugees and the families who aided them. 

Last year, efforts by Ukrainian Montrealers, the Shapovalov family, culminated in the safe arrival of eight families, comprised mostly of their relatives.

From posting flyers to taking to social media, the Shapovalovs’ spent their time raising awareness for the family members they hoped to see safe.

They also organized a GoFundMe, which their youngest daughter, Iana Shapovalova, helped set up. The funds currently accumulated stand at over $40,000. 

A year has passed and the Shapovalovs’ endeavors yielded more than they had expected. With help from both members of their church and beyond, including refugee processes by the Canadian government, all eight families made their way to Quebec by May of last year. 

“I still have strong feelings about the people who are still there,” said Iurii Semikin, refugee and relative of the Shapovalovs’. “Especially for the children, I think it hits them harder than [adults].”

Iurii Semikin on stage presenting pictures taken from his time in Ukraine to the attending crowd at chruch Église Espoir in Longueuil on April 7th 2023/ Photo courtesy of Antoine Rabeau Daudelin

The event was coordinated by the Shapovalov family and included testimonies from refugees, Semikin included. The testimonies detailed the trials of living in the east of Ukraine, days shortly after Russia’s invasion. 

The celebration included performances of Ukrainian songs, sung by younger members of the extended family, as well as other celebrations of Ukrainian heritage. This included a quiz on general knowledge of Ukraine where attendees could participate on the website Kahoot! independently. The evening’s festivities concluded with a musical performance by the attending family members. 

Semikin, a father of three, was one of the first to arrive in Montreal along with his family. He had the Shapovalovs’ to thank for helping with the process of moving.

From the start of the invasion, developments occurred hour by hour, according to Semikin. As borders closed, Semikin had to ensure the safety of his family. Living in Mariupol, his brothers and uncles were hit the hardest, losing houses overnight and forced to cook over a campfire. 

Before the process of emigrating to Montreal was complete, Semikin would drive around his impacted city with his brothers in a van lending aid to those in need. 

Following the ease of travel processes thanks to the Canadian government’s Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, Semikin would finally meet with the Shapovalovs in the safety of Montreal.

“Speaking from the perspective of being in Quebec, despite my gratefulness I find that it has its faults to gain citizenship,” Semikin said.

Semikin is an electrical engineer by trade and currently works for the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM). Although paying rent for housing and already working a job in his field, he said adjusting to life in Montreal has been challenging. 

Within six months, immigrants must learn conversational French, and can only be considered permanent residents after living in Canada for two years. 

To obtain permanent residence, Semikin was required to fulfill certain criteria beforehand. This included being trained in certain professions according to the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Despite his struggles, he was grateful for the families that aided in funding his safe arrival, and to a country that gave him the opportunity to live a normal life again. 

“It happens, it’s hard times now, but we must have faith and find strength in that,” Semikin said. 

“We felt a duty, in a sense, to get them to safety,” said Ilya Shapovalov, the eldest Shapovalov  son and software engineering student at McMaster University. “After we felt like these families, my family, have often been heard of by those who helped, but we felt it right to present them and to thank them publicly, because it’s very touching.” 

Shapovalov said days leading up to the invasion in February of last year were filled with anxiety. His family had already contacted their relatives in Mariupol, trying to convince them to consider leaving the area. 

As the first sirens of war rang across the country, Shapovalov said his family’s efforts to aid their relatives were put to action, prompting the aforementioned posts on social media and the GoFundMe page. 

“The government of Canada did a lot to help Ukraine, but you know, there are also people here who helped locally,” Shapovalov said. 

Aid for refugees came from more than simple payments. Some provided a roof over the heads of newly-arrived Ukrainians. 

“It was like a long journey for them, and they were just exhausted. They were just happy to see a bed,” said Robert Kulka, a mechanical engineer and entrepreneur who, along with this wife, offered to provide temporary housing to a family of refugees. “Now they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to go next, you know?”

Kulka learned of the Shapovalovs’ efforts last year from matriarch Olena Shapovalova. She had set up a poster at her place of business, a butcher’s shop in Greenfield Park, Longueuil, hoping to gain attention from potential donors. 

According to Kulka, what would have been a lengthy process was shortened thanks to the temporary emergency residency offered by the government. 

The family Kulka took in needed time to process the memories of their previous home, with a journey riddled with overlays. 

“I think it’s hard for me to dissect between what is usually adjustment and trauma,” Kulka commented. “There’s the little one, say yesterday, if there was an airplane flying low over our house, she would duck.” 

Nonetheless, Kulka said his new residents are adjusting to average life in Montreal fairly decently. He and his wife helped register the children in school and assisted their parents in finding work. 

Kulka mentioned the family’s integration into regular Montreal life was something he thought they needed after their long journey. 

“If you hang in limbo and don’t do things, you don’t have anything to do, you start to despair,” Kulka said. “And their bond within the family? It’s very strong.” 

Hanna Pliushchakova, a mother of five children, planned to leave Ukraine after developments on the eastern front in 2014. 

Seeking asylum in Spain, her family’s application for citizenship was denied. Forced to return to Mariupol, conflict was always in the background, an aspect of their lives that would only worsen as Russia’s invasion fully commenced. 

“Every day, we could hear explosions because our home was so close to the edge of the city,” Pliushchakova said. “We decided to move somewhere again, because it was hard finding a place in Ukraine, so we decided to look for a home somewhere else.”

Olena Shpovalova, sister to Pliushchakova, alerted her of the possibility of going to Canada, which would be funded by the Shapovalovs. 

Pliushchakova said the government was fast to react to her family’s needs in receiving status as refugees, which helped in easing their built-up stress. 

However, Pliushchakova’s family was taken in by Montreal residents, similar to Kulka. She mentioned that she was thankful for the event hosted by the Shapovalovs, as she got the chance to meet many of the people who helped face-to-face, including donors, church members, and other people who took families in. 

The evening was capped off by traditional Ukrainian dishes served and prepared by various members of the church, including the Shapovalovs and their extended family.


Reflecting on Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, 15 years later

Amy Winehouse’s second studio album displayed the English singer at her most vulnerable.

Amy Winehouse’s second and final studio album, Back to Black, highlighted a shift in her image. She traded in her argyle sweatshirt aesthetic and pop sensibilities for an edgy, Motown twist, sporting her towering beehive hairdo and signature winged liner as an ode to The Ronettes. Fifteen years after its release, the album is still a harrowing look at what could’ve been.

During Back To Black’s creation process, Winehouse was dealing with personal issues. Her dark experiences translated into songs dealing with heartbreak (“Back To Black,” “Love Is A Losing Game”), addiction (“Rehab”), depression (“He Can Only Hold Her”), romance (“Some Unholy War,” “Just Friends”), and moving on from a messy relationship (“Tears Dry On Their Own”). Despite the album’s melancholic songs, she nevertheless included songs that showcased her comedic side on songs such as “Addicted” and “Me & Mr. Jones” (“What kind of f***kery is this?”), providing a range of emotions to immerse listeners into her world.

In hindsight, the album transforms her demise into a piece of art that continues to be celebrated and listened to 15 years later. The songs present sorrowful thoughts of what could’ve been if Winehouse had sought help and surrounded herself with people who would get her on the right path. Even after all this time, the album still evokes feelings of both emptiness and hope. Despite the pain surrounding Winehouse’s passing, her music has aged like fine wine.

In “Rehab,” the sound of powerful brass instruments drowns out her cry for help as she recounts a conversation she had between her record label and her family concerning her drug and alcohol addiction (“And if my daddy thinks I’m fine … I don’t ever wanna drink again / I just, oh, I just need a friend”). Despite the upbeat melody and her comedic songwriting, this line is almost as if she was dismissing her addiction.

“Back To Black” captures Winehouse’s grief over her breakup with her partner, Blake Fielder-Civil. She reminisces about memories of Blake until he started dating another girl, making Winehouse fall back into depression (“You go back to her and I go back to black”). Her poetic lyricism showcases the artist’s sorrow and longing for her lover, spiralling Winehouse into her self-destructive cycle of drinking and drug usage.

I was 11 when news broke out regarding Winehouse’s death. All I saw on TV was her lifeless body carried out of her home while hearing her fans wail in the background. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but her passing got me curious about why she was celebrated. When I gave Back To Black a listen, I never thought that I would fall in love with jazz music and create an emotional bond with her. To lose a rare artist like her was devastating because she was an innovative artist who had impeccable lyricism and pushed the boundaries of music.

Not only did I fall in love with her music, but her overall persona. Amy challenged the monolithic perspective of how female artists ought to behave. She had an authentic personality, a snappy sense of humour, and a bold attitude — pretty rare for a female artist in the late 2000s.

When the music industry was forcing the innocent girl-next-door image on female pop artists, such as Britney Spears, Brandy and Christina Aguilera, Winehouse dismantled that image and allowed her uniqueness to shine through. She created her own identity; she showed the world who she was and reflected that through her songs.

Winehouse’s authenticity paved the path for other artists to create their own identity and sound, such as Adele, Jorja Smith, and Lana Del Rey, who all drew inspiration from Back To Black. In 2016, Adele performed a tribute during a concert in Boston, commemorating Winehouse’s 33rd birthday. She shared a story with her audience about how Winehouse inspired her to compose her own songs and stay authentic. “I feel like I owe 90 per cent of my career to her,” she recounted.

Winehouse accomplished so much throughout her short career: winning six Grammys, releasing her record label, Lioness Records, and singing a duet with her idol, Tony Bennett. Winehouse’s cultural prominence solidified after she was inaugurated in the “27 Club,” along with prominent artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain.

Since her death, Winehouse became a cautionary tale in conversations about mental health, and drug and alcohol abuse in public discourse. Back To Black revealed the darkness that lurked within Winehouse and gave us a glimpse inside her world. Although she was suffering in silence, her music continues to capture her talent and her soul’s essence.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


A decade of XO: House of Balloons at 10

The Weeknd has been on a historic run for a decade now, and his groundbreaking 2011 mixtape is its origin.

In 2021, The Weeknd is inescapable. He’s one of the world’s biggest stars and a bona fide pop culture icon. Fresh off of an explosive Super Bowl halftime show just last month, his hit single “Blinding Lights” just became the only song to spend a whole year in Billboard’s top ten. You can’t go a day without hearing his music or seeing his face on a social feed or TV screen.

This is a stark contrast to where he was just a decade ago. In 2011, that inescapable name was just the moniker for Abel Tesfaye, a faceless, enigmatic artist from Toronto. Even as he made a home for himself on the front page of many popular music blogs, nobody knew his real name, nobody knew what he looked like, nobody knew who he was. All they knew was that he’d released House of Balloons, and that was enough.

House of Balloons, Tesfaye’s alternative R&B opus, was one of two projects to completely shift the tide of the genre at the time, the other being Frank Ocean’s nostalgia, ULTRA. It was unlike anything out at the time, defied almost all of popular R&B’s conventions, and changed everything.

Whereas a lot of the popular R&B music of the time was pop-tinged and upbeat, or fit into the genre’s more traditional, romantic and sensual slow jams, Tesfaye was operating in a lane completely his own. House of Balloons is dark and perpetually nihilistic, fueled by drugs and drenched in sadism, and presented a reality that was as far from R&B’s “norm” as possible.

Sonically, this album’s soundscape paired perfectly with the dark themes and content that Tesfaye presented in his lyrics. On top of that, it was just as far from any pre-existing norms and conventions within the genre. It was moody, atmospheric and borderline psychedelic at its darkest, matching Tesfaye’s despair and drug-addled party-laden lifestyle, and at its brightest feeling like the high that he’s chasing.

From the outset, this album strikes this balance. Its intro, “High for This,” is dark and eerie, with Tesfaye welcoming the listener to his lifestyle as the song crescendos to its booming, bass-heavy chorus. It sets the tone perfectly for the drugged-out odyssey that the listener is about to embark on.

And it proved to be just that. Every song on this album fits that journey without ever feeling like you’re hearing the same song twice. From the airy and ethereal “The Morning” to the bleak and depressing “Wicked Games” to the wildly experimental two-part track “House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls,” every song here serves a purpose.

It’s for these reasons that House of Balloons has gone on to be as influential as it has. Everybody from Bryson Tiller, Lil Uzi Vert, and even Drake have been deeply influenced by this project and the other two mixtapes in Tesfaye’s trilogy. It was a game-changer and has remained one of his best projects to this day, a flawless collection of tracks that, after ten years, not only holds up but is a clear-cut classic.



Bryson Tiller and the art of living between albums

Putting pressure on artists to release new material will only lead to watered-down tunes built for streaming.

Every Thursday night, like clockwork, the world prepares itself for a new batch of new music. These drops can be surprises or the result of a meticulous marketing campaign designed to attract the most amount of listeners as possible. Since there’s so much new content every week, it can become easy to forget about an artist who’s been laying low for a long time.

Look at Bryson Tiller, one of R&B’s hottest up-and-comers in 2015.  He was able to coast off the monster single “Don’t” with all the hype he’d drawn to himself. With that, he had a lot to live up to when he released  T R A P S O U L, his debut album that same year. He followed it up with the middling True to Self in 2017 that came and went with little fanfare. After his sophomore effort though, Tiller disappeared. Despite some one-off singles in 2018 and 2019, his fans weren’t sure what to make of his lacklustre output.

In the meantime, a whole new wave of R&B artists rose to the occasion and dropped music that borrowed from Tiller’s sound. Since streaming makes it so easy to just listen to something new, it’s just as easy to forget the artist who helped guide a new generation of crooners.

Fans will always be a pestering bunch. They’ll love an artist when they release something new but will pester them on social media if they’ve been quiet for anything more than a few months. 

The pressure adds up. Not only is there weight on the artist’s shoulders to release something new and better than their last release but there’s a lot to lose from a monetary point of view.

If the album flops, then people will look elsewhere to scratch the itch they have for music that their favourite artist makes. So for Tiller, his comeback would not only have to be good, but it would have to be on or surpass T R A P S O U L’s level of quality to maintain the squirrel-like attention span fans have today.

Even Spotify CEO Daniel Ek adds to the already overwhelming pressure by stating that artists can no longer release an album every three to four years because it won’t generate enough revenue to sustain them.

His comments naturally faced a lot of backlash. Spotify’s payout to artists is notoriously low so his comments imply that an artist should have to release something new every few months in order to make a good living, which could hinder their creative process.

So what does an artist like Bryson Tiller do? He can’t coast off the success of T R A P S O U L forever and if he’s not in the right mental space to create more music, then he shouldn’t feel obligated to pump out music. 

Certain artists can live off the success of a few albums. Tame Impala had been riding the acclaim of Currents, released in 2015, up until the release of The Slow Rush in February of this year. Frank Ocean’s Blonde is still raking up streams despite it being four years old. With such popularity, why should artists feel obligated to follow up a masterpiece so quickly? If your name is Daniel Ek and you own Spotify, then the obvious answer is money.

Releasing new music has always been about making money for record labels and now streaming services. They don’t care how artful or beautiful the music actually is as long as it sells. And for certain artists, it works.

Westside Gunn recently put out his third full-length project of the year and on every release day, his fans flock to it and listen, even if they fear that he might be oversaturating his own market. However, if he’s accumulating a lot of streams, then that’s three times the amount of money he would have made if he only released one. Gunn has about 40 new songs this year and each stream brings in more cash. He’s up to the task and he gets it done, but not every artist is built that way.

This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the only real way for artists to make money is to release new music and sell merch. They can’t tour, which is their biggest source of income. So for Ek to come out and say that artists need to be releasing new material every few months, then it only adds to the pressure of having to top your previous album.

When Bryson Tiller announced his third record, A N N I V E R S A R Y, it felt like he was, for the first time since T R A P S O U L, ready to release the music he’d made on his own accord. And for the most part, Tiller’s latest album sounds like he truly cared about it. 

Though it might be harder for him to get back the popularity he had in 2015, at least he’s doing things on his own terms and not following the guidelines of a selfish streaming corporation that forces him to release music the same way Nerf pumps out Fortnite guns.

The gap between albums should not only be allowed but encouraged for artists who don’t have the creative bandwidth to create art every few months. We can’t expect artists to be our guinea pigs for new content when they live their lives just as much as we do. It’s unfair. So before you comment “New music please!” under your favourite artist’s tweets, take a minute to reflect and see how that might not be in their best interest.

Music Quickspins

Anniversary QUICKSPINS: OASIS – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

One of the most iconic British rock albums of all time, revisited

On this week in 1995, English rock band Oasis released their second studio album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?. The record is considered by some to be the greatest album of all time and the album that propelled them to worldwide stardom, being declared the greatest British album since 1980 at the 2010 Brit Awards. It includes timeless classics like “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “Champagne Supernova,” and the song we’ve surely all sang in a large group at a drunken house party a few decibels too high: “Wonderwall.”

Despite the current state of Liam and Noel Gallagher’s relationship, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and the many albums that followed solidified Oasis’ place in rock and roll history and as the creators of the world’s greatest sing-along song.


Timeless Classic: Wonderwall

Star Bar: “Take me to the place where you go / Where nobody knows if it’s night or day / But please don’t put your life in the hands / Of a Rock n Roll band /Who’ll throw it all away” – “Don’t Look Back in Anger”


“Youth and optimism”: The first time I heard the Beatles

The Fab Four’s pride and joy, Abbey Road, celebrates 50 years and remains iconic in the music industry.

I can’t remember consciously falling in love with music until my first year of high school.

Sure, music has always been around in my life. I remember my kindergarten gym teacher handing me a plastic guitar to sing in front of the class when he saw me mouthing the words to “Highway to Hell” at the age of five. I remember my older brother showing me the cover art to Sam’s Town the day it was released in 2006, and enjoying it just as much as The Killer’s first album, Hot Fuss. I remember my dad buying the Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits and my sister’s love of Bon Jovi in highschool. My mom’s teen crush on Donny Osmond and my grandfather’s man crush on Dean Martin. Music has certainly always been around me, but I didn’t necessarily always care for it.

If I could look back and pinpoint one moment in time when this all changed, it would have to be the first time I listened to The Beatles. Sometime in late 2007, my brother’s friend brought all 12 studio album CDs of the greatest band of all time, along with a few B-sides, to our house to burn onto our computer. After a few long hours of transferring, nearly every song The Beatles had ever released was available on our iTunes library.

Having always had faith in my brother’s taste in music, I took my third generation iPod Nano and plugged it into the computer. “Sync music.” I vividly remember running upstairs to my bedroom, plugging in my earphones, lying on my bed, and pressing play.

Paul McCartney’s “One, two, three, four!” countdown at the beginning of “I Saw Her Standing There” was a metaphorical countdown to my fall into a rabbit hole of rock n’ roll that I would never find my way out of. This song is the first song on the Beatles’ debut studio album, Please Please Me, listed at No. 39 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list.

Front to back, the Fab Four’s back-and-forth transition of John Lennon to McCartney on lead vocals, and from upbeat rock to soothing love ballads was like nothing my 12-year-old self had ever heard before.

“Twist and Shout,” the outro song of the album, made it an absolute no-brainer that I would be spending the rest of my night enthralled in the evolution of The Beatles.

With The Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night delivered just as much as their predecessor. “All My Loving” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” went on to become fan favourites. Through the lyrics and their tone of voice, you could hear the youth and optimism that resided in the band members in their early days. Youth and optimism that had not yet been crushed by the pitfalls of the music industry; riddled with drugs, money, fame and empty promises. Youth and optimism that had not yet felt heartache, heartbreak, divorce, and regret. Youth and optimism that made all their love songs to date ones of glee and hope, as if they truly believed being in love was always a pleasurable experience.

Oh, how quickly things would change.

The Beatles’ fourth and fifth album, Beatles for Sale and Help!, toned down the cheery love songs and added more depth and transparency to their work. Songs like “I’m a Loser” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” address fallen love and hardships that the Beatles had experienced with a few more years of musical fame under their belt, as well as being the stars of two movies. Lennon claimed that these songs were written during his “Dylan period,” a time when the band found major influence from American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, who changed the focus of their songs to a more mature subject matter.

Not enough can be said about Rubber Soul and Revolver, argued by some as two of the strongest albums in the Beatles’ repertoire. Then came Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, proclaimed by Rolling Stone to be the best rock album of all time, calling it “an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time.

By this time, the Beatles had had their fair share of fun; dabbling into hallucinogens. Their mind-altering state was beginning to rub off on their music – evidently for the better. Masterpiece singles like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “With a Little Help From My Friends” remain timeless classics that will be sung along to just as loud another half-century from now. Magical Mystery Tour feels like a continuation of the same acid trip.

The Beatles ninth studio album, a self-titled double album often referred to as The White Album, did not halt their momentum. After writing the songs while on a religious retreat away from stardom, the Fab Four returned and released a 30-song album just over a year later. Their transitions between soft melodies and hard rock, all while offering each of the band members a turn at lead vocals, puts every listener on a musical roller coaster.

Abbey Road and Let It Be often get confused as the last albums that the Beatles recorded, although the real timeline doesn’t matter. The two albums were said to be recorded during the band’s “low of all-time” by lead guitarist George Harrison; and were the band’s final hurrah to the world. Both albums are riddled with tear-jerkers and songs of beauty, perhaps some of their most beautiful work ever; “Let It Be,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “The Long and Winding Road.” The lyrics to their songs preach that there is hope for a better world, regardless of the band’s fate.

Despite the cause of Lennon’s death 10 years later, one could still assume that he would continue to stand by his mantra: give peace a chance.

Thank you to The Beatles: for their countless classics, their diverse catalogue, and their lifelong words of wisdom that we could all use every once in a while.

Happy Anniversary, Abbey Road.


Collage by Alex Hutchins


The past, the present and the press

This year marks the 35th anniversary of The Concordian newspaper. In those 35 years, the student-run newspaper has undergone major shifts—just like any form of media. We believe that at any point in time, the media reflects the values of the society it thrives in. They say history is written by the victors (read: oppressors?), and what is the press but a first draft of the history books. With this in mind, we can appreciate that the voices highlighted in a newspaper in 1983 were much different from those that find space in a newspaper today. But that isn’t to say both newspapers, at both moments in time, weren’t important.

A university is home to diverse voices and ideas, and therefore, should support a platform where all of these unique perspectives can be heard. While a student newspaper doesn’t necessarily give every person a voice, it certainly helps recognize our collective ideas as we elevate even the voices pushed to the margins. We at The Concordian are proud to use our tools and platform to shed light on important issues that make up Concordia University.

A look through our archives shows that even in the year 1990, the idea of women walking home at night and their safety was a concern. Even though, with the recent #MeToo movement, it might seem like this is a conversation we’re only beginning to have, it’s safe to say this issue has been present for years—centuries, actually. Other stories in past issues of The Concordian emphasized gun control laws in Canada and the mistreatment of marginalized groups by law enforcement.

In 2018, these issues are still at the forefront of our minds. The news constantly reiterates these concerns, and rightfully so. But it’s both troubling and refreshing to learn that these same issues were being highlighted in our newspaper three decades ago. Troubling because these problems are still so ever-present; refreshing because we’re glad these stories were given a platform in our newspaper.

That’s not to say The Concordian has always been a place for pieces that empower voices and highlight necessary topics. Just like other media throughout the ages, its content is a reflection of the time and place in which it exists. It is undeniable that the voices and stories of many have long been silenced—and are still being ignored—by the bulk of mainstream news and entertainment outlets. Since minority experiences were (and are) often seen as inferior to those of the social majority, news outlets reacted accordingly. The sentiment of “give the people what they want” was solidified in our history.

Here at The Concordian, we do not deny our part in perpetuating harmful narratives in past years. However, as much as we work to adapt to changing social norms and values, we also aim to maintain ideals of inclusivity, respect and honour. Every week, we work to produce content that is representative of what matters to students at Concordia. As we begin this new year, we’d like to thank our fellow students for supporting our endeavours, and for allowing us to tell your stories. We love hearing from you, so please do not hesitate to reach out. Our hope is that somewhere amongst our pages, you find something you can identify with.

Concordia’s first official mascot, “The Stinger”. Archive photo by Jonas Papaurelis.


#LECYPHER celebrates year two

Founder of Urban Science and #LECYPHER hosted two-year anniversary event

If you’ve ever wondered where to hear live hip-hop music in Montreal, #LECYPHER is your answer. Hosted by the collective Montreal hip-hop band Urban Science, #LECYPHER is a live hip-hop jam session that happens every Thursday night at Bleury Bar à Vinyle.

Musicians and emcee’s gather to play hip-hop as a collective. It is the first and only live hip-hop jam of its kind in Montreal. #LECYPHER celebrated its two-year anniversary on Oct. 6 by hosting a tribute to legendary live hip-hop group, The Roots. The event was hosted by #LECYPHER’s founder, Vincent Stephen-Ong, who is also the saxophone and keys player for Urban Science. Milla Thyme, a Concordia student majoring in music and one of the emcee’s of Urban Science, opened the event by performing songs from his new EP album, Eternally the Student. It’s the first time he has released material as a solo artist, and he wrote all the music on this album, he said. His hip-hop, jazz and funk vibe got the whole audience captivated from beginning to end. Mark the Magnanimous, one of the founders of ArtBeat Montreal was the DJ of the night. There were also delicious chinese BBQ wraps offered by Brothers Ku of Restaurant Dobe & Andy.

Urban Science began its journey when its founder, Stephen-Ong, visited New York City in 2013 for a gig with the hip-hop group Nomadic Massive. While there, Stephen-Ong, along with Nomadic Massive, went to see the former guitarist of Kalmunity, Jordan Peters, perform at a Thursday night jam session called The Lesson—where top musicians perform pure hip-hop every week. “A few months later, I went back to The Lesson and brought my horn,” said Stephen-Ong. “I got the chance to perform on stage and I jammed. There was nothing like that in Montreal.”

In June 2014, Stephen-Ong decided to bring the idea of a live hip-hop collective to Montreal. He had started to ask himself, “What if I got some people together and did a private jam session?” With ideas for a guided improvisation hip-hop band, he gathered a few musicians together, contacted some venues and eventually got a spot at Le Belmont—Urban Science was born.

Still, Stephen-Ong said he felt there was a lack of a regular hip-hop event in the city. “If you were a hip-hopper in Montreal, there wasn’t a jam session in town that happened regularly. If you were a instrumentalist that plays hip-hop, forget about it, there was nowhere to go. I created #LECYPHER nights because there was a void to fill,” said Stephen-Ong. Urban Science moved from Le Belmont to it’s current location, a smaller venue called Bleury Bar à Vinyle, where they started #LECYPHER nights.

The goal of the #LECYPHER is to specialize in hip-hop music professionally. People might mistake the event for a funky jam, but Stephen-Ong made it clear that it is purely hip-hop.”You can’t go up and play a random funky thing. There’s a language, a sound, an aesthetic to hip-hop that must be respected,” said Stephen-Ong. It’s a jam session, but Urban Science wants to keep the quality level of performances high.

#LECYPHER is not to be mistaken with an open mic event. “This is a collaborative jam session. You need to play along with the band and listen to what’s going on musically. It’s in the nature of the event to collaborate—it’s a hip-hop community,” said Stephen-Ong.

Milla Thyme performs his new album live for #LECYPHER’s two year anniversary. Photo by Frederic Muckle.

Urban Science rotates between 20 different members. On any given Thursday, there will be regulars and newcomers playing together. Sometimes there are guest hosts or well-known hip-hop artists. “I think Montreal has top-notch talent.That is why we have a 20 piece crew, so we can keep our local nights and do more projects as well,” said Stephen-Ong.

Urban Science has also played at The Montreal International Jazz Festival in 2015 and 2016. The band has even welcomed the reggae hip-hop group Les R’tardataires, from Belgium, to their #LECYPHER nights. “A lot of people from the local music scene know about us so, when international artists come to Montreal, they hear about #LECYPHER,” said Stephen-Ong.

Urban Science is also working on a new project, called Urban Science Brass Band, which will be a New Orleans-style marching band that will be jamming to Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre with trombones and tubas. “We have emcees on mega phones that are rapping while we walk. We did Montreal’s first ever hip-hop parade,” said Stephen-Ong. Urban Science is known for their live jam sessions but they want to be known for their original songs too. “We would like to make a document of our original music,” said Stephen-Ong. Urban Science will also continue to perform for The Rap Battles for Social Justice and have a few upcoming battles scheduled.

Keep in touch with Urban Science on social media for details about their upcoming events.


Twenty-five years later: What have we learned?

On Dec. 6, we remember the 14 women who died during the Montreal massacre

Fourteen beams erupted from the skyline of the city, each light symbolizing the 14 lives lost during a senseless rampage at École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989.

Mourners and those paying their respect came out to the numerous events held across Montreal to remember the quarter century since the massacre, where a gunman murdered 14 women and injured another 14 before taking his own life.

Many private commemorations, as well as public ones in places like the Outremont Theatre and the Olympic stadium, were held today. But the highlight was held after the morning vigils and marches in the chalet atop Mount Royal. The commemoration, entitled “25 ans plus tard: Se souvenir pour elles”, hosted by la Fédération des femmes du Québec, started with speeches between 2 p.m. to 2:45  p.m. on the corner of Decelles Ave. and Queen-Mary Rd. A silent walk with candles then took place, passing through the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery, and ended at the Mount-Royal Chalet. Attended by Mayor Denis Coderre, Premier Philippe Couillard, and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, the room held dignitaries, survivors, and rememberers from all walks of life joined as they closed ranks law in a display of grief and introspection.

Each spoke of their own recollections and on how far we’ve come as a society, how far we have yet to go, and of the importance of solidarity. The room, packed, could only hold so many. Outside, a live broadcast projected it to crowds and to homes. The pain and the occasional tears mirrored what went on inside.

The ceremony paid homage to not only the women who died that night but the police officers and paramedics who were confronted with the collateral of misogynistic hate, and all those who were marked by one man’s actions.

“It was horrible,” said Jacynthe Bosse, who was a CEGEP student on the eve of heading to university when the shootings occurred and came to the memorial plaque to pay her respect and went atop the mountain. “It was terrifying, knowing it could have been me.”

When asked whether the killer’s name should be remembered, she shook her head and said no.

“What he did, yes, and why he did it. But not who he was. Not his name. This is a day for the women.”

“Twenty-five years already. For some, half a lifetime. For others, the beginning. For history, a turning point,” said Sylvie Haviernick in French, sister of one of the victims, who perhaps said it best in quoting a nurse on duty that very night: “‘If you knew how we ran, how hard we worked to stop it at fourteen. We were so scared to lose more. Next time, we’ll be ready.’”

Let us hope that we will be ready, but that we will never be tested.





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