~ Friday, August 16 ~
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Goodbye Ohbijou: Notes on music, labour, and the impossibilities of satisfying multicultural ideals in Canada. By Casey Mecija

For the last eight years I have defined myself, in part, as front woman for the band Ohbijou. After some commercial and critical success, extensive touring and hundreds of live shows, our band has decided to go on “hiatus”. Though humbled, warmed and inspired by those who listen to the music we make and create an audience for our craft, we are tired. As our farewell show nears, I have been spending time sorting through an archive of experiences with the band and our audiences. I am sorting through many feelings, mostly feeling sentimental but also interrogative. My relationship to Ohbijou’s reception is also one of ambivalence. I have been met with complicated responses from critics and larger audiences due to my race, gender and sexuality. I can’t help but feel sadness for the ways my body been inscribed as a performer. I can’t help but feel tired by the ways that my brown, performing body comes into contact with the multicultural sensibilities of Canadian audiences. I am frustrated by the ways that my Asian-ness and my sexuality have been at times hidden and at times showcased to support notions of an “inclusive” Canadian multiculturalism.

 

 

Despite a passion for writing and performing, it feels impossible to continue to create music in the form of OhbijouDespite adoration for my bandmates and the sweet fans and listeners who support this project, we must stop now. When we formed, we were a group of friends enjoying learning new instruments and sounds together in my basement. It is difficult to locate all of the reasons why I feel resent for a relationship that I have invested so much time, money and emotion in. I am disheartened by the years of unquantifiable work that have resulted in growing anxieties over how to create a sustainable future. Our initial intention, and one we continue to hold dearly to, was to produce social change through music. It has always been important to us to support local initiatives that aim to take care of the city in which we live. In our own ways, we will continue to do so. There is a larger conversation to be had about the labour of producing music and the changing patterns of consumption in the contemporary moment. Outside of the safety of commercial success, as the internet changes our interactions with music and consumptive patterns, it is a difficult existence. It is difficult to support and tour with such a large band.

 

There have been many moments where our band has been sutured to notions of multiculturalism. The media has often referred to Ohbijou as “multicultural”. In an article written for a college weekly the author describes us as: multicultural in both influence and membership.” We have also been introduced on the radio as the “multi-culti” band. This association is a polite way of saying that not all of us are white, which is the usual configuration of bands in Canada. Attendant to this proclamation is often a conflation between our bodies and the sound of our music: our music becomes a multicultural sound, or is referenced to as “world music”, which is a slippage of reading raced bodies. In a newspaper article our band was also described as “a Toronto pop orchestra of mixed race”.” Why was it important to describe us as a band of “mixed race?” We were “exotic” when compared to the normal configurations of Canadian bands. Our cultural and gendered make-up has become intrinsically important to how some media makes sense of us. This is tiring.

 

An ambivalence surfaces when moments of pride in our work and its reception collide with well-intentioned but racist consumptions of our music. Ohbijou has been fortunate to tour through out North America, Asia and Europe. We were lucky to book a show in a beautiful botanical garden in Brussels, Belgium. After playing our music set to an attentive audience, I was confronted by two young Belgians:

 

“You played a really great set tonight.”

“Thank you so much, we really appreciate you being here.”

“We could really hear the Asian influence in your music.”

 

I was surprised and confused by this response.How did our performance, our ‘sound’, communicate Asianess? We were an orchestral pop band that played pop songs. In the novel What We All Long For Dionne Brand writes:

 

“People stand and sit with the magnetic film of their life wrapped  around them. They think they’re safe, but they know they’re not.

       Any minute you can crash into someone else’s life…”

 

Brand captures why it is necessary to think with transnational trajectories, as we seek to understand our encounters with strangers. How have constructions of otherness confined my work as a musician to a single narrative? I played Asian influenced music because my body was read as Asian, not because of the sound, or the melody or the instruments. My Filipino body was collapsed into a particular sound and mode of expression.

As a band we have felt the generosity of strangers and have traveled to many beautiful cities and towns. We remain committed to the political power of art and the messy moments when only art can respond to devastation, to difference. To make music, as a racialized person in multicultural Canada, is a difficult project. I am not giving up on the potential of such a project to alter the ways that people think and feel about queer life and the histories of colonialism out of which Canada was born. But, as a band, we are tired and we are broke. We say a sweet goodbye to each other and to our audiences and I hope that my words and Ohbijou’s music, in some small way, effect change. 

Tags: ohbijou farewell music labour multiculturalism
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~ Friday, July 19 ~
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Farewell

"Ohbijou has chosen to go on an "indefinite hiatus". For the past 8 years we have shared experiences of music and friendship that extend beyond any dream imaginable. We are sad to close this chapter of our lives, primarily because our time together as a band was also often marked by an unbridled sense of hope and possibility. In the beginning, our youthfulness buffered the long hours spent traveling in small vans to play late hour sets; our surety that being in a band would make us young forever cushioned the harshness of being paid in beer and press. In the beginning, we turned down commercial offers sure that they compromised our potential to create change, through art, in our local communities. In this, we feel successful. 

Unfortunately, it is time to take pause and allow for new experiences. However, we do not leave without feelings of swelling gratitude. We are thankful for the media who have paid us respect and for the collective of musicians and artists who we surround ourselves with. We are forever inspired by our travels to places we never thought we would visit. From Thunder Bay, Ontario to Arabaki, Japan we have met so many people who have impacted us. We are thankful for the promoters and venues who have welcomed us on their stages and to everyone we have worked with and who helped us along the way. Thank you to Steven Himmelfarb, Beth Cavanagh and Indoor Recess, to our record labels and to Remi Arora for his continued support. Thank you to our friends, families and partners who have patiently showed love and support through this adventure. Lastly, we are grateful to those who have listened to our music, attended a concert and made space for us in their lives. Thank you.” - Casey Mecija


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~ Tuesday, November 6 ~
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Canadian Artists For Civil Liberties Launch Show

Hey All!

On December 1st, 2012 at Lee’s Palace, we are performing at the Canadian Artists For Civil Liberties Launch Show, and we are very much looking forward to it!

Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties is an initiative of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and musician Nathan Lawr to help raise public awareness about the philosophy, mandate and goals of CCLA. We are going to be sharing the evening with stellar performances by Maloo (Maylee Todd solo) and The Minotaurs; a talk by Judy Rebick , a reading by poetGeorge Elliott Clarke ; spoken word performance by Dwayne Morgan and burlesque performance by Great Canadian Burlesque . And it’ll all be MC’d by CBC Music’s Vish Khanna. The evening is happening to raise awareness for an important cause, and it’s something that we’d love for you to come out and support.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is a national organization founded in 1964, dedicated to promoting respect for and observance of fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Its work, which includes research, public education and advocacy, aims to defend and ensure the protection and full exercise of those rights and liberties.

Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties Launch Party.
Saturday December 1st 2012. 
Doors at 9:00pm.
Lee’s Palace.

Tickets:
$10 for CCLA Members 
$15 in Advance 
$18 at The Door
Tickets available from Ticketmaster Soundscapes , and Rotate This .

And please check out the following links for more information:
Canadian Civil Liberties Association www.ccla.org 
Canadian Artists For Civil Liberties 
Add the event to your Google Calendar

So, please come on out and support an amazing cause and enjoy an evening of words, music and performance with us!


~ Thursday, December 8 ~
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RT @bdanielcass: currently sitting alone, listening to ohbijou really loud so you can’t hear anyone, #feelslikeamovie #spiritualprocrast …


~ Monday, December 5 ~
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RT @CBCR2Morning: Hour One Jams: Bill Withers, @thenewpornos, Gordon Lightfoot, @ohbijou, @sarahslean, Tom Petty and mo’!


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~ Sunday, December 4 ~
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RT @noshameshow: Tune in to @CBCRadio at 5pm EST today to hear @Ohbijou on #BigCitySmallWorld, live at historic Trinity St. Paul’s!


~ Saturday, December 3 ~
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Watch this beautiful song by @greatbloomers filmed by @southern_souls http://t.co/gaeBzBFN


~ Friday, December 2 ~
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RT @andrewjrose: Try being @ohbijou #metalmeets @remp3 RT @FeistMusic Looks like ‘Metals Meets Metal’ is out-catch-phrasing ‘Feistodon’. …


~ Thursday, December 1 ~
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Morrison Ghost bike removed?! Are you serious?