Rowe founded Honey Jam in 1995, after recognizing the need for exposure, support and promotion for female-identifying artists in Canada. Today, the non-profit mentorship organization is credited with launching the careers of Nelly Furtado, Jully Black and Melanie Fiona, among many more Canadian stars.
“I was very stubborn, I wasn’t going to throw away the year,” Rowe says, as she explains her determination to not take the concert and celebrations online. “Nothing will ever take the place of live music, besides: I don’t want to be reminded we’re in this horrible situation.”
A lot of people told her to just throw away 2020, which made her think, “Where’s your passion and drive and creativity and imagination?” She describes the organization and mentorship program as her baby, and says she cried everyday at the thought she would not be able to give it the 25th birthday it deserved. With restrictions being lifted in Ontario for staffed businesses, Rowe was able to secure the El Mocambo in Toronto for a concert that hosted 50 people and was live streamed for those not in attendance. The concert featured women in music doing cover songs by other iconic female artists. It’s a celebration of a lineage worth fighting for.
Honey Jam has become known as a right of passage in Canada for female-identifying musicians and a celebration of what it means to be an artist. JUNO Award-winning artist, Serena Ryder led a talk ahead of the 25th anniversary celebration. She called it, “the most inspiring time I’ve had all year.” Ryder, who released her debut album in 2005, ten years after Honey Jam began, says, “I was blown away by what Ebonnie has created!” Thinking back to when she was coming up in the industry, Ryder says promoters didn’t even want to put two women on the same bill because they didn’t think it would sell. Little did they know what Rowe always believed: it’s the women leading the way.
Speaking to Rowe, you can hear the passion in her voice. It’s a passion driven by the desire to not only uplift Canadian female artists, but to give them a platform and present opportunities that can help jumpstart their careers. It’s not about an artist with a hot single. It’s about a musician she believes that can stand the test of time. Meanwhile, the year started off with a bang for Rowe—she surprised a young musician named BLUE WILL with a trip to the Grammys.
BLUE WILL, a 2017 Honey Jam alumni, got to attend Grammy Week and the Grammy Awards Ceremony in January this year. Rowe describes her as someone who is extremely dedicated to giving back to young artists, from mentoring to volunteering at events and everything in between. Rowe was extremely excited to reward BLUE WILL for her contribution to the development of her peers. It’s about women raising up other women, and it’s been working since Nelly Furtado first took her stage (Furtado, her most famous alumni, even gives Rowe a shout-out on her debut album, Woah Nelly!, crooning, “I’ll always remember the Honey Jam”).
Rowe says that her last 25 years feel like a dream, and she laughs as she admits when she hears people talk about Honey Jam, she thinks to herself: “Wow! It would be great to meet the person who started that!”
Her hard work and perseverance have not gone unnoticed, with alumni and female artists all across the country praising the initiative. Nigerian-Canadian artist Flana says in a press release, “Honey Jam is one of those things that, if you can get there, you know you’re moving forward.”
When it comes to moving forward for Rowe, she says she’d like to see more female-identifying artists like Tracy Chapman. “I’d like to see more female artists not having to fit into a certain box, not having to be all glossy and shiny,” she says. By continuing to do what she does, but better, Rowe is committed to providing more opportunities for young musicians to travel and perfect their craft. She is dedicated to amplifying and elevating what Honey Jam has already achieved and is tirelessly committed to giving a stage to deserving women across the country.
“Honey Jam has been an essential and instrumental platform for the development and encouragement of female talent in Canada,” wrote Grammy award-winning musician and Honey Jam alumni Melanie Fiona, in an email to kind. “As alumni, I am grateful to have been able to share my experiences and expertise with the aspiring talent of the Honey Jam family in the past. Cheers to 25 more years!”