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Searchlight 2019: meet our judges

Grant Lawrence

Searchlight is CBC Music's annual hunt for Canada's best undiscovered Juno-ready talent, and so far throughout this year's competition, you've had plenty of say through your voting as to which artists will move forward in the competition.

All that changes when our celebrity judges take over, as soon as our top 10 national finalists are announced on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.

Until then, you can still vote for your favourite artists to make that coveted top 10. Votes will be accepted up until 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The judges will decide which artist will win Searchlight 2019, and that decision will be announced on Thursday, March 7.

While you vote, let's meet our 2018 Searchlight judges.

Zaki Ibrahim

Zaki Ibrahim is a Juno Award- and Polaris Prize-nominated artist, who considers herself a citizen of the world, having lived at different times in Canada, South Africa, the U.K., France and Lebanon (she was born in Nanaimo, B.C.) It was when this incredible live artist moved to Toronto in the mid-2000s that she built her name, launched a record label and found success in the music business. Ibrahim’s music brings elements of spoken word, hip hop, soul, house and '70s pop together, filtered through lenses of personal, historical and scientific views. Her latest album was 2018's The Secret Life of Planets.

Allan Reid

Allan Reid is the president and CEO of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), the Juno Awards, MusiCounts and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. In 2016, Reid's dedication to artist development was the driving force behind the creation and success of the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class, in which the 2019 Searchlight winner will participate. Reid spent 25 years of his career at major and independent labels in Canada as the head of artists and repertoire (A&R), and was instrumental in the careers of many of today’s top Canadian artists' careers, including Jann Arden, Sam Roberts Band, Sarah Harmer and the Tragically Hip.

Vanessa Adora

Vanessa Adora will be one of five judges deciding the winner of Searchlight 2019.

Vanessa Adora is an expertise in music streaming, marketing and digital strategy at Warner Music, working closely with Spotify Canada. Prior to working at Warner Music, Adora was a freelance public relations manager for Toronto musicians. She also taught piano lessons at the Regent Park School of Music. With a bachelor of music from the University of Western Ontario, she is passionate about accessible arts programs for adolescents, and discovering new talent.

Jess Knights

Jess Knights from the National Music Centre in Calgary will be one of the judges deciding the winner of Searchlight 2019.

Jess Knights is the manager of education and public programs at the National Music Centre in Calgary, where the Searchlight 2019 winner will spend five days recording. Knights also sits on the board of Canada’s Music Incubator, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing business skills for emerging musicians. Knights is also a classically trained singer-songwriter hailing from Calgary. After years of operatic vocal training and competing, Knights made a name for herself belting out the blues in the rough-hewn dive bars of her hometown. Her critically acclaimed debut album, Won’t Wait, was released in 2018, straddling her love of the renegade worlds of blues, alt-country and soul.

Kai Black

Kai Black is a 2019 Searchlight judge.

Kai Black joined CBC Music a decade ago after a successful run as a producer on CBC Radio One's Go with Brent Bambury, and the music trivia game show Grooveshinny. In 2008, Black helped transition CBC Music from a classical network, to a multi-genre one. Black's accolades include a Canadian Screen Award, a New York Radio Award and the Robert Pearson Guiding Star Award for his work mentoring people with disabilities.

Thank you to all five judges for making what will likely be a very difficult decision as to who wins Searchlight 2019.


First round Searchlight standouts

Searchlight 2019: the prizes

Searchlight 2019: check out the top 100 and vote for our top 10

Searchlight 2019: key dates

Searchlight 2019 sponsors.