This internationally-acclaimed and award-winning artist has been making a distinct name for himself ever since his early days on the Toronto music scene.
Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd, was born and raised in Scarborough. He got his start on YouTube in 2011, releasing three songs under the anonymous name “xoxxxoooxo.” Following his musically and visually striking videos, he released several tracks online for free download. Fellow Torontonian and Canadian artist, Drake, tweeted a link from The Weeknd to his followers and attention increased.
The covert was part of the charm when it came to The Weeknd. Some assumed he was a group and were surprised to learn that Tesfaye was a one-man act. To add to the intrigue, early day performances were closed to media and requests were made for no cameras.
In 2012, the self-made artist performed live at the Coachella music festival, but it was in 2015 when he rocketed to the mainstream charts with his single, Earned It, also released as the lead song for the film, Fifty Shades of Grey.
A year after the release of Earned It, the musician answered the call of Ethiopian leaders back home.
A campaign to raise funds for Ethiopic studies began when Michael Gervers, U of T Scarborough professor in historical studies, promised to donate $50,000 of his own money towards an Ethiopian Studies program if U of T and Ethiopian communities worked to match contributions.
Tesfaye, whose parents emigrated from Ethiopia, donated $50,000 in August 2016. On Twitter, he shared links to information on the initiative and how others could contribute. The donation was part of Toronto-based Ethiopian group Bikila Award’s initiative to match Gervers funds. The cheque was presented at the Bikila Barefoot Challenge event at U of T’s Varsity Stadium.
In an interview with U of T News, Tessema Mulugeta, president of the Bikila Award organization called Tesfaye a “community hero.”
“We’re grateful for what he’s done,” he says. “This was a unique opportunity for the community to partner with this prestigious institution, the University of Toronto, and he responded to our call.”
The Weeknd recently filmed a video for his song Secrets at U of T Scarborough.
Photo: Kayla Johnson via Flickr (taken on September 5, 2015)