Singing strong in the face of antisemitism

WJT presents a musical lament of Kanye West, hip-hop’s fallen son

Seth Zosky and CJ Capital’s show Pain to Power examines fandom for Kanye West in light of his recent antisemitism.

Supplied photo

For those who may initially scoff at the premise of Pain to Power: A Kanye West Musical Protest, director and co-creator Dan Petrenko wants to set the record straight.

“This is not a tribute to Kanye or a celebration of his music. (Kanye’s) music included in the show is used with purpose,” Petrenko, who is also the artistic director for the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre (WJT), says.

Running March 9 and 10 with three showings at the WJT, Pain to Power captures the inner turmoil of losing faith in your hero, through music. Created by Petrenko and Tracey Erin Smith, along with performers Seth Zosky and CJ Capital, the show explores personal stories and the idea of separating art from artist.

“The show is about CJ and I, our lives, us growing up and how discovering hip-hop music changed our lives, especially Kanye West’s,” Zosky says.

“It’s really about us and our story, about friendship, faith, loss, love ... it’s how those things have affected us in our lives and how that’s brought us together,” Capital says.

Following a rash of antisemitic comments in late 2022, the ever-controversial West, who now goes by mononym Ye, drew the ire of long-suffering fans, including Capital and Zosky. The pair, who met at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., connected in their first year of studies over basketball and hip-hop, eventually collaborating to create their own music.

“Kanye brought autotune and melodies to the forefront of the song, rather than in the background. All of those things made hip-hop so different, so we gravitated to it and fell in love with it,” Capital says.

“We’re figuring out what to do when someone like that, your idol, turns against you and against your community,” Zosky says.

Pain to Power will see Zosky and Capital on stage as performers, as they riff on and subvert Ye’s music, of which they are still admittedly fans.

They draw on their respective backgrounds – Zosky’s Judaism and Capital’s Haitian heritage – as a means of reflecting their own stories. Audiences can expect Ye’s most popular songs to be interrupted or overlaid with klezmer music and Creole prayer, along with some original pieces from the musical duo.

“We’ve done this with a lot of care, and we’ve been very strategic about how we use the music in the show. CJ and Seth aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and take us into some of the darker moments in their lives,” Petrenko says.

“Having it at the WJT specifically is really about holding ground and saying that this is our identity. You can’t strip that of us.”

The ever-controversial idea of separating art and artist pervades the work, but the creators say they’ll provide food for thought rather than moral preaching.

“It really dives into a deeper look on how we look at our artists that make this music and the fact that we do put these artists on a pedestal. At the end of the day, there is a personal choice,” Capital says.

“It’s our perspective on it. We’re not telling people what to do. We want audiences to have conversations and ask questions,” Zosky says.

Pain to Power: A Kanye West Musical runs for three showings over March 9 and 10 at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at

Published in Volume 78, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 29, 2024)

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