Janice Jo Lee, aka Sing Hey, is a contemporary folk artist of Korean ancestry. She is a folk-soul singer-songwriter, spoken word poet, actor and playwright from Kitchener, on Haldimand Tract treaty territory. Lee is an award-winning performer known for being disarmingly hilarious and off-the-cuff. On stage she creates looping landscapes with her voice, guitar, trumpet and Korean jangu drum. Lee is a hard femme, queer, radical, comedian, truth-teller and trickster. She is interested in using art to build flourishing communities based in justice and joy. Lee’s work explores gender justice, antiracism, friendship, community, ancestry and the Earth. Her latest compositions are Ancestor Songs, contemporary jazz-folk melodies full of truth and power. She is working on her upcoming albums Ancestor Song, Lonely is the Lullaby, and a new bouffon musical satire about the patriarchy.
Lee was born in Toronto on Treaty 13 / Williams Treaty Territory. She formed her early artist career living and organizing in Kitchener-Waterloo, on Haldimand Tract Treaty Territory. She has trained in spoken word with d’bi young anitafrika and Lillian Allen, has trained with Adam Lazarus in bouffon, and with MT Space in physical theatre.
In Waterloo Region, Janice Jo Lee was voted Best Performance Artist five years running from 2016 to 2020. She was the City of Kitchener’s Artist in Residence in 2015 and created four cinepoems with the community called Folk Myths of Kitchener. She is the founding artistic director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Poetry Slam and created its first Spoken Word Residency program for emerging professionals.
She has performed spoken word and music at festivals and series nationally including Victorious Voices (Victoria), Vancouver Writers Festival, Verses Festival of Words (Vancouver), ArtsWells Festival (Wells, BC), Breath In Poetry (Edmonton), The Banff Centre, Saskatoon Poetic Arts Festival, Word Up Regina, In the Soil Festival (St Catharines), Toronto Poetry Slam, Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (Guelph), Hillside (Guelph), IMPACT Theatre Festival (Kitchener), Queer Asian Youth (Toronto), Korean Harvest Festival (North York), Small World Music (Toronto), Pervers/cité (Montréal), Philadelphia Folk Festival and more. Janice has released two music albums Sing Hey (2016), Drown the Earth (2013) and two self-published poetry chapbooks. Her poems have been published by Ricepaper, Blueprint, the League of Canadian Poets, and choa magazine.
Lee’s one-woman musical satire Will You Be My Friend was developed and produced by Green Lights in Kitchener in 2017. The show made its Toronto debut at Theatre Passe Muraille in October 2018 to critical praise from The Toronto Star (¾), Mooney on Theatre and a 4/5 rating from Now Magazine. In Ontario her theatrical work has been produced with Green Light Arts, MT Space, Theatre Passe Muraille, and fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre.
Lee has worked as an educator for 8 years facilitating arts, anti-oppression and leadership workshops across Canada. In the last year she delivered arts workshops at Victoria Poetry Project, Vancouver Poetry House, Island Mountain Arts, Kwantlen Poetry Project, and Suitcase in Point St Catharines. She has facilitated anti-oppression workshops at University of Waterloo, Laurier Student Public Interest Research, Laurier Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto Faculty of Social Work and Folk Alliance International. Lee has helped young performers tell their own stories directing theatre programs with MT Space, The Family Centre (Kitchener), and Le Project N’we Jinan. Currently she is writing a new musical satire and serving as national director of speakNORTH.
“An iron fist in a slowly-removed velvet glove.”–Ilana Lucas, Mooney on Theatre
“Lee has a mischievous twinkle in her eye and a marvellous spontaneity”– Glenn Sumi, Now Toronto
“Lee is a remarkable, irresistible performer” – Drew Rowsome, My Gay Toronto
“A charismatic ball of energy, quirky jokes and charming music”- Ricepaper
2020 – Jan 11 Toronto Poetry Slam Feature, Drake Hotel, ON
2020 – Jan 16 CJRU Live at Ryerson University, Toronto ON
2020 – Jan 20 Brock Pride, St Catharines, ON
2020 – March 7 Island Mountain Arts, Wells BC
2020 – March 15 Golden, BC – Cancelled
2020 – April 4 Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, ON – Cancelled
2020 – April 19 Verses Festival of Words, Vancouver BC – Cancelled
2020 – April 25 Ottawa Grassroots Festival – Cancelled
2020 – April 7 Victorious Voices Poetry Festival, Victoria, BC – Online Show
2020 – May 8 Saskatoon Poetic Arts Festival, Saskatoon, SK – Online Show
2020 – May 16 Hullabaloo Poetry Festival, Surrey BC – Online Workshop
2020 – Aug 14 Philadelphia Folk Festival – Online
2020 – Aug 15 The Backyard Concert, Toronto ON
2020 – Aug 21 Choa Magazine Launch Concert – Online
2020 – Sept 2 Re/Vision 2020 Presented by Lishai and Write Bloody North – Online
2020 – Oct 15 9PM Music Together Concert – Online on Facebook @JaniceJoLee
I am a folk artist. An artist of the people! A storyteller. It is my responsibility as a folk artist to affirm our contemporary stories, emotions and ideas through art and carry these stories onward. Art is my tool to build just and joyful communities that are as free as possible from systemic oppression. My art comforts the struggling and challenges political complacency. As a writer and performing artist, I combine my literature, music and theatre background with my political activism to create art that engages through its truth, comedy, lyricism and power. Genres and artistic disciplines do not limit me when creating songs, poems, scenes and stories. On stage, it is important for me to demonstrate power in embodied performances, unrelenting honesty, rhythm and humility.
I am constantly learning and thinking critically about my position and cultural context within systems of oppression. I aim to decolonize myself and my art practice from oppressive ideas and practices. My art is subject to criticism and conversation. I do my best, allow room for error, and try to be kind to myself. As an artist and role model, I listen to and strive to be accountable to my community.
I seek communities and audiences where my best self, vitality, spirit and art are life-affirming. I want what I offer as a person to act as a spark or opening to emotional truth, social truth, untapped or forgotten joy, and self power. I seek to create an open space which reminds us that human connection is full of beauty, wonder, and a life worth living.