What are the odds that a fusion of African and Country music gives birth to an intense friendship between a Senegal-born Canadian and a Scotsman? Well, that’s what happened to Élage Diouf and Johnny Reid, two musicians seemingly worlds apart, after playing together.

Flashback to March 26, 2011. It’s JUNO Awards night in Toronto. Élage Diouf is in the banquet hall, mingling with the fellow revellers at his table, when he suddenly stops talking. Among the song excerpts announcing the nominees in the Country Album of the Year category, he hears a magnificent voice. It’s Johnny Reid’s. “When I heard his voice, I knew there was something special about it, I was convinced he would win,” says the Dakar-born musician, now living in Montréal. And it turned out he was right. Five minutes later, it was Diouf’s turn to step onstage to accept the JUNO for World Music Album of the Year, for his first solo album, Aksil. Later in the evening, they met and had a chance to get to know each other.

“We met through melody, because of a shared music trip, and then we became friends.” – Élage Diouf

Éliage Diouf, Johnny Reid

Photo: Federico Ciminari (CBC Montreal’s Rendez-Vous)

Flash forward to June 2011. Diouf is named 2011-2012 “Révélation Radio-Canada – World Music.” Among his rewards, he’s asked to pick one Anglophone artist with whom he’d like to collaborate. He chose Johnny Reid. The Scottish musician is quite busy, however, having just released three back-to-back double-platinum albums and a DVD, but he agrees to spend a few days in Montréal to collaborate with Diouf.

Flash forward again, to April 2012. Diouf and Reid meet again in Studio 12 at the CBC in Montréal. The two musicians immediately bond. “We met through melody, because of a shared music trip, and then we became friends,” says Diouf. “Élage is amazing! This guy is like sunshine! What a wonderful spirit. I walked into this room, and we connected musically, personally, emotionally… Man, I’ve never experienced anything like that before,” reminisces Johnny in his thick Scottish brogue (still present, even though he left Lanarkshire almost 30 years ago). “It’s really special… Who would have guessed it, right? That this black guy with dreadlocks from Senegal and an average white guy from Scotland would bond so strongly… It just shows how music is more powerful than race: music doesn’t discriminate, it unites people!” he adds with an intense mix of excitement and emotion.

The song they created together, “Just One Day,” is a truly universal ballad. It’s a song that channels an incredible energy through these two artists’ amazing voices. A concert-goer captured this clip of a concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall where the joy of these two men of working together is obvious. It’s passionate, magical.

Canada, a haven for all musicians

Élage and his brother Karim arrived in Canada in 1996 after being hired by Diamono Ballet for a series of concerts in Québec. They loved it so much that they decided to stay. The two brothers would then meet Dédé Fortin and his Colocs and collaborate on their final opus, Dehors Novembre. Élage is credited with some of the lyrics of the incredibly famous reggae song “Tassez vous de d’là,” on which he also sang the Wolof sections with Dédé. Later, they would tour North America, South America and Europe with Cirque du Soleil, as musicians in the Delirium show. Back in Montréal, Élage launched his first solo album in 2011 and, very recently, his second, entitled Melokáane.

Johnny Reid, Élage Diouf

Photo: Federico Ciminari (CBC Montreal’s Rendez-Vous)

As for Johnny Reid, he arrived in Canada at age 13, brought here by his father, a mechanic, who wanted a better life for his family. Reid would live in Québec for four-and-a-half years, while studying at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, which is where he met his wife and the mother of his children. His musical career started modestly around 1997 when he had a few hits on the Canadian country charts. In 2009, however, things took off for him: five songs in the Top 20, then Dance With Me, which hit the top of the country charts and third on the Canadian album chart when it came out. Two more albums for EMI, as well as two Christmas albums, helped him break the American market. He sold more than a million copies and toured extensively to sold-out arenas throughout North America. Johnny Reid now lives in Nashville.

A bond beyond music

Nowadays, Diouf and Reid share much more than a passion for music. They’re dyed-in-the-wool friends that talk about English League football, joke around and have a natural complicity. “I love people,” says Diouf. “When I play music with people, talent is important. But when there’s a connection, it’s so much better: you can communicate better, know that person’s likes and dislikes better, create better and the possibilities are multiplied,” says the percussionist and singer.

“I feel so blessed to have the chance to do music, meet wonderful people like Élage,” says Reid. “Music is a powerful medium, a wonderful platform to speak about love, about positive things in the world. I am a very fortunate man to live this life,” adds the very likable singer and father of four.

The journey isn’t over for the two compadres. Johnny Reid is preparing a Canadian tour of 50-plus dates that will take place during the winter of 2016. He’s invited Diouf to be a part of his band, offering him a chance to make his talent shine in front of a whole new audience. One more example of Johnny Reid’s authentic generosity. What another one? Last August, as reported by CBC News, he gave up part of his fee to allow promoters in Kuujjuaq to book him for a concert in the Great White North. Turned out to be a magical show as much for the artist as it was for his fans. Goes to prove there’s more to life than money.

Johnny Reid launches a new album titled What Love Is All About on Nov. 13, 2015. More than ever, his humanist values and love shine through on this album, whether it’s the love of a couple, for a friend, a parent, a child…

As for Diouf, once the tour with Reid is done, he’ll go back to his projects, chief among them being an idea to create an orchestral piece written for instruments one never hears together. “We must dare, innovate, try stuff no one’s tried before,” says Diouf. He also needs to learn to do deal with his newfound star status in Senegal. “People recognize me in the street and call me by my name… It’s weird, I need to get used to it,” he says with a big smile in his voice.

The future looks bright for these two men, with hearts of gold that are all about positivity and humanist values.


Long before mash-ups were a thing, Canadian rockers The Kings found success by combining two different song fragments into one memorable track. At first, their label Elektra tried to release just “Switchin’ to Glide” on its own. But the band had always conceived it as a segue from “This Beat Goes On,” and it wasn’t until radio was serviced with both parts of the song as one track that it took off – spending more than 20 weeks on the Billboard charts. Co-founding guitarist John Picard (a.k.a. Mister Zero) recalls those early days and reveals why being a one-hit wonder is something to be proud of.

The Kings must be the only band that can claim to be from Oakville and Vancouver. How did you guys come together?I’m a lyricist, and I first met Sonny [Keyes, keyboards] in Vancouver. He was a great piano player who wrote songs like Elton John and Bernie Taupin – the kind where the lyrics came first. We started writing together, and decided we needed a band. I thought of David [Diamond, bass/lead vocals] who went to the same high school as me in Oakville. I knew he was in some full-time cover bands, doing the bar circuit. Sonny and I presented him with a tape, and we found out Dave was like Sonny – he could really write. He became our singer, and with Max [Styles, drums] we became WhistleKing, which we later changed to The Kings.

How were songwriting duties divided up?
We all contributed. You either have ideas, or you don’t. You can’t fake it. Fortunately, all the guys in our band have ideas. Sonny and I did most of the writing, but if someone had an idea, we’d always give it a shot. We had enough faith in each other for that.

“We never made a million dollars, but we had a song that people love and has stood the test of time.” – John Picard of The Kings

What was the live scene like for you then? As a songwriter, how did you feel about playing covers?
We used it as a way to get more gigs, you know? We played Cheap Trick, The Cars, Elvis Costello songs. And we learned if we put on a bit of a show, it went over well with the bar owners. So even though we were a hippie prog band at heart, we could deliver a high-energy set, with original music. But we were never like those bands that would just toss in some shitty song of their own in the middle of the set. We would change up the cover songs. I never learned how to play someone else’s guitar solo. I made it my own. We put our own stamp on it, so the covers and originals were seamless.

You say you considered yourselves “prog” but The Kings are often referred to as new wave. What do you think of that?
New wave was a marketing device, a bandwagon. Just like in the ‘90s, when every A&R guy went to Seattle looking for any band in a plaid shirt. It was like that, but with skinny ties. We started out like a normal rock ’n’ roll band, then gradually did more prog-rock stuff, longer songs. Until at one point, we said, “We should try writing some hits.”

Well, your hit isn’t a typical three-minute pop song. So how did that happen?
True. “This Beat” and “Switchin’,” they weren’t complete on their own, so we thought maybe it would be neat if we stuck ‘em together.

What did Bob Ezrin bring to the experience?
Bob taught us everything we know about recording. We met him at Nimbus 9 Studio in Toronto and he took our tapes down to Elektra Records in L.A. The story goes that when the executives played it, some kids outside heard it through the window and started dancing. Since Bob had just done the No. 1 record in the world with Pink Floyd’s The Wall, they figured “let’s give him some dough to record these unknowns.” So we had a budget.

You recently released a DVD called Anatomy of a One-Hit Wonder. So are you embracing that term?
Pre-emptive strike. [laughs] We consider that an honour, to have had that hit. We never made a million dollars, but we had a song that people love and has stood the test of time. When we read the comments on our YouTube videos we know people haven’t forgotten us, and that makes all the hard work worthwhile. It’s a pretty amazing feat for some guys from Toronto.

Nothing pointed to the fact that Rafael Perez would become a manager, label owner, and certainly not a music publisher. Born in Québec City, he got to publishing almost by accident, after a few crucial meetings that led him where he is today, namely the head of Coyote Records, one of Québec’s most interesting record labels – thanks to its unique flair and very diverse catalogue.

Want examples? First, there’s Karim Ouellet, who’s the reason it all happened, and then there’s Klô Pelgag, Alfa Rococo, Antoine Corriveau, Claude Bégin, Julie Blanche, Félix Dyotte, Millimetrik, Ludo Pin, Peter Henry Phillips, Webster, Francis Faubert, and many more who’ve found a home in Coyote Records, formerly known as Abuzive Muzik.

After receiving many important awards, Coyote Records now figures among the most influential players on Québec’s cultural scene. “Up until about 2010, I was working mainly in the hip-hop scene, and then I signed Karim Ouellet and changed my company’s name to Coyote Records, which was my dog’s name,” explains Perez. He started out as the manager of the hip-hop duo Sagacité back in 2006, before creating Abuzive Muzik and becoming the main reference point on Québec City’s hip-hop scene. This jack-of-all-trades is still based in La Vieille Capitale.

Coyote Records Logo“Karim Ouellet marks the beginning of Coyote Records as we know it today, which is to say a more generalist record label that is open to all musical genres and where hip-hop still has its place,” says Perez. “We do it all: electronic music, reggae, rock, pop, folk. We built a roster that’s quite diverse and we also publish all kinds of works in many networks these days. We champion styles that are popular in commercial networks, but we’re still very active in alternative networks.”

A total neophyte when he started out, Perez thought he was headed for a career in the restaurant industry and ended up being one of the most important players in the Quebec record industry, respected by his peers and passionate about his work. He learned on the fly, motivated by boundless determination and an undying love of music in all its many guises.

“At first, I had no idea what music publishing was,” says Perez. “One thing lead to the next, I started looking into it, and into artist management and concert production. I took up classes offered by ADISQ, I bought many books on the topic, and slowly but surely, it turned into a passion. That’s when I entered the wonderful world of Québec’s music, production and publishing. But to tell the truth, when I started out I was treading in uncharted territory; I didn’t have a single clue about what SOCAN, SODRAC, SOPROQ, Musication, SODEC or the Fonds RadioStar were about… There were so many players it made me dizzy!”

Ever humble, Perez admits he still has a lot to learn, but his unique insight has so far helped him navigate tactfully and strategically through a period of rapid change – where what was true yesterday won’t be necessarily true tomorrow.

“It’s obvious there’s going to be turmoil, but with time and the appropriate legislation, the music world will experience a golden age again.”

“Coyote Records’ core business is publishing,” he says. “Selling records is increasingly difficult and it certainly isn’t going to get any easier. It’s not our strength, in any case. But when it comes to publishing, we’re doing quite well. In other words, we’re a publisher with added value, and not the opposite, as is the case for other record labels.”

No matter what, the Coyote Records boss remains down-to-earth, and has a clear vision of his trade and the challenges he faces; he’s well aware that it won’t be a walk in the park.

“Many challenges await the industry,” he says. “Traditional media, which are a major source of revenue for creators and publishers, are mutating. As is the case for the record industry – to which people are turning their backs in favour of digital and streaming – I think listeners will move away from traditional radio and towards internet and satellite radio. This transition will no doubt have a significant impact on the revenue streams of creators. The same goes for television.

“Therefore, the way we compensate those people will gradually evolve, even though it’s not always as fair as it should be. It’s obvious there’s going to be turmoil, but with time and the appropriate legislation, the music world will experience a golden age again. In the short term, it’s likely going to be difficult for creators and publishers, but I’m confident it will get better in the long run.”