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Doc recounts historical past of Toronto retailer Play De Report

Within the Nineties, the Yonge Road strip between Gould and Elm was Report Retailer Central.

There have been the 2 multi-storey retailers that everybody knew about — Sam the Report Man and A&A — that sat virtually subsequent door to one another, whereas Cheapies and Dawn Data have been positioned inside spitting distance throughout the road. In case you needed the most recent widespread hits from the main document labels, they have been the locations to go.

However in case you have been a membership or radio DJ tastemaker with a hankering for one thing past the mainstream, there was just one vacation spot to get the most recent in hip hop, drum and bass, home, techno, funk, Latin, digital, jazz, soul and different underground dance music choices: Play De Report at 357A Yonge St.

Eugene Tam, the Trinidad-born store proprietor who established the enterprise in 1990, took nice pains to make sure that when it got here to acquiring the most recent in dance music, Play De Report was the de facto floor zero for vinyl lovers, catering to — and finally usurping — a crowd being serviced on the time by document retailers Starsound and Carnival.

“We had the stuff no one else had,” stated Tam within the new two-hour documentary “Drop the Needle,” which premieres at a sold-out screening Saturday on the Sizzling Docs Cinema, with a second screening Nov. 6.

Helmed by first-time director Rob Freeman and conceived by freelance sportswriter Neil Acharya, the movie gives a captivating have a look at the evolution of the underground city music scene that was all however ignored by the vanilla Canadian music trade, and Tam’s function as a catalyst in its growth by Play De Report.

Working out of the again of a comfort retailer subsequent to the infamous Zanzibar Tavern, Tam first stocked primarily calypso, soca and reggae data till an area DJ, Jason “Deko” Steele, hooked him up with a Montreal connection and satisfied him to hold extra darkish titles.

Tam rapidly recruited different DJs who specialised in particular niches to work within the retailer — Jason Palma, Peter Primiani, Aki Abe and Shams Tharani — and phrase unfold rapidly amongst the underground music neighborhood to the purpose that influential turntablists and broadcasters starting from CFNY hosts Chris Sheppard and “Lethal” Hedley Jones, Paul “Mastermind” Parhar and future DJ-turned-comedian Russell Peters would collect each Thursday for the most recent vinyl gems.

The mindset was pleasant however aggressive, stated David “Click on” Cox, who had music shipped from Play De Report to his College of Edmonton radio present earlier than he relocated to Toronto in 1994.

“It is a part of the tradition, particularly hip hop: I at all times needed to play contemporary, new music that no one had ever heard. I needed to be the man they heard it from, me first.”

To put the period in context, there have been just about no Toronto radio shops supporting hip hop, save for Ron Nelson’s “Implausible Voyage” present heard on CKLN from 1983 to 1991. Mainstream various radio outlet CFNY finally gave Saturday nights to the dance crowd with reside broadcasts with Sheppard and MuchMusic chimed in with a pair of reveals, “RapCity” and “X-Tendamix,” which helped give a few of this music — and seminal Canadian hip-hop artists like Maestro Contemporary Wes, Ghetto Idea, Kardinal Offishall and Saukrates — a nationwide platform.

“One factor that stunned me was the actual lack of assist that underground music, particularly Canadian hip hop, acquired throughout that point interval,” director Freeman stated in an interview. “South of the border, there was nice music popping out in that style on a weekly foundation and we in Canada completely had the expertise.

“We had promoters. We had artists … And the truth that all these gifted people did not get the popularity that they deserved, I hope that the film helps with that.”

Over time, Tam did his greatest to develop and assist the neighborhood: being the primary to introduce mixtapes; providing the most recent in DJ sound gear; even constructing a studio to host the primary recordings of artist like Saukrates; and later, beginning up a DJ college when he relocated to Spadina Avenue on account of extreme property taxes.

Earlier than hip hop loved the recognition it does right this moment, live performance promoters like Ron Nelson would convey acts like Public Enemy, Ice Dice and Queen Latifah to city and promote tickets at Play De Report.

“I additionally was a live performance promoter and I used the place as a gathering floor for therefore many individuals,” Cox recalled. “Drum and bass or rave or hip hop: individuals would not be going to Ticketmaster to purchase these tickets. They’d go to the document outlets, particularly within the ’90s. That is an enormous a part of the tradition and the story.”

After all, life goes on and issues change. As documented within the movie, the web, free entry to music and software program packages slowly eradicated the demand for Tam’s quite a few companies and, though Play De Report nonetheless exists 32 years later at 411 Spadina Ave., he’s its lone sentinel, nonetheless pushing the vinyl that he loves so dearly.

With near 60 individuals interviewed for the doc, “Drop The Needle” will not be solely a Toronto music story that must be advised, however a testomony to Eugene Tam’s legacy: one wherein resilience, perseverance and innovation exemplify this beforehand unsung hero of the underground music scene.

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