Jowi’s creative journey began in a Toronto high school with the influence of a series of Writers-in-Residence, including CanLit luminaries such as Katherine Govier, David McFadden and Christopher Dewdney. Eventually, he was invited to be part of author and playwright David Young’s storied “Dream Class” for gifted writers. While studying Linguistics at the University of Toronto, Jowi took up radio hosting as a volunteer at Ryerson’s CKLN-FM. A break in studies took him to Thailand for a year where, among other adventures, he hosted a daily show at WNSP in Bangkok. Returning to complete his degree at UofT, he also reassumed duties at CKLN as host of From There To Hear, a weekly world music show and began a 10-year stint as a production coordinator at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.
This unique combination of skills lead to his being chosen as host of a new CBC radio show called Global-Village. Over its decade on-air, Global-Village garnered countless international awards, including the prestigious Prix Italia, the Gabriel Award, the New York Festivals Award and multiple prizes from Germany’s Deutsche Welle Radio. At the same time, Jowi began work on other radio projects within CBC. His first series with co-producers Paolo Pietropaolo and Chris Brookes, The Wire: The Impact of Electricity on Music, won a 2006 Peabody Award, a Prix Italia, a New York Festivals Award and the Third Coast Audio Festival Director’s Choice Award. Their next team project, Invisible Cities: Toronto also earned a New York Festivals prize and their Wire follow-up series The Nerve: Music and the Human Experience was nominated for a Peabody and won a 2009 New York Festivals Award. Jowi left the CBC at the end of 2008. Along the way, Jowi has written for publications such as Shift and Montage and served as a board member with the Images Festival, ImagineNative and the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals. He’s been guest speaker and panelist at countless conferences and festivals but it’s really his Six String Nation project that has occupied most of his heart in recent years.
Conceived in 1995, the project to build a guitar using pieces of historical and cultural material from every part of Canada took 11 years to come to completion. That happened before a crowd of some 80,000 people on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Canada Day 2006. Since then, Voyageur (the guitar’s official nickname) has travelled well over 200,000km across the country appearing at festivals, conferences, concerts and schools. It’s been played by hundreds of Canada’s best musicians and been held by over 8000 different Canadians in a series of some 50,000 portraits that ranks as one of Canada’s most ambitious photo projects. The story of the guitar and a selection of those portraits is the subject of his 2009 book for publisher Douglas & McIntyre, Six String Nation: 64 Pieces. 6 Strings. 1 Canada. 1 Guitar. The project is also the subject of a unique 2009 commemorative collector coin in the shape of a guitar-pick from the Royal Canadian Mint.