News / Halifax

'The sky is the limit:' Two African Nova Scotians recognized for helping blaze Canadian music trail

You might not know their names, but Joseph "Jojo" Bowden and Dean Jarvis have been making waves in the music industry for years.

Jojo Bowden (left) and Dean Jarvis (right) after each receiving the pioneer award at the African Nova Scotian Music Association awards on Feb. 26.

Jayde Tynes/For Metro

Jojo Bowden (left) and Dean Jarvis (right) after each receiving the pioneer award at the African Nova Scotian Music Association awards on Feb. 26.

Canada is enjoying global attention at the moment thanks to artists like Alessia Cara, Drake and The Weeknd winning Grammy's and taking over Billboard charts.

But many might not be aware that two homegrown, African Nova Scotian artists have been trailblazers within that phenomena.

When it comes to understanding the impact of Black artists in the Canadian music landscape, there are many vital figures who often receive little recognition today.

"It is important to let musicians know we as a community recognize the hard work that they have put forward to get to where they are today," said African Nova Scotia Music Association (ANSMA) board member, Juanita Peters in an interview.

Although few folk songs are known to have survived in the older Black communities of Nova Scotia, music is deeply ingrained in African Nova Scotian culture through church and community.

Following in the footsteps of historic figure and African Nova Scotian musician Portia White, musician Joseph "Jojo" Bowden and music director Dean Jarvis now carry those steps into today.

Jarvis was born in Weymouth Falls and launched his career in Toronto, quickly accumulating many accolades under his belt.

He began his career as a bass player, and using his understanding of music arrangements, has since spent the last 30 years as a music director. He has worked with artists like Nelly Furtado, Enrique Iglesias and The Weeknd, and is currently working as music director for 2017 Grammy Award winner Alessia Cara.

Jarvis himself is no stranger to the Grammys. In addition to playing a key role in the careers of award-winning artists, he has sat on numerous Grammy nomination boards.

He’s produced Nelly Furtado's Loose: The Concert, 2007 Dancing with the Stars, 2007 Latin Grammy's, 2005/2007 Juno Awards, and numerous Billboard Awards shows.

In the past year alone, Jarvis has made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

"I am proud to have roots in Nova Scotia," said Jarvis in an interview. "There is so much talent here that often gets missed.”

Jarvis talked about his late father's strong work ethic derived from growing up in rural Nova Scotia - a work ethic he says he has taken with him throughout his career.

"When I told my father I wanted to be a musician, he told me you better be all in," Jarvis explained.

"He said ‘if you are going to do it, you better do it all the way,’ and I have taken that with me.”

In February, the ANSMA awards show presented both Jarvis and drummer Joseph "Jojo" Bowden with the 2018 pioneer award at a ceremony in Halifax.

Since picking up his first set of drumsticks at a young age while living in Truro, Bowden has yet to miss a beat. He has performed with artists such as Gerald Levert, Musiq Soulchild, and Jackie Richardson, to name a few.

He has been a respected figure in the Toronto blues, jazz, pop, and R&B scenes for many years.

His talents as a musician have provided him with a multitude of professional experiences. From writing soundtracks for three short films by filmmaker Nathalie Younglai, to frequently playing during halftime shows at Toronto Raptors games, he has kept his career current.

In 2013, Bowden released his debut recording of original music called Voices in My Head.

Today, Bowden continues his 30-year career as a music composer and drummer playing alongside artists all across Canada.

"I am proud to be from here, but there are so many opportunities outside of here," Bowden said.

"To take away from my own career, if you put in the work and act in an ethical way, the sky is the limit.”

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