Two Brantford men crossed paths for the first time at York University in 2011. The resulting collaboration of their talents now can be seen on television.
Pauline Johnson Collegiate graduate Matt Dailey walked into an art gallery at the Toronto university where he was attending film production school. On the gallery wall was a Brantford Smoke hockey jersey from the 1990s, and a panoramic photographic print of the entire south side of Colborne Street before the teardown.
“Whoever did this has to be a Brantford person,” Dailey recalls thinking.
“I got in touch with him just to talk, and that led to us collaborating, and helping to record his songs.”
The artist behind the exhibit, Calwyn Shurgold, was studying visual arts at York.
“I’ve always been interested in story telling, and I do stand-up comedy as well,” says Shurgold, a graduate of Brantford Collegiate Institute, where he also began rapping.
Shurgold developed the rap persona Whyte Wyne. Along with fellow aspiring rapper Antony Hall (a.k.a. Young Riesling) from Alberta, he began putting together a bunch of songs. Before long, the rap duo realized they had an idea for a television show that mirrored their lives.
Shurgold, who began professionally acting at age 17, and Hall are co-creators of Ming’s Dynasty, a six-part mini-series released this summer on CBC’s Gem streaming service. They are also the lead actors.
Shurgold and Hall enlisted Dailey’s help with music production for Ming’s Dynasty.
“They have a lot of original music,” Dailey notes. “I helped them produce the songs, recording and engineering them for the show.”
Shurgold says Ming’s Dynasty is about two Toronto rappers who idolize Drake and Canadian hip-hop.”
“They want to be the next big thing, but they’re not that great.”
In the television series, Hall’s father has a stroke, and the pair must move to Alberta to run the family’s Chinese restaurant. The storyline chronicles how the two balance responsibilities of taking care of family and the restaurant while trying to keep their hip-hop dreams alive.
“Whyte Wyne and Young Riesling are elevated versions of ourselves,” says Shurgold, adding they didn’t want to manufacture too much of where their characters come from.
“We want to bring some authenticity to it,” he notes. “A lot of my work over the years has been about exploring the Canadian identity and what that means. I think it’s really relatable.”
Shurgold explains that a big motif in hip-hop is to represent where you are from. Whyte Wyne is from Brantford, and there are a number of references to the Telephone City throughout the series.
“Our characters are obsessed with Wayne Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Brantford side of things,” says Shurgold, explaining that the pair’s mutual admiration of The Great One is symbolic of the how close they are.
“There’s one scene where we reference the famous line, ‘You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take’ and it sets off a Wayne Gretzky dream sequence that Antony has,” Shurgold shares. “We wanted to make our characters feel like they come from these places.”
Dailey, a high school communications technology and visual arts teacher, has always maintained an interest in music production, and has worked in television on the music end of things.
“I found my place working with high school students, getting them to express their ideas and be part of something,” he says. “My career and passion lies in film making, media, and music production.”
The television series was financed through the Independent Production Fund. Shurgold says they are close to finding an American distribution partner, which would broaden their audience and go a long way toward the possibility of a second season.
Shurgold notes that Whyte Wyne and Young Riesling also perform live, and are developing new music and concepts for a possible second season.
While Ming’s Dynasty is his biggest project to date, Dailey also has released four records of his own music, with another set of songs due for release on Sept. 20.
“I’m interested primarily in progressive rock from the 1970s,” Dailey shares. “Pink Floyd, Rush, Genesis. I love that music.”
The teacher and music producer recalls spending many hours at Pauline Johnson Collegiate learning to play guitar to those songs, but admits he has become a “huge fan” of modern electronic music.
“I find myself trying to combine that progressiveness — its really interesting textures and instrumentation – with the vibe, feel and sound of modern electronic music,” Dailey says.
Working from a computer-based studio in his Toronto home, Dailey handles vocals as well as playing guitar, synthesizer, bass guitar, drums and some percussion.
“It’s my personal outlet to try ideas and take some risks in the stuff I produce,” he admits, encouraging people, especially teenagers to keep learning and be curious.
“I once was an awkward teenager in high school who wanted to make music for whomever would listen,” Dailey shares. “Not I get that opportunity every day, on top of inspiring new people to learn, create and express themselves.”
Dailey’s music can be found on streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play, and you can also visit www.mattdailey.ca
Shurgold can be followed on Instagram at @calwynshurgold or @whytewyne.