4 Canadian DIY Media Collectives You Should Know

These women-led collectives are using photography, podcasting, video, and music to tell new stories.

May 13, 2016
4 Canadian DIY Media Collectives You Should Know Collage by Nate Cover

In a story for FADER 103, Megan Reynolds wrote about how podcasts are pivoting away from traditional hierarchies of broadcasting; she attributed the livening up of "a previously static format" to women and people of color. It makes sense that the perspectives of people who've been left out of these spaces would feel fresh—even vital—to consumers from those demographics, but especially to the mainstream.

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Calls for diverse content and staff are slowly being met by existing organizations, and things are moving even slower in Canada. But it's getting easier and easier to create your own lane, and these four Canadian collectives—who just happen to be founded and run by women—are making polished DIY content that fills major cultural holes in our media landscape.





1. GYALCAST
4 Canadian DIY Media Collectives You Should Know Kadeem Ellis

The Toronto-based podcasting collective is seven strong (with the help of four more rotating cast members) and three seasons deep. Music, sex, and politics are all on the table, and the hosts—representing the city's West Indian and African communities—agree and disagree in a way that brings new dimensions to the existing narratives of women's lives. Guests include local musicians and Twitter personalities, like DJ Lissa Monet, Clairmont The Second, and That Dude McFly. (Full disclosure: I was a guest on GYALCAST's first season)

GYALCAST was founded by Tika Simone, a former MTV Canada personality and emerging musician, and Sajae Elder. "We started GYALCAST because we saw a huge, undeniable gap in the way black women were being represented in Canadian media—even in urban and hip-hop media," they wrote in an e-mail. "There are some dope podcasts with black voices but the majority of them are based in the U.S." As Toronto's cultural profile rises in the global imagination, GYALCAST wanted to tell stories about life in the city: "It was important for us to talk about our music and culture, the way we see it. Traditional media has always been dominated by white men and, unfortunately, "alternative" media isn’t that much different."

Some of the more "tedious" challenges the team has pushed past include scheduling and finding a recording home. They've moved on from using donated studio spaces because of the time restrictions, and now record at Tika's home on rented audio equipment. "It’s been a learning curve for all of us that requires commitment to each other as well as our listeners." And the audience response has been overwhelming: people are tuning in to the weekly show from as far as the U.K. "We have so many male listeners despite being a female-focused show, and a big [unexpected response] has been the newfound social responsibility," they said. "A teacher in Saskatchewan used one of our episodes in her class because we touched on indigenous rights. That is a huge honor to us."

Follow GYALCAST on Twitter and listen to the season three finale featuring Combat Jack, premiering here:

2. Genero Sound
4 Canadian DIY Media Collectives You Should Know Yuko Inoue

Soledad Munoz is the founder of Genero Sound, a Vancouver-based electronic label and collective. The coastal city is becoming an emerging hub for new techno and club music, and Munoz found something important to confront in the scene's lack of support for women musicians—while living away from Vancouver. "[I realized] that the low number of women playing electronic music was a global systematic problem, similar to what I'd encountered growing up in the skateboarding community and later as a D.O.P in film," Munoz wrote over e-mail. "It also made me aware of the homogenization of the pre-existent sonic landscape, which lacking gender and race representation, seemed to be stuck within genres."

Since summer 2014, Genero Sound has been hosting community-engaged events and putting out digital releases of experimental sounds from artists like Stefana Fratila and Regularfantasy, and Munoz is working on pressing D. Tiffany's The Genero EP on vinyl. The goal isn't to fit in, but to make change: "The norm has to start recognizing equity in our differences. In other words, the project wants to exist as difference and instead of working to fit the already established dialogues, we want to start new ones."

Munoz notes that Genero's affiliates recognize the project's urgency and work hard to sustain it, but that ultimately it moves at its own pace, "taking as many forms as the women involved in it want it to have." She's also wary of replicating some of the narratives Genero is trying to disrupt. "As much as I care about the distribution of women's works and what it does to our collective memory, I think the conversation around/inside the project and the embodiment of sound works in our community (through live performances), need to exist together. It has been hard to stretch this fluidity while still calling it a label, and even harder to deal with the financial part of creating objects of distribution that don't perpetuate the same hegemonies it is trying to challenge."

Support Genero Sound on Bandcamp.

3. SOFIA

SOFIA, The Society of Females In Art, is a group of eight Toronto-based photographers who came together in 2014 as a kind of professional and personal career-based support group to support women's voices in the photo industry. May Truong, a commercial and editorial photographer, said the group came together because, "We all felt a desire to create personal work, and to be a part of something that was bigger than our individual selves."

Truong believes there's a need for diverse interpretations in visual storytelling. "We didn’t feel that our voices were included in media. I don’t think there can ever be enough diverse voices—the more the better." But she also returns to the personal challenges that creative women face, including finding your own voice. "The idea of accountability and support within a female-centered environment was important to us. Women tend to have a different process for creating. SOFIA offers us the confidence to get through all the hard stuff that comes from making personal work. Sometimes the experience can be scary and can leave you feeling vulnerable, so it’s amazing to have a supportive community you can discuss things with, to get you through those times."

She describes photography as "very isolating field" of work. There's an old cliche about the power of a photograph, and what that suggests is the innate power of the photographer to tell a story. SOFIA encourages its members to nourish that strength. "When you surround yourself with a community that truly believes in your craft and your ideas, you start believing it too," said Truong.

Visit SOFIASOFIA.org to learn more about each member of the collective, and if you are in Toronto check out their first ever group show, 'Bad Behaviour,' at the CONTACT Festival on May 18, curated by Clare Vander Meersh of The Globe and Mail.

4. Anarkali

A photo posted by msmutta (@msmutta) on

Rakhi Mutta and Kiran Rai (better known as Kay Ray) are behind the popular web series Anarkali, which puts a realist, Broad City-like spin on South Asian dating culture. Or, as Mutta said, a "South Asian Sex and the City." The show is also a platform for the women to share the creative work of other Punjabi-Canadians, like Vancouver rapper Horsepowar (whose music has been featured on the show), poet Rupi Kaur, and designer Mani Jassal. Anarkali just wrapped its second season, which ends with a resolution to a long-standing "who will she choose?" plot point for the titular character, played by Kay Ray.

"The idea for Anarkali came to me when I was 19 and in an extremely unhealthy relationship," said Mutta. "Realizing that both Hollywood and Bollywood could never authentically represent or honor my experiences as a diasporic South Asian woman, I began writing as a release and to try and understand what it means to love—for myself and those around me."

Mutta was also driven by the lack of representation for women and people of color in Canadian media. "The opportunities for a woman of color behind and in front of the camera are scarce. And our experiences are not valued. I know this because if they were, we would see them being told—and told by us. Though diversity is often mentioned as a priority when applying for [government] funding, the demographics of recipients and distribution of funding tells another story."

She spoke to over 25 DOP's and none were willing to shoot the story she wanted to tell, even with money on the table. But once the show hit YouTube it united Mutta's crew (21 of the 23 people on set to shoot the pilot were South Asian women, she noted) and an international audience. Views are in the tens of thousands, and another season is on the way.


Subscribe to
Anarkali on YouTube.

4 Canadian DIY Media Collectives You Should Know