“One of Toronto’s most incendiary groove machines, [TUSH surfaced] from the city’s fertile warehouse scene where Kamilah Apong and Jamie Kidd ignite dance floors with their transcendent live show –– a celebration indebted to the glory days of early disco that cleverly [avoids] pastiche thanks to the troupe’s sheer talent.” (Exclaim!)
In 2017, musician Apong responded to a Craigslist ad, ending up in seven-piece ‘70s live disco band Mainline with production guru and bassist Kidd. They later rebranded as TUSH, with Apong and Kidd at the helm. The pair dove into songwriting and live band curation to release ‘do you feel excited?’ in 2018. “A big part of that was to make [the music] more reflective [of] the origins of disco and house. How mixed it was, how Black it was, how queer it was,” says Apong. The record charted at No. 3 in electronic music across national campus radio, with the album’s cover of ‘Southern Freeez’ making German collective Jazzanova's top ten. This success was chased by two remixes of ‘Oh My’ by underground house icon Osunlade, which saw the charts of luminary DJs such as Danny Krivit, and was followed by with singles ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ (2019) and ‘Leh We Guh’ (2020).
Since their vintage disco days, the sound has evolved as they adopt other styles that are part of its lineage, including ‘90s house, electro-funk and more contemporary underground flavours. But the notion of community has remained steady in the music and is reflected in the shows they play. To that end, Apong founded local youth arts platform LIL SIS (lilsis.ca) to better the industry for emerging, underserved artists, while Kidd co-founded international production group Box of Kittens to offer inclusive electronic music events in Toronto and Berlin. The two strive to honour the various icons and women-led, queer and Black communities that planted the communal seeds of dance music in all they do.
Their debut album Fantast dropped this year on Do Right!, prompting collaborations with legendary producer Matthew Herbert, who remixed ‘Don’t Be Afraid.’ The record hit No. 2 on national campus radio, garnering spins from pop culture icons like George Strombolopolous before making waves in the UK via BBC Manchester Radio.
In their short career they’ve graced many stages including PRIDE, Toronto International Film Festival and Toronto Jazz Festival. Described as “creating some of the most inventive dance music coming out of Canada,” (Biff Bam Pop), their live shows reflect this with “emotional highs that dissolve the barrier between audience and performer” (NOW Toronto) and push the boundaries for how dance music is created, heard and experienced. With more grit than glam, TUSH’s sound embodies the rawness, vulnerability, and intimacy of the dancefloor.
Photo by Darnell Reddick & Joshua Rille