Photo: Norman Wong
Photo: Norman Wong

Meet the 2021 Juno Nominees: Emanuel

From now until the 2021 Juno Awards are presented on June 6, we will offer this weekly column to help you get to know some of the nominees in all categories a little better.

 Meet the 2021 Juno Nominees: Emanuel

Nominated in the category Traditional R&B/Soul Recording of the Year

Look at the life of any great R&B and Soul artist and it will almost always tell a story of struggle. It’s one of the music’s core elements, with its counterpoint being an unshakable faith in humanity. That’s especially true when it comes to Canadian artist Emanuel’s story, one that profoundly demonstrates music’s ability to heal.

As a child of survivors of the Ethiopian “Red Terror” genocide in the mid-1970s that killed literally countless numbers of people, Emanuel’s family somehow made it to Canada as refugees, settling in London, Ontario. While employed as an Environmental Service Worker at local hospitals, he began sharing his music, which eventually reached the ears of Kardinal Offishall, then Creative Executive Director at Universal Music Canada.

However, Kardinal wasn’t Emanuel’s only champion. Shortly after releasing his debut single Need You in March 2020, renowned actor Idris Elba reached out with an offer to make a video for the song using footage submitted by people from all over the world showing how they were coping with lockdown.

Needless to say, it all stoked massive anticipation for Emanuel’s now-Juno nominated EP Alt Therapy Session 1: Disillusion, released in June 2020, followed up last December with Alt Therapy Session 2: Transformation, at which point it was also announced that he was the first domestically signed Canadian artist to strike a joint U.S. deal with Motown Records, home to a lot of his father’s favourite music.

Emanuel’s whirlwind year is about to come full circle with the release of the Alt Therapy full-length album on June 16, with the new single Worldwide offering a preview. Yet, he seems to be taking everything in stride, projecting humility in the face of the problems we’re all dealing with.

“Receiving a Juno nomination means the world to me,” he says. “Believing in blessings and walking in that faith has led me to this point. It’s also proven to me that hard work and dedication to a craft pays off.”

Although Emanuel is hoping to perform live as soon as it’s safe to do so, he may have the distinction of being the first pandemic superstar, due to the intensely personal nature of his sound, which has resulted in millions of people forging relationships with him through their computer screens. It’s added extra meaning to his concept being Alt Therapy, which he truly believes can play a role in global healing when all is said and done.

“I would describe my music as an intimate conversation,” he says. “I’ve really been keen on connecting through the music and I’ve been working to make the visual experience also something to connect to. It’s been a blessing for me to be able to release music during this challenging time.”

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