As the modern era of dance music dawned in the mid 90s, a teenaged Esette (AKA Isis Graham) glued herself to MuchMusic’s Electric Circus and absorbed every beat of the house music boom. Every instant moved her to the core of her being: the rainbow of lights, the writhing bodies, the headphoned maestros on the decks. And most of all, that beat. That relentless roll and cycle of kick and snare, hat and keys, bass and vocal, elevating her soul and moving her body in her bedroom all alone.
That same teenaged Esette still lives on in the body and mind of one of Calgary’s stalwart hubs of community and music. If she ever reflects on that first tentative moment gracing the decks in a warehouse in 1999, does she feel the circle closing? Does she know that the local scene ringleaders she looked up to then, pulling together musicians and artists to create communal spaces of communication and expression, are now her?
Music is one thing, and community another, but for Ms. Graham the two are mutually and irrevocably linked. As an ardent believer that progress for one means progress for all, Isis spends as much time tweaking EQs as she spends meeting, collaborating and planning with her musical peers. Ten years of promoting women in dance music as one engine behind Girls On Decks are already behind her (with another lifetimes worth of years ahead), residencies and relationships from gay bars to raves notch her belt, and a current residency at Habitat Living Sound includes not only a monthly night of soulful, techy, deep house, Nu*Movement, but a groundbreaking collaborative music production and networking effort called Studio Social.
At the root of it all is the music. The hypnotic, spiritual, relentless music. After collaborating with Western Canadian mainstay Neighbour in 2008, the releases have been coming fast and furious, and only barreling faster as she takes up a leading A/R spot at recently revived Calgary label Substation Recordings. Her sounds are widely strewn across the spectrum of house and independent music – techno and bass are as likely as intimate songwriting fare, and her samples and vibes range from the funky to the deep and back again. The music that drives Isis feeds her soul, and vice versa, and that interplay of perpetual motion will keep this dynamic woman a key piece of Western Canada’s musical puzzle for as many years as she can muster.