Kwende has crafted a unique path in the Canadian cultural sector for over 20 years. He is the inaugural executive director of CKCU FM, Canada’s original campus-community radio station, he’s released music as DJ Memetic for 15 years, is the creative director of TIMEKODE, and cultivates progressive underground dancefloor experiences every month. As a policy maker, he led the development of the City of Ottawa’s council-approved Music Strategy and the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, among other cultural initiatives. Kwende holds an MRes from the Bartlett School of Architecture and sits on the board of several distinguished cultural organizations, including FACTOR as the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion observer.
What advice would you give your younger self, or someone who is just starting out working in the music industry?
Keep being intersectional. Bring your whole self into the room. You can be many things, even at once. I let my sense of identity and love for music guide me into my other areas of interest without ever considering that they had to be at odds. It was always about finding the intersection in-between, whether it was making the connection between Hiphop and urbanism in my academic research, or being both a policy maker and performer professionally, or being black while doing all of that. As the world grows more pluralistic (hopefully), those intersections of your interests, expertise and experiences will make you more distinctive in whatever space you eventually end up.
What is your favourite resource for Black artists/industry professionals in Canada?
As a new ED I’ve been paying attention to what the Black North Initiative is doing, and really appreciate their approach so far.
Name a career highlight!
Top 3 for now: i) Getting the email requesting my services to open for Barack Obama at the Canadian Tire Centre in 2019. ii) Releasing my solo record + throwing a wild TIMEKODE warehouse rave on my birthday in 2015. iii) Seeing the Ottawa Music Strategy approved by council in 2018.
What does being Black mean to you?
I’ve learned that being Black means something different depending on the space you occupy. My favourite is when it equates to a sense belonging. But I also think it offers a pride of ownership + authorship particularly in the creative sector. Black people in Canada and our diasporic relations around the globe have been responsible for revolutionising culture more times than I can count. It’s part of a tradition and trajectory that started long before me and will continue long after. I’m just honoured to be able to carry it forward.