FEMINAE NOX, an example of music business equity

Montreal BIPOC music and nightlife organization presents showcase featuring artists Annahstasia and M.I.BLUE

M.I BlUE serenades the crowd at Rialto theatre on Sept.29 Tuza Dulcinée

The historic Rialto Theater has been home to many artists and artistic events in the century since it opened its doors. On Sept. 29, the old movie palace welcomed the FEMINAE NOX crew, who were pleased to present two gifted artists: Annahstasia and M.I.BLUE. 

The event was put together in collaboration with the POP Montreal festival, an annual non-profit event that has championed independence in the arts, presenting emerging and celebrated artistic talents from around the world. 

FEMINAE NOX is a not-for-profit organization who have described themselves as a femme-driven platform prioritizing equity and celebrating Black, Brown, and other racialized women, femme, and non-binary folks working and seeking to work in live music and nightlife, both on-and-off stage. Their events have platformed an array of different artists and have allowed music fanatics to discover their own city’s talents—as well as international acts—showcasing artists that other prominent nightlife events and shows won’t.  

Mira Silvers and Seny Kassaye are the co-founders of FEMINAE NOX. Silvers is the owner and music agent at FORT Agency, a talent agency with a similar mission as FEMINAE NOX. Kassaye is also an agent there. The organization was launched by the two agents who hungered for a change in their industry in February 2023.

FEMINAE NOX has had four events since its inception which all saw a great success, perhaps hinting at the need for additional platforming of more diverse artists. All of their past shows have completely sold out.

Silvers and Kassaye both work in tandem across the board. Silvers, having worked in the music industry for many years, has had encounters with prominent Montreal music promoters blatantly telling her that equity and inclusivity is a “tough nut to crack” and at the end-of-the-day the powers that be do not really care about equity or inclusivity because it does not ultimately serve their financial gain.

“The only time you really see inclusivity or equity being put forward is when bigger groups start to be scared of the backlash,” said Silvers. “If it doesn't serve their bottom line, they have no interest.” 

Silvers added that, within the city, there is a monopoly on everything related to nightlife and live music, and that the decisions coming from the top are almost all made by the same kind of people. “ [It’s a very] cis-gendered, white, heterosexual male’s experience and point of view,”  Silvers said. 

Annahstasia latest EP Revival was released last april of this year. Tuza Dulcinée

“It’s sad that, in these modern times, we still have to think about equity so much and repeat the same things over and over again,” said interdisciplinary artist G L O W Z I, who has worked with FEMINAE NOX in the past. G L O W Z I was the live showcase host for the evening and presented the organization and its mission as well as the two performing artists. 

“I feel like the work of FEMINAE NOX, although fairly new, is the continuation of something other older organizations started years ago. [...] It feels like organizations like us and others have been having to discuss equity a lot,” G L O W Z I said.

When discussing the music industry in general and its numerous flaws, Silvers said that due to the ways in which things are done, the artists often get the shorter end of the stick. 

“When you look at where the money is actually going, you realize that a lot of artists are missing out on their money and someone else is getting rich off of them,” said Silvers. FEMINAE NOX’s work and that of other organizations with similar missions become that much more important. 

As Silvers and G L O W Z I spoke to The Link, the artists’ energies radiated pure love for art, without the unfortunate capitalistic expectation attached to artists. 

“I have been doing this [working in music] for ten-plus years—and G L O W Z I for how long now?” asked Silvers to the artist sitting across the table. 

“Since I was born,” said G L O W Z I with no hesitation. 

When the show began at 9:30 p.m., the room was empty,  but eventually it filled up progressively as the room was packed from the back to the front of the stage. 

The first artist who graced the night was M.I. BLUE and her band. An Eritrean artist from Toronto, they performed covers as well as original songs. They enveloped the room in the hypnotizing sound of their synthesizers, their bass and M.I.’s smooth vocals. Lights of cold blue and warm red set the mood.  

The second act, Annahstasia and her band who are originally from Los Angeles, took the room by surprise as soon as her first lyrics escaped her lips, revealing a powerful voice. The whole room went silent for a second as Annahstasia made the audience collectively hold its breath, almost as if not to bother the perfect harmony of her vocals. 

Moira, a spectator, attended the show to support  M.I. BLUE, an artist she had been following in the past. Although she arrived late, she was at least able to see the second act of Annahstasia, an artist she discovered on Friday night. “[Annahstasia] made me feel all the feelings. I almost felt like crying, in the best way,” Moira said. 

The night was filled with what could be described as soul-soothing music, and a standing ovation that lasted a couple of minutes echoed through the halls of the old theatre.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 3, published October 3, 2023.