Toronto Blues Society | » TBS Talent Search 2019

TBS Talent Search 2019




From left – Sandra Bouza, and Derek Andrews, President of the Toronto Blues Society.

After narrowing the field to six finalists who showcased on Saturday, June 29th, as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, and after careful deliberations, the jury selected Sandra Bouza as the champion, with Kalyna Rakel at first runner-up, and Avery Raquel as second runner-up. Sandra Bouza took home a jam-packed professional-development package including festival gigs, mentorship meetings, studio time, graphic design and much more. Huge congrats to all the bands!


This year the competition fever took place on Saturday, June 29 between 4-8pm at the OLG Stage on Hazelton Ave & Scollard St in Village of Yorkville as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. The event was free and open to public.

🎶 Schedule
4:00pm – Emily Gilbart
4:40pm – Hanorah
5:20pm – Kalyna Rakel
6:00pm – Zaynab Wilson
6:40pm – Sandra Bouza
7:20pm – Avery Raquel
8:00pm – Results

Click for the Facebook event page.

Avery Raquel | Brantford, ON

Canadian, singer/songwriter, and recording artist Avery Raquel, started in the entertainment industry at a very young age. Performing while continuing to write exciting songs, Avery is poised to be the breakout artist she is destined to become. As a performer, Avery has taken the stage across North America, including at some famed New York City clubs like Birdland Jazz club, Metropolitan Room and Don’t Tell Mama Cabaret, as well as top Canadian venues like Koerner Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, The Jazz Bistro, Lula Lounge, Hugh’s Room, and many more. Avery Raquel has also garnered numerous vocal awards over the years, and has excelled on the festival circuit too, delivering winning performances across North America.

Emily Gilbart | Mono, ON

Emily Gilbart is a singer/songwriter influenced by many different genres – a folk-fusion of storytelling combined with acoustic guitar and bluesy undertones. She recently released her first EP entitled Long Gone, a collection of 5 original songs and is busy working on a follow-up EP. A believer in the healing power of music to connect diverse groups of people, she hopes to inspire others to shine and become their most authentic selves. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Community Music and plans to become a licensed music therapist while continuing her love of live performance.

Hanorah | Montréal, QC

Photo by GRL Photographie

Hanorah grew up to the sound of the classic rock and soul music her parents were fond of. Early on, she developed a passion for powerful vocalists, such as Etta James, Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone. Following a sexual assault in 2012, she plunged into a state of deep distress. After seeking psychological help and reading testimonies of other survivors, she decided to dive head first into songwriting. Her chance meeting with guitarist Paul De Rita marked a creative turning point. After reaching quarterfinals on Season 5 of hit Quebec reality show La Voix, Hanorah signed with Dare to Care Records. In 2019, the young artist toured nationally as an opening act for Coeur de Pirate; won the FEQ (Festival d’Été de Québec) contest and grant; and has secured slots at Ottawa Bluesfest, POP Montreal (with Mavis Staples), International Jazz Fest of Montreal, and more. Her full-length album is coming soon.

Kalyna Rakel | Toronto, ON

Kalyna Rakel has always done things her own way. After early success at 16 with a video on Much Music, she walked away from a pop record deal in Europe to teach herself guitar and play music on the street. Since then she has recorded four independent albums and played her songs for thousands of people all around the world. Her songs come straight from the heart, sung with a voice that has been described as Amy Winehouse meets Janis Joplin. With her tour van, Daisy, and Handsome, her steel resonator guitar, the stories in her songs evoke the raw sound of the travelling blues. Whether she is playing for tips on the street or on a festival main stage, Kalyna delivers her songs with an honesty that can move a crowd to tears. As her following continues to grow, she remains true to her music and grateful for the opportunity to share her stories.

Sandra Bouza | Toronto, ON

R&B/blues singer Sandra Bouza has a lot to offer through her music and life experience. On her introductory EP, Three Years, produced by Hill Kourkoutis (Jules, SATE, Eh440), the Toronto native who has lived, studied or worked all over the world, lets her stories breathe in songs that are deeply personal. After performing professionally in Canada for almost a decade, Sandra got a referral to go to Morocco to play music. It was supposed to be for six weeks, but it became three years, playing rock, jazz, blues, and top 40. However, as much as she loved playing other people’s songs, Sandra felt she was hiding behind that. She had been a prolific songwriter since her 20s. So she returned to Toronto, met with Toronto based producer; Hill Kourkoutis, who helped her with her newly released EP “Three Years”. The two are working on a full-length album that will be released in the fall of 2019.

Zaynab Wilson | Toronto, ON

A Montréal-born Trinidadian-Canadian, Zaynab comes to the music scene with a wealth of cultural and musical diversity. Her recent Live EP (2018), is the debut to her career as a fronting singer-songwriter where she draws musical and rhythmic inspiration from her Caribbean roots and merges with folk, her heart and soul. Her voice is sweet, unaffected and naturally blended, and carries a strong sense of rhythm.



Each year, the Toronto Blues Society searches its undiscovered blues talent from across the region. Six finalists are selected to perform for a professional development package including festival gigs, mentorship meetings, studio time, graphic design and much more!

This year the competition fever took place on Saturday, June 29 between 4-8pm at the OLG Stage on Hazelton Ave & Scollard St in Village of Yorkville as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. The event was free and open to public.


1995 – Maureen Brown and Big Hand
1996 – Robin Banks
1997 – Rockin’ Highliners
1998 – Jake & the Blue Midnights
1999 – Ronnie Douglas Blues Band
2000 – Scotty Doubt Band
2001 – Big Mark & the Blues Express
2002 – David Rotundo and the Blue Canadians
2003 – Dylan Wickens Band
2004 – Bharath & the Catfish
2005 – Wickens/Knight
2006 – The Undesirables
2007 – Douglas Watson R&B Revue
2009 – catl.
2010 – The 24th Street Wailers
2011 – Bradleyboy Mac Arthur
2012 – Irene Torres & The Sugar Devils
2013 – Sugar Brown
2014 – The Conor Gains Band
2015 – Michael Schatte
2016Spencer MacKenzie
2017Dan McKinnon
2018 – Bywater Blues



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The Toronto Blues Society acknowledges the annual support of the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and project support from FACTOR< and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada’s Private Broadcasters, The Canada Council for the Arts, the SOCAN Foundation, SOCAN, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.