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The rise of the Canadian R&B duo

Amanda Parris
Listen to Marvin's Room, Nov 3rd 2017

Marvin's Room with Amanda Parris on CBC Radio


The era of R&B groups dominating the charts has come and gone — today’s music industry is largely dominated by solo acts. But in the midst of the independent superstar, Canada has been quietly producing a number of innovative duos who are staking claim on the R&B scene. Quite often, these duos are made up of one talented vocalist and an innovative producer, the two merging their talents to create sounds that draw from a variety of genres, steadily transforming our very understanding of R&B.

Here are five Canadian R&B duos that you should definitely keep your eye on.

Majid Jordan

Made up of singer Majid Al Maskati and producer Jordan Ullman, this duo initially met as students at the University of Toronto and began making music in dorm rooms and family basements. Since then they've been signed to Drake's OVO Sound, toured the world, released two studio albums and have become vanguards of the atmospheric, moody pop-R&B sound dominating the airwaves.


Toronto duo Bonjay recently released its first single in five years. Made up of vocalist Alanna Stuart (an associate producer for CBC's Sleepover with Sook-Yin Lee) and producer Ian Swain, it feels slightly inaccurate to classify Bonjay as an R&B duo because their sound borrows from a variety of genres including dancehall and pop, but their music always includes a heavy dose of soul.


Dvsn is a definite favourite here in Marvin’s Room. Comprised of singer Daniel Daley and producer nineteen85, the two have carved out their space in the grown-and-sexy R&B lane. They're experts at crafting the kind of musical intimacy that artists such as Maxwell and Marvin Gaye had down to a science.


Pierre Kwenders is a DJ and singer who dabbles in Congolese rumba, South African disco and '80s pop. Ngabonziza Kiroko is a singer from the electronic indie folk group Dear Denizen. Together, the two musicians from Montreal are ABAKOS, a duo immersed in Afro-electronic soul with rock influences.


It’s become a bit of a trend for artists to mysteriously put out music on the internet, with no background info on the musicians behind it, allowing the songs to speak for themselves. It’s a risky strategy, but R&B duo Rhye took that gamble and gained a small yet dedicated following. We now know that the duo is made up of Canadian singer Milosh and Danish instrumentalist Robin Hannibal, and that their music is inspired largely by Sade — not a bad choice at all.

Marvin's Room playlist for Nov. 3, 2017:

  1. Tony! Toni! Tone!, "Feels Good"
  2. Sounds of Blackness, "Optimistic"
  3. Bonjay, "Ingenue"
  4. dvsn, "P.O.V."
  5. Alicia Keys feat. Maxwell, "Fire We Make"
  6. Rick James and Teena Marie, "Fire and Desire"
  7. Sly & The Family Stone, "I Want to Take you Higher"
  8. Fredy V, "My Joy"
  9. Al Green, "I’m Still in Love With You"
  10. TiKA, "Debt"
  11. Adria Kain, "Alone"