Elsa Mirzaei

Elsa Mirzaei

Envision Management and Production & Founder of DIY Spring Festival

Founder of DIY Spring Festival, an underground music and art festival in Ottawa. Through her curation, Elsa highlights the work of Black, Indigenous and people of colour artists and aims to improve labour conditions for marginalized artists in the Canadian music industry.

Where are you based?

I live in Montreal, but I run my festival out of Ottawa where I grew up.

Where do you work? What do you do?

My day-job is spent working for Envision Management and Production in Montreal where I am an artist manager assistant and help our artist roster get grant funding for their creative endeavors. We work with Montreal artists like Kid Koala, The Dears and Hua Li

DIY Spring Festival, the festival I founded and produce, is really my volunteer gig which I started while I was still living in Ottawa. It is a festival featuring art and music by Black, Indigenous and people of colour artists, born out of the lack of representation of BIPOC on festival stages both in Ottawa and generally across Canada. We feature music from all genres, and house our stage inside an art installation. We also feature youth showcases, working alongside other amazing local organisations who are trying to change the future of the industry. This summer, we will be taking everything online for our fourth edition.

What are you listening to?

I’ve been enjoying the new Backxwash album “God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It”. I’ve also been listening to lots of Turkish, Iranian and Arabic dance music since spending some more time with my mom during the pandemic – artists like Sasy and ibrahim tatlises to name a couple.

How do you discover new music?

My favourite way to discover new music used to be by going to shows and DJ nights or in conversation with friends who are also always on the hunt for new stuff. Most recently, I’ve been learning about a lot of new artists from Insecure on HBO – they have playlists for each season of the show, featuring a lot of brand new hip hop, pop and neo soul. I’ve also been finding new artists through my friends who have been sharing what they’re listening to on Instagram or Twitter. Finally, I can always depend on my mom and cousin to keep me up to date with the music from Iran and Turkey.

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

I still have my cassette collection from my teen years but haven’t listened to anything on there in ages. Nowadays, I mostly stream things on Spotify or Bandcamp – Bandcamp has a new app that lets you stream your library on the go.

Where do you do most of your music listening?

Most of my listening happens outdoors, when I’m walking my dog or going for a run. It’s the perfect opportunity to fully pay attention to the music. Because of that, I do most of my listening through some run-of-the-mill Bluetooth headphones. They go through a lot of wear and tear so I’m not picky.

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

A lot of my friends in Montreal and Ottawa are excellent musicians, and many of them will send me their music before they release it.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

The reason I love digital music is because it doesn’t rely on storing music on my devices which are already overloaded with other things. My biggest qualm with Spotify, which is the platform I use the most, is that the amount that artists are making per stream is really not a lot. That’s why I will purchase albums I really like on Bandcamp, especially if it is a local artist.

My biggest qualm with Spotify, which is the platform I use the most, is that the amount that artists are making per stream is really not a lot.

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

Making playlists and writing down notes in my phone!

Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

Yes absolutely! I will promote new releases that I love over social media, or directly send them to people who I think would like them. If it is an emerging artist that catches my interest for the first time, I will tell other promoters and festival organisers about them.

Anything you want to “promote”?

I mentioned this earlier, but Backxwash’s new Polaris-nominated record, God Has Nothing To Do With This, Leave Him Out Of It. Backxwash is an Ottawa/Montreal-based rapper and producer who is making what a lot of people are calling “Witch Hop” and is in my opinion one of the best rappers to come out of Montreal. 

Another awesome experimental hip hop artist people should know about is Debby Friday. Based out of Vancouver, she put out Death Drive last year on LA label Deathbomb Arc.

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