A quick discussion with Toronto-based pop/R&B group rIVerse
Today on What On What’s Good with Host Jovin Tardif, I am here with Toronto-based pop/R&B group rIVerse. In our current social climate, it is increasingly important to hear the stories of the LGBTQ community, people of color, body-positive movements, and many other marginalized communities. There is a great need to normalize diversity in the mainstream. The goal of rIVerse (Dizz, Khadija, Zak, Monroe) is to use their music to share their unique stories with listeners, to bring much-needed representation and self-love to the mainstream media. In our interview, we discussed how they met, their musical and dance backgrounds, messaging in their music, their new album, and much more.
1. How did rIVerse meet? (Dizz, Khadija, Zak, Monroe)
The four members of rIVerse met over a decade ago. We were cast members of a live stage production of Disney’s High School Musical 2. We did two runs of the successful production. In the following years, Dizz invited each member to be part of the musical group. The rest is history!
2. I am hoping every member can discuss their musical and/or dance background.
Dizz, is the visionary behind rIVerse. As a young child, he grew up listening to 80s & 90s r&b music with his mom. At 8-years-old, he wrote his first song and, that same year did his first dance performance at his church. He put together his first musical group at 14. Diz has been part of or involved in the formation of over 20 different groups. In that process, he’s also worked very closely with Luther Brown (Choreographer).
Professionally, he found himself at an audition for Juno award-winning R&B singer Keshia Chante. Completely by chance one day, booked the gig and spent the next 6 years as her background dancer, performing on tour and in videos, as well as getting an inside look at the music industry from the recording studio to label meetings to media interviews and everything else. All of those experiences have played a part in the creation of rIVerse and getting us to the point we have reached today.
Khadija grew up surrounded by music. Her parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. are musicians, singers, dancers, DJs, and otherwise involved in the arts. She started dancing as part of a Caribbean dance troupe run by her mother when she was a small child, with her first dance performance being for her uncles’ band at 5-years-old.
She studied dance & piano and was also involved in choirs and other singing opportunities all the way through high school. As a student at York University, she left the Fine Arts Cultural Studies program to pursue a full-time career as a professional dancer.
At that time, Dizz invited her to become part of the cast of the High School Musical 2 production (which he was choreographing), and immediately following that production, he asked her to start working with him on his music projects. The two band members have been working together ever since.
Zak is the most classically trained instrumentalist of the group, studying piano and flute in school… until a biased teacher told him “flutes are for girls” and forced a trumpet into his hands instead! He also has taught himself to play the guitar.
Vocally, he was self-taught, singing Disney tunes at home and then gradually moving on to more funk & So-Cal rock groups like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus & Sublime. His dance training did not begin until the stage production of High School Musical 2, learning choreography from Dizz.
Throughout the years in rIVerse, he has trained and developed the most in dance from Dizz and Khadija.
Monroe started training in ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, and modern dance at the age of 3-years-old. She continued her dance training until high school when she got into musical theatre. Before that point, she had always sung alone in her room but was too shy to let anyone hear her. In high school, she finally revealed to others her powerhouse vocals!
She landed several lead roles in her school productions and also decided to audition for agencies at that time. Through that, she got booked for small roles in tv shows, commercials and theatre productions, which was what led her to the High School Musical 2 production. After doing that show, she continued to train at The Randolph College for the Performing Arts until she eventually left school to focus full-time on her career with rIVerse.
3. What can you tell us about your new single? Any fun stories you can tell us about the new song and/or music video?
We are very excited about this project. It is the same positive feeling and r&b-style vocals we are known for, but a more mature and elevated sound. It is fun for us to take more risks with the production, lyrical content, and visuals to showcase more of who we are and what we stand for. We have been working on this album since 2018 and were ready to finally release it in 2020 until, right before it was completed, the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt.
The combination of COVID-19 and the current social climate with the Black Lives Matter movement led us to release our single, ‘Stand Up’ which is a call-to-action declaration encouraging people to stand up against police brutality, racial discrimination and injustice against black men, women, and children in this world.
We felt the message of this song was more important than a perfect album release so we organized a safe, socially-distanced video shoot and created a strong music video to do our part for this movement. Moving forward, we will continue to release and promote individual singles until we are able & ready to finally get the full album completed.
4. Do you have a particular message that you are conveying to the world and your fans?
Our mission is to Represent the Underrepresented. The message we try to tell the world with everything we create is that all people – no matter your race, gender, age, size, sexual orientation, socio-economic status – are worthy of happiness, success, fulfillment and seeing your dreams come true.
We want to encourage self-love and belief in your own abilities, so that if/when others tell you that you are not good enough or you don’t fit into society’s picture of “the ideal type,” you can remember how to look inside and find the magic within to keep moving forward towards your goals.
If our example of being “the underrepresented” who have worked to make our dreams come true can encourage others to do the same, we have done our jobs!
5. Just for fun. Tell us something unique that your fans may not know about you.
“Three things outside of my career that make me very happy are Xena: Warrior Princess, S Club 7, and Power Rangers! To this day, I will regularly watch episodes of those shows or music videos & live performances of S Club 7, especially if I’m feeling a bit down. They automatically give me my entire life!” – Dizz
“Complete word nerd! I used to read up to 20 books a week as a kid, I am fascinated by linguistics (the study of language) and etymology (origin of words), I love doing word puzzles, and a cheesy word pun is always my favourite type of joke!” – Khadija
“Graduate of B.Comm, Rotman Commerce at the University of Toronto and am a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). I also speak English, French, and Arabic and my first spoken language as a child was Tagalog.” – Zak
“I can keep one eye closed (without affecting the rest of my face) like a porcelain doll and I call any cute thing I see ‘a meow.’” – Monroe
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