In focus

Yao in Ottawa

I have developed an appreciation for words, their origins, and their influence on someone’s life. If I were given a single wish, it would be to speak all the languages that exist and have existed through time. Just because of the cultural wealth you could acquire.1 – Yao

Diversity and cross-pollination: these two words characterize Franco-Ontarian music as it emerges today. It mixes styles – from rock, blues and pop, to funk, rap and techno. It sings about everything, often lightly, but sometimes also seriously and critically. And it crosses cultures, benefiting from the talents of artists from elsewhere, who unpack their suitcases somewhere in Ontario.

Yao is one of these new figures on the Franco-Ontarian music scene. At the age of 13, after a childhood shared between Togo and the Ivory Coast, he arrives with his parents in Canada. In Ottawa, he trains in writing, theatre and musical arts at the École De La Salle. Yaovi Hoyi – also known as Yao – embodies Ottawa’s evolving Francophone culture, which is more than ever characterized by a variety of accents. He releases Generis in 2011, Perles et paraboles in 2013 and Lapsus at the end of 2016.

In love with words, Yao is also a slammer, slam being one of his preferred form of artistic expression. On November 26, 2016, he joins Caylah (Madagascar) and Joy (Belgium) on stage at the opening ceremony of the Sommet de la Francophonie in Madagascar. Critics describe his performance as “moving and inspired.”

1 Unis TV, Balade à Toronto, saison deux, Yao, Ottawa, Ont. [website] (translated from the original).