The neo-soul singer-songwriter was born in Toronto to Jamaican parents just 25 years ago, in a house soundtracked by “the two Bobs”—that is, Marley and Dylan—as well as Johann Sebastian (as in, Bach) and Wolfgang Amadeus (aka Mozart). The latter two were Grant’s own additions, a product of the piano and cello lessons she began taking at the age of nine. These classical influences would infuse her Caribbean household with a formal flourish, but it was the Bobs’ sounds that really stuck.
“These were artists that were able to turn events that were going on, and their lived experiences, into song,” she says. Through the Bobs, the political turmoil of her parents’ 1970s Jamaica and the youth-driven unease of Woodstock-era America became universally human and true. Expressed through the language of music, experiences she had not experienced for herself made sense.
Weaving powerful storytelling from elements of her life’s narrative is exactly what Domanique Grant seeks to do herself. And, as it happens, her own story is one that breaks convention. Raised in the Atkinson Housing Co-op, Grant became actively involved in her housing community’s governance as a young teen. By the age of 21, she was the co-op’s youngest-ever president, and the youngest board member of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto (CHFT). A year later she would be the youngest president in CHFT history, representing 45,000 co-op residents across the city.
It’s unsurprising, then, that the young artist is so preoccupied by the idea of home—of grounding influences, and finding a place to belong. “What is home and how does that link to all the experiences and things we go through?” she asks. “In Canada, there are so many different sounds and influences from around the world.”
Shortly after beginning her musical training, at just around the same time she became engrossed in the world of housing advocacy, Grant discovered the theatre. Tapping into youth-geared community programs through theatre companies like CanStage and Theatre Passe Muraille led to performance opportunities. By age 14, Grant was already a seasoned performer.
“As a musician, everything that I’ve learned from theatre has been integrated into my performances,” she says. As a songwriter, she hopes to incorporate the lessons she’s gathered from her community through the storytelling skills she developed as an actor.
The skills keep coming. In September 2014, Grant was awarded a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to help with finance the technical production, musicianship, and business development necessary to produce her debut EP. This Access and Career Development grant, which is currently accepting applications, is offered to aboriginal arts professionals and arts professionals (including artists, arts administrators, community animators, curators, programmers, technicians, and arts educators) of colour at any stage in their career and of any discipline.
According to Bushra Junaid, Outreach and Development Manager for the Ontario Arts Council, each application is carefully reviewed in the context of OAC’s Strategic Plan, the program criteria, the range of applications within the program deadline and the program budget. Projects are assessed based on artistic merit, impact and viability as described in the program guidelines.
“Each application will compete with other proposals and be will scored by how well they score in terms of artistic merit, impact and viability,” Junaid says.
For Grant, the funding has been an immeasurable help in getting her to where she wants to be as both an artist and a professional. “When people ask me what I love about Canada, it’s the access we have to all these different kinds of funding,” she says. “The OAC grant has been a huge game-changer in terms of access.”