Alpha Toshineza doesn’t just hear sounds, he sees them. It’s that visual type of creativity that makes his new LP, Jazz Inuit, such a vibrant listen. Mixing soul, pop rock and jazz with thoughtful rhymes, this Luxembourg transplant is taking his worldly yet distinctly Winnipeg sounds to Old Market Square on August 9 as part of the MB Live @ The Cube lunchtime concert series, co-presented by Manitoba Music and the Exchange District BIZ.
“As an artist, especially today, you have to think about image, but to me it goes beyond the marketing aspect of it,” Toshineza says. “I would always write music to images. I see music and I hear images, I hear pictures.”
Aside from music, Toshineza gets creative as a graphic designer, and it’s a combination of all of these tools that led him to create the music video for “Tout Pour La Musik”, a performance clip shot on the streets of Winnipeg, laced in a VHS filter with rapid-fire editing.
“As an artist you need to work low budget sometimes, you don’t know how to get all the finances to make it happen quickly,” he says. “Initially I wanted to do it with my iPhone and have it be a very random video, but then I decided to have a friend of mine with a camera film it with good quality, and then after that do the post-production into VHS. It fits with the song, and it came out better than I thought it would.”
It’s that modest charm that has helped him to make friends since landing in Winnipeg in 2014. After meeting singer/songwriter/producer Elessar Thiessen at a Canada Day party just days after emigrating to Winnipeg, the two fast friends made plans to head into the studio. A few years later, Jazz Inuit, hit the streets filled with collaborations from Sapphire Empire’s Selci, Bubba B The MC, Kelly Bado and more. Toshineza says the pairings came together due to networking connections from Manitoba Music Francophone Development Coordinator Joel Couture, as well as attending shows with an outgoing attitude.
The collaboration and ideas on Jazz Inuit took their time coming to fruition though, as Toshineza had very specific ideas for each tune.
“I’m a frustrated musician, which means I listen to a lot of music and I know exactly how my ideas sound to me,” he says. “I would do demos, sometimes just playing around with Garageband. Once I’m done with my demos and my ideas, I go to a producer, in this case somebody like Elessar, and then go to the musical part where the producer starts to use the instruments. I’m more an artistic director somehow. I have the idea, then I need the musicians and the technicians to translate it into music.”
While Toshineza normally performs over a musical backing track, he says his show at The Cube will mark the premiere of his live band, promising it will be a “special thing”.
While he’s collected a cast of new friends since moving here, Toshineza says he had no prior connections to Winnipeg before a visit in 2013.
“As a French speaker I got hooked with the francophone community and decided to emigrate in 2014,” he says. “I had no family (in Winnipeg) at all, I was just attracted by the place, by the music scene, the art scene, that really caught my attention. That was why I chose to move to Winnipeg instead of a bigger city. It was my first choice and I don’t regret it.”