Canadian artist Haviah Mighty writes about her eye-opening experiences on the road - a highlight being Amsterdam.
My name is Haviah Mighty. I’m a 26-year-old female Canadian artist. Caribbean descent. Canadian born. I rap, mostly. I sing a lot, too. I also produce for others and myself, and DJ for events in my spare time. I’m in a rap group called The Sorority as well. Up until less than a month ago, I had been balancing my career as a solo artist, my work with The Sorority, and a full-time job in music retail. I’d been doing the job/music rhumba since I was 15, but the demand to play live shows started to outweigh the allocated vacation time at my place of employment in 2018. I had accommodating managers for my almost 4-year run at Long & McQuade (Canadian music retailer) and was able to play schedule chess until early May of this year; when I released my latest solo LP 13th Floor and took off on a trip to Europe to play The Great Escape Festival in Brighton and New Skool Rules, a hip hop conference/showcasing event in Rotterdam. Consumed by gigs, interviews and the intent to align more, I needed 12 days off. I couldn’t get 12 days from my full-time job. I’d already taken 10 days off last year when I toured western Canada with The Sorority for our ‘Pledge’ album tour. And before that, I’d been strategically taking days off and making up hours to do solo shows in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). There was no way I was getting 12 consecutive days off, and I’d seen this coming as far as a year back. So, I was moving funds around and clearing debts, preparing for the day I may have to take that leap. The day came, I leapt, and I found myself in Europe for nearly two weeks! I’d like to preface this by mentioning that I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve been to Jamaica, twice. I’ve been to Barbados, twice. I haven’t gone to either place in over 5 years. My dad is Jamaican; my mother is Bajan. Relative to my bubble, Europe is a far away land … and I’m Canadian – so that currency conversion really hurts. But my mom was born in the UK, so there was always a sense of importance in seeing what she saw for the first few years of her life. But I never actually expected to end up in Europe!
I didn’t do any research. I knew I had a few shows in Brighton, and then we'd pass through London and Amsterdam before playing a few more shows in Rotterdam. I knew to pack my wireless mic, and I knew to have my sets memorized. I knew to do my job and give the crowds a good show. But I didn’t know anything beyond that. I had so much fun at The Great Escape. My shows were awesome and all the other bands that I saw play were great as well. Outside of music, I observed the buildings; most looked hundreds of years old. The staircase in our AirBnB wrapped around in a snake shape taking up very little space, and a lot of the cars around us seemed tiny as we Uber’d from show to show. Many people rode bikes as well. Everything just took up less space. I can’t recall seeing a single 18-wheeler, and I found myself thinking about the excessiveness of North America as I wandered in and out of shops in London. I noticed that the AC wasn’t slapping like back home. Regular fans were blowing. Granted, it was only May, but I was comfortable.
Amsterdam was interesting. Ludacris is probably one of the reasons I rap, but his album aside, the Red Light District was still foreign to me. We walked the strip in the daytime, peering into empty windows that would apparently have half-naked women behind them in a few hours, soliciting sex to passers by. In the night, it was exactly that – half-naked women, usually bored and/or distracted on their phone, thin and shapely, generally European-featured, behind these glass doors. It was difficult to make and maintain eye contact. I was just a curious tourist, while these women were hoping to secure some money to make their livings like the rest of us. I had no intent on using their services, and it feels wrong to stare. It feels wrong to be here on the street, with all the other tourists. A soccer game is going on, and whichever team everyone was rooting for was winning. There were drunken men in the street, everywhere, chanting. Locals. And the other drunks, the non-locals, are ogling the women, laughing and giggling, pretending they are interested before jogging away with their friends. Inside the theatres that adorn the strip are continuous live sex shows.
I then played two shows in Rotterdam at New Skool Rules and really had a good time. Dutch trap. Boat cruises. Amazing performances! I felt victorious as I smoked outside one of the many coffee shops, thinking about the new perspectives this trip gave me, all while feeling conflicted about my own values as I wondered if my beliefs were based on a narrow scope. What do I know about sex work, anyway? Maybe Amsterdam’s progressive infrastructure for this type of work provides a safer, healthier environment for these women? I don't know if they want to be there or not. How do I feel about live sex as a form of entertainment, or are we the weird ones as North Americans for viewing these acts as taboo and more underground? How do I feel about all these bikes? Isn’t it weird to drive on the other side of the road? I didn’t even know that The Netherlands and Holland were referred to as the same thing! All of this shit I thought I knew to be normal. I found myself wondering about all of these things, and stumbled upon a quote from William Constantine that pretty much summed up my thoughts on the flight home: “Your reality is as you perceive it to be. So, it is true, that by altering this perception, we can alter our reality.”