The joy of discovery

As I’m sure I’ve said here before, the best part of being Halifax Magazine’s editor is that I get to meet a lot of very interesting people, doing very cool things. One of those people is filmmaker and musician Fateh Ahmed. We first crossed paths when he was Halifax Magazine’s November 2013 Trendsetter. Since then, we’ve stayed in touch; lately he’s been telling me about his upcoming film Reeny.

It’s an autobiographical documentary that follows the musical journey of talented North Preston singer Reeny Smith, who is fast becoming one of the hottest names in Halifax music, since she burst onto the scene in 2010, winning the Nova Scotia Talent Trust’s Portia White Award. The accolades have been flying ever since, most recently the Rising Star Award at the 2013 Halifax Jazz Festival and Artist of the Year at the 2015 African Nova Scotian Music Awards.

She’s 22, and has been singing and playing piano since the age of five at St. Thomas Baptist Church. She studied piano for three years at the Conservatory of Music, and then privately with Halifax-based pianist Paul Simons. Currently, she’s studying music at St. Francis-Xavier University.

Her contemporary jazz sound has broad appeal, but her music has a message. She wrote her song “Dream” to urge her community to unite and stop the violence. Throughout the documentary, Ahmed follows her journey and musical upbringing, exploring her influences and her ties to her North Preston home.

Intercut with interviews with Smith and the people around her, the film features her captivating music. Taking some three years to craft, the film was a time-consuming process. For much of that time, Ahmed was getting to know Smith, building rapport. “Reeny took the time with me,” he recalls. “We got to know each other. This documentary film provides a brief overview of the struggles affecting the artist’s creativity and ability to continue the journey. The cost of being independent is pricey and requires courage, determination and love.”

Reeny debuts on April 25 at the Emerging Lens Film Festival. The free festival, show-casing emerging talents, offers screenings on April 22 (Halifax Central Library), April 23 (da Vinci College) and April 25 (Black Cultural Centre).

And keep reading Halifax Magazine for more about Ahmed and his work. He’s also busy with a documentary film project called Continuing the Legacy. He promises the brief documentary, drawing on his own experiences with music legends The Wailers, that “describes the essense of reggae music.” I’ll be writing a story about that in an upcoming issue. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more details.

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We’re pleased to welcome illustrator Derrick Chow back for this issue. Chow crafted our cover illustration, which complements an enlightening story by Chris Benjamin about how Halifax shapes its environmental policy. And sticking with our Earth Day focus, Benjamin has an essay about our increasingly expensive addiction to fossil fuels.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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