One To Watch: Tanika Charles
After scoring a local radio hit in 2010 with her debut EP, the artist also known as Mz.Chawls is ready to drop two albums—an old-school full-band effort, and a hip-hop-flavoured joint with Slakah the Beatchild.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Who: Toronto-born Tanika Charles is a vocal powerhouse who beautifully bridges soul, blues, Motown, hip-hop, and pop. Raised in Edmonton by a music-loving family, Charles sang from childhood and was well on that path until she chose, as a young adult, to follow a boyfriend into farm life.
Upon realizing that country living wasn’t for her, Charles moved to Vancouver where she met South African-Canadian singer Zaki Ibrahim, with whom she would later perform and tour as a back-up vocalist. A return to Toronto, Parkdale specifically, led to more singing gigs, for the likes of Bedouin Soundclash, among others.
Charles may have first caught eyes and ears in this supporting role but, since 2010, she has stepped to centre stage, wowing audiences with her rich voice and a sound that’s both steeped in history and absolutely contemporary. Backed by a skilled band dubbed The Wonderfuls, she performs alternately as Tanika Charles and soul diva Mz.Chawls.
“Mz.Chawls is my alter ego,” Charles explains by email. “She rears her head when she’s mad or hurt. She’s my inner self, coming out to vocalize the pain, the learning, the yearning that comes from within, with love lost or difficult relationships.”
Charles has parlayed her inner pain and her enormous talent into standout performances at high-profile venues and events including Harbourfront Centre, Manifesto Festival, NXNE, The CNE, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. She’s also opened for the likes of Macy Gray, Mayer Hawthorne, Nneka, Johnny Reid, and Estelle.