This is what it was like growing up with no Black community in Vancouver

Feb 23 2022, 6:22 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Vancouverite DJ/producer Kardano (David Delgiglio)

As Black History Month comes to an end, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what it was like growing up Black in Vancouver and how that experience influenced my life.

Even though I am a Jamaican-Italian mix, I still always felt like the token Black kid in school. I grew up in North Vancouver with virtually no Black community, which made things interesting as a kid. No one really looked like me, which I felt okay with, but when I changed schools, I would hear people whisper, “Who’s the new Black kid?”

Then I met an African immigrant named Sulomon at Argyle Secondary. Hey, another Black kid! Of course we became best friends. But even then, I still felt like a bit of an outsider and was never really comfortable fitting into a single box.

Music was one way for me to put all that aside and discover who I was. My father introduced me to Jimi Hendrix when I was ten, driving around listening to music in his hot rod. My uncle built me a guitar not long after, and I was sure that I would follow in Jimi’s footsteps.

For me, music was a bridge. I was just a kid, but I would jam with anyone. I’m also dyslexic, so the ability to communicate musically was a liberation from that weight.

As a young teenager, I played guitar in some rock bands during my summer vacations. Some kids would ask me why I wasn’t listening to rap or wearing Wu-Tang swag. How could I be Black and not be into rap music?

I did try it out. Still in my teens, I started a rap trio with my friends Darien (also mixed like me) and Darius (Black, from Cincinnati). We had fun playing some clubs in Vancouver. But it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to collaborate, not compete.

Around this same time, my older brother Daniel had been DJing but was moving on to a career. He handed me down his gear, and I picked up where he left off.

I DJ’d on cruise ships for a year and a half and at several clubs around Vancouver. And even in these environments, I’m sometimes subject to false assumptions. I’ve been asked why I don’t play hip hop music, specifically. I’ve been fired from a gig because the booker assumed I was going to spin hip-hop but didn’t. I’ve even been told by other Black folks that I play white music.

According to a 2016 census, Black Canadians make up only 1.2% of the population of Metro Vancouver. Representation matters. And diversity matters within representation.

My favourite genres of music are house, techno, and disco. These genres are how I express myself musically. Is this white music? Each of these is deeply rooted in Black culture on this continent — house from Chicago, techno from Detroit, and disco from Philadelphia and New York City. These genres were urban before “Urban” was ever used to identify a demographic.

My love for this music comes from the love in this music. It’s all about positive vibes. Collaboration, not competition.

Growing up, my “community” was my family. My Jamaican mother taught me a thing or two about processing racism. My Italian father brought Jimi Hendrix into my life. My uncle built me my first instrument. And my brother gave me a vehicle to embark on the current path of my journey.

Now that restrictions are starting to be lifted, I’m really excited about everyone getting together again and I hope the support for BIPOC artists continues and remains strong. I’m very eager to get myself out there to share my music with everyone this year. It’s been a long time since I’ve played in any night club.

I am really hoping that other artists like myself read this and feel like connecting. It’s all about creating a community of dance music lovers, and I am so ready to play, produce and collaborate. If anyone is looking for a DJ with a fresh new sound, please reach out! Just don’t ask me to play hip hop.

See you on the dance floor, Vancouver!

Kardano releases his first full-length album, Art of Tones, on Play Records in May 2022, featuring vocalists Billy Newton-Davis, Dtaborah, Tyra Jutai, Marcus Carey, Korr, Pinkee Skylark, and Melleefresh. Hear Kardano at @kardanomusic

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