C/O Mike Highfield

Nim Agalawatte introduces Sounds Gay!, a new queer-dedicated musical space 

It is no secret the city of Hamilton lacks dedicated queer spaces. The 2018 assessment of Hamilton’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community, Mapping the Void, found many did not feel a strong sense of queer belongingness in the city and wanted to see more initiatives.  

In the early 2000s and mid-2010s, the Hamilton core was home to several gay bars: The Embassy, The Werx, Rainbow Lounge, M Bar, The Windsor and The Steel Lounge. However, all of them have since closed their doors. 

To help fill the void, new queer-focused spaces have been slowly appearing in the past few years, including Queer Outta Hamilton, House of Adam and Steve and Fruit Salad.  

One of the latest queer-friendly spaces in the city is Sounds Gay!, a live music performance event hosted by Nim Agalawatte, which had its first event in November 2021 and second in December 2021.  

Sounds Gay! aims to fill a gap in the current queer space landscape. There is no denying gay bars and nightclubs play an integral role in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Historically, these places served as safe havens for queer individuals. However, it is also important to recognize the need for more low-pressure inclusive spaces.  

“The main reason I started [Sounds Gay!] was I was noticing a lot of queer events were focused on dancing or drag shows and it wasn’t very much like music performance stuff,”

Nim Agalawatte

Agalawatte is a Hamilton-based musician, bassist and synth player for the Basement Revolver, 2SLGBTQIA+ advocate and member of the Hamilton Music Advisory Team. They became more aware of the gap after performing as part of Hamilton Pride last year and being one of two non-drag performances. 

The positive response to both events of Sounds Gay! reaffirmed the need for diverse queer spaces. Attendees appreciated the friendliness and how welcoming the space was. Tickets were made more accessible as well by using a sliding scale ticket system. Upcoming Sounds Gay! dates have not been planned yet due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, however, Agalawatte is looking forward to continuing them this year.  

For Agalawatte, not only was their opportunity to perform affected by the pandemic, but they also lost an important part of their support system. 

“A lot of months, I’ve been out of work which kind of does two things: one, not having my regular schedule and things I’m often working on and two, not being able to be around people who often gives you drive and support. I’ve definitely felt down periods and found it hard to motivate myself to work on music,” said Agalawatte.  

However, they noted interesting opportunities and new forms of community also arose out of the lockdowns and the pandemic. Agalawatte was able to work on new music remotely with Shanika Maria, queer Black singer-songwriter, for her new recording project Shn Shn. Digital spaces have also become a new place of community gathering. 

“I find there has been a light within the pandemic where people, because they’ve been extra lonely or maybe feel more isolated, have found newer forms of community. There [are] a lot of people reaching out on social media or finding each other through the internet and musicians from different parts of the country are also quite connected,” said Agalawatte.   

While continuing to create more safe queer events in Hamilton through Sounds Gay!, Agalawatte hopes to support new musicians in Hamilton and open opportunities for those who have not had access to a comfortable and safe stage. Currently, they are promoting their band’s latest album, Embody, and continuing to work on their solo music as well.


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