In a previous edition of The Horizon Line, Anupa Mistry perceptively wrote that through Zaki Ibrahim’s music “it’s possible to access the version of Toronto that, perhaps, only exists as a feeling. Zaki’s music is an atmosphere unto itself.”

It’s a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree and it transports me back to the night of my initial unwitting encounter with Ibrahim’s The Secret Life Of Planets.

In a beforetimes environment that now almost seems fantastical given the paucity of live in-person shows over the last year, it was a night that among reflection of my countless live experiences stands out in all its admittedly fuzzy glory.

A lot of that had to do with the crowd that was in attendance. The November 4, 2015 show took place at the now-defunct Tattoo on Queen St. W. and Ibrahim was headlining a show with longtime Toronto experimental electronic duo LAL heralding a ‘live preview of unheard and unreleased music!’

Presented by The Main Ingredient, which at that time was a monthly night at Toronto’s Revival, conceived by the irrepressible Jesse Ohtake, the people in attendance were intuitively curated longtime adherents of Zaki Ibrahim’s visually sumptuous live shows and performances. But, there was something particularly special about the atmosphere in the room that night. The lip service that can often apply to words like diversity and multiculturalism in Toronto was jettisoned in favour of unapologetically and organically centring a genuine safe space, a version of the city as a ‘feeling’ that Mistry describes. I actually remember saying to one of my countless acquaintances/’weak ties’ [view article via The Atlantic] I ran into that night, something to the effect of “This really feels like Toronto.”

Amongst all of this, the show could have felt like an afterthought, but Ibrahim has always upped the performance and sartorial ante, with co-conspirators like Alister Johnson and Casey MQ wearing sharp white suits and visors. But for me the highlight was a new song that halfway through, broke down into a refrain that almost sounded like a children’s choir.

The purity of the vocal arrangement was transfixing and ethereal and lasted for what felt like an eternity. After the concert, that moment from that then-unnamed song stuck with me and would occasionally float back into my head. It wasn’t until January of 2018  — over two years after that show —  when The Secret Life of Planets was first released that I could identify the song as “Cut Loose.” 

From my perspective as The Secret Life of Planets is being re-released this week, “Cut Loose” is fittingly the new video that brings the sonic journey of the album to a close. As I wrote in an article about the album at the time of its release,  the hypnotic coda of “Cut Loose” sounded futuristic and retro at the same time (note the sly, fleeting allusion to Dennis Edwards’ 1984 R&B hit “Don’t Look Any Further” and every time I hear the song, it brings me to a past moment in time that I hope will be our future.