From Brampton to Berlin: Folk singer AHI says ‘music was around me’ growing up in Brampton


Published February 17, 2023 at 12:12 pm

Brampton’s own AHI is making waves with his genre-blending style and soulful tunes both here at home and around the world.

Following the release of his third album Prospect, AHI won a $10,000 prize at the SiriusXM Black Canadian Music Awards earlier this year. AHI’s sound has been described as “gravel on silk,” with the Brampton-born folk and roots singer using his music to explore topics like identity, searching for meaning, love and pain.  

Now based in Toronto, his latest album earned AHI his second JUNO Awards nomination for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year and his first-ever Polaris Prize nod. His music has over 60 million streams worldwide and the singer has charted on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon, and the artist is gearing up for a European tour with Belgian singer-songwriter Milow, including dates in Berlin and Vienna.

AHI said Black folk artists haven’t always been embraced by the Canadian music industry or the Black community, saying it’s often assumed he’s a hip hop or R&B artist because of the colour of his skin. But AHI says he hopes his win at the Black Canadian Music Awards will show up-and-coming Black artists that there’s more than one way to make it in the music industry.

“So when this award says ‘hey, we want to acknowledge this guy who’s making folk music’ that’s important to the community because there’s some other kid out there who’s like ‘I don’t want to make rap music, I don’t want to be an R&B singer – I like acoustic instruments,'” AHI said.

Born Ahkinoah Habah Izarh, AHI grew up in Brampton running with a crew of kids he called “KLM” – an acronym of Kingwood Linkdale Martin named after where they grew up.

After graduating from Brampton’s St. Anne’s Secondary School AHI went to university but dropped out and began backpacking, visiting the Caribbean and Ethiopia before deciding to travel across Canada on a journey to find his place in the world.

But a chance meeting with a stranger named John at a truckstop in Thunder Bay set him on the road back to Brampton and a career in the music industry.

“He helped me kind of calibrate,” AHI told of the man who asked him what he wanted to do with his life.

Deciding that an academic career wasn’t in his future, AHI told John that “the only thing I’m passionate about right now is music.” And it was that conversation which would spark AHI’s flame, deciding to head back to Brampton to pursue a career in music.

AHI said growing up in a multicultural city like Brampton helped influence his sound because “music was around me, diversity was around me.”

“When you’re a Black male – or Black person in general – growing up in a Portuguese community, you kind of listen to everything,” AHI said. “In my earliest days, we grew up multicultural, not necessarily at school, but in our neighbourhood.”

At home his family would listen to genres like Reggae, Hip Hop, and R&B. But with a diverse friend group and attending a mostly Portuguese school meant AHI was exposed to more than the music of his own roots.

As for what’s next for the Brampton songsmith, AHI is preparing for a tour of Germany, Luxembourg and Austria in April and May. AHI said his $10,000 prize will go back into his independent record label for his next record which is already in the works.

“I still love the album format, and I think there’s something beautiful about the album format that will never disappear completely,” AHI said. “I’m in the early stages of getting that theme together and sorting out what’s it going to look like, what’s it going to feel like – what am I going to tell the world with this new record?”

You can find AHI’s music streaming on services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon. For more information on AHI’s upcoming tour dates or to purchase music or merchandise visit

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