Toronto is a city full of some of the most talented musicians in all of Canada. But, aside from Drake and the Weeknd, we tend to ignore the immense talent in the city.

But 199z Fest is aiming to change that.  

Taking place last Thursday at the Opera House, 199z Fest showcased some of the top artists in Toronto R&B.

With a stacked lineup and a short amount of time, each artist only had 10 minutes to show the audience what they were all about. They really proved what Toronto has up its sleeve.


Straight out of Leslieville, OHARA took the stage to show off his soulful, stripped down sound.


Jazzy Monika is a pop star in the making. With a beautiful voice and killer style, her and her backup dancers grooved together to her smooth R&B.


Mobi Mawla brought some serious energy to the stage, running back and forth and getting in the audience faces—pretty fitting for his equally lively rap music.


Jadyn came down from Ottawa to show Toronto his blend of hip hop and R&B, switching from rapping to singing throughout.


The room really started jamming when GNA—a Toronto girl, born and raised—took the stage. She brought a fun vibe and was great at getting the audience to match that hyped feeling.


Sha Hustle didn’t personally bring a lot of energy to the stage, but he didn’t have to. His entourage of hype boys were there to bring the party in support of their buddy. About 10 guys came on and off stage, jumping around to the beat. This liveliness was definitely transferred to the audience - one guy was dabbing so hard he looked like he was about to explode.


Toronto singer, lemin., came in with a chiller vibe after Sha Hustle’s set. Opening with her new single “My Body,” her indie, electro-pop sound filled the Opera House with a calming atmosphere.


DillanPonders was an experience. This guy knows how to hype up a crowd. Ponders is the definition of high-energy performance. He ran around stage, removing layers of clothes until he was shirtless, swinging his dreads around and getting down close to the audience. 


Langston Francis brought a very different mood to the fest. He served up a stripped down, acoustic performance of his usual hazy, electronic R&B. Francis may have been the youngest performer there—a mere 16 years old—but he had an old soul vibe about him.


Saya not only looked chic, but she was fiercely cool while performing her poppy, hip hop tunes. She owned the stage during her four-song set, walking around it like a catwalk.


Finally, Sean Leon took the stage and the audience was pumped—the room began to fill more as the night progressed in anticipation of his set.

Unfortunately for Leon, his mic continued to cut out during his performance. He grew visibly more frustrated by this and began to yell at the sound guys (although, his mic kept cutting out so who knows what he was saying). At one point, the guy who was high-speed dabbing throughout the night jumped on stage to dance around Leon. In his frustration, Leon told him “stay the fuck off of my stage, you hear me? Stay the fuck off!”

However, Leon was determined to push through and “still make it a party!” He got the room jamming and grabbed DillanPonders from the audience to join him onstage. He even grabbed the crazy dabber, clearly moving past his previous anger.

Technical issues aside, it did truly become a party as Leon intended. It ended up being the ultimate quintessential Toronto evening.


By Robyn Bell



Robyn Bell