A few years back, I decided to make a solo trip to one of my second-homes, New York City, and while I was down there I had the joy of catching Fela! The Musical. Now we all know that New York knows how to do Broadway so needless to sayall my senses were blown. However it was actually a book that I bought on my way out of that performance that left the strongest imprint in my mind for all these years; Fela: This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore.
This beautiful and unconventional biography of the Nigerian icon Fela Kuti was so poignant and well written that it really had my soul traveling back in time and over seas. Throughout this book there was often reference to the club that Fela had opened called Afro-Spot, later renamed as The Shrine. This ‘Shrine’ had become the place where many of the most amazing musicians of this world played on rotation, where Fela performed regularly, where dancers dazzled eyes, where heat dominated, where political truth was spoken, where minds were opened, and where souls were exposed. As Fela himself explained, ‘Why Shrine? Cause I wanted someplace meaningful, of progressive, mindful background with roots’. That line resonated in my mind for years because I craved such a place for us in Montreal, in this era.
This year my wish became reality. For three unbelievable nightcaps at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, The Savoy became what I would call ‘The Shrine’ and Kalmunity Vibe Collective had the opportunity to electrify over 1200 souls with incredible musical talent, skill, depth and energy.
Many of you may already know this 9-year veteran collective that started holding down a residency at Sablo Kafé and now offers two great nights of live organic improvised music at Les Bobards on Tuesday nights and Dièse Onze on Sunday nights. Revered for being one of the best live acts, jazz acts, hip hop acts and more in this city, it was about time that they got to rock it at the Jazz Festival. From my prior experiences seeing this collective my expectations were more than sky high and yet KVC still managed to blow my mind off this sphere. I had initially planned on only attending the first of three nights but I ended up needing a fix each night.
The first of the nights was under the ‘Congo Square’ theme so I made sure to have on my dancing shoes. When I strolled in at around 12:15, the Savoy was packed but I didn’t have to wait in line, which means it was probably right under the 400 heads capacity. It took me a minute to squeeze my way to the front of the stage where I was pleasantly surprised to see each member of the band repping hard in their beautiful masks, beads and feathers. The outfit award definitely goes to saxophonist, Vincent Stephen-Ong, who was rocking crisp white Jordans, an impeccable white suit and a white skeleton painted on his face. The getups and lighting were a beautiful touch to help the audience get into that festive vibe, especially for the KVC newbies who might have needed that extra push. Within the first few minutes of getting there, I was completely drenched. Partly because the Savoy is a carpeted room that really captures all human heat but mainly because Jahsun (founder and lead drummer of KVC) was laying down rhythms so hard that my hips could barely even keep up.
Being the backbone of this collective, instrumentally and logistically, Jahsun often leaves more room for the other instruments and vocalists to shine, but staying true to the Congo Square theme we got to experience drums as a highlight, which was such a treat. Another musical highlight that stuck out was Christopher Cargnello on guitar. Truth be told, I’m rarely a fan of guitar because I think it’s a little overrated (I may have fell for too many guitarists back in my teens) but Cargnello really reignited my love for the instrument with all of his soul-vibrating solos and particularly with the strong lead he took on a few of the pieces which really set a nice tone for the other musicians to build on. Vocally the wonderful Sam I Am blew me away, she strolled on sporting a long bright yellow mesh dress and big Donna Summer hair, and just killed us with her power notes and extensive vocal range, not to mention she’s a magnificent dancer who can really get down in 6-inch heels.
Every thing was shaping incredibly till around 1:30 when the band took a much-deserved break and poof The Savoy emptied up faster then a jar of Nutella at a day camp. I knew the break would make KVC lose a couple of people but this was outrageous, probably a good two thirds of the audience left in search of their festival fix. That’s when I really saw how much KVC is a give-and-take experience, because with all that empty space in the room, even though the musicians were still giving their everything, the vibe had lost its strength.
The second night of the series was truly the one for the books. Firstly, KVC didn’t fall for that break trick again and decided to push through 2:30 of performing straight, which is an amazing feat on its own but when you think about how this is all live improvisation, it’s truly extraordinary. Secondly, this night was dedicated to the great J Dilla, so you know that every musician was bringing their A-game. That night the energy in the room that was so magical that words really can’t do it justice but what I can say is that everything was aligning perfectly from Jordan Peter’s guitar strums to DNA’s knowledge dropping to Blu-Rum 13’s rap flow to the Nomadic Massive guests appearances. I must particularly applaud the Fredy V & Jonathan Emile duo; these two multi-talented vocalists are just natural born entertainers who have you hooked on every eye blink they make and as a duo, wow, they just owned the stage. At one point in the night when we were all two stepping and singing along to the live remix of ‘Find A Way’ (ATCQ), my musicoholic friend from New York turned to me and said ‘Montreal hands down owns the live music scene, New York could not possibly compare’. As I looked around the room I knew we all felt the same. People’s eyes were glistening with emotion, everyone was swaying on the right beat, and all the connotations were straight hitting people’s minds. Even an earthquake couldn’t have shifted the audience’s focus that night. Just writing about it is swelling my heart all over again
After such an epic night, I had to make it to the last of the series. I was glad to be carrying my media pass that night because the line up was insane. Again, KVC was laying their all for the people, and that enthusiasm was being thrown right back at them. Seeing all these nights back-to-back really brought to my attention how in-sync the musicians are with each other and the audience. Many of the musicians and vocalists had never even performed together and yet they managed to create pure brilliance right before our eyes. I must say one of the most memorable moments of the third night was when Beatbox extraordinaire X-Wam built an outrageous 4min beat that he finished off with a beat medley mix of Michael Jackson. I’ve never heard so many ladies scream so high and at the same time. None of us could compare to the high range of Ms. Malika Tirolien though, who just ripped it up with her insane scatting skills.
I would love to continue this play by play of the most epic musical experience I’ve witnessed in Montreal (ever!), but I will leave that incomplete imagery in your mind so that you can go fill it in by checking out the Kalmunity Vibe Collective yourself on Tuesdays at Les Bobards or Sundays for more of a jazzy night at Dièse Onze.
I really must raise my hat to the excellent soundman at The Savoy for serving us such impeccable sound, the Jazz Fest for making those three nights possible, the 30+ poets, singers, MCs and musicians of KVC for sharing their talent and soul with us and of course to Jahsun for being the backbone behind this amazing collective.
Truly inspired by it all
[Photos courtesy of Mariel Rosenbluth]
What up Fam!
I haven’t been blogging much recently because I had to intake a lot of shows during the francofolies. I had a great time seeing all the performances and hands down my two favorite shows were Alaclair Ensemble and Maybe Watson so I wrote a piece about it for the CJLO magazine. CHECK IT OUT!
I also took a minute to make a mash up video of some of the moments of the show so y’all could get a feel for this dope collective
”Le procédé” from Obia le Chef & El Cotola is an 11 track hip-hop opus from the montreal duo in the tried and tested one MC (Obia) & one producer (El Cotola) format. In the tradition of such bonafied classics as Rakim & Eric B’s Paid in Full or DJ Polo & Kool G Rap’s Wanted Dead or Alive, Obia and Cotola deliver an EP that is thoroughly solid from start to finish. Some have compared this great record to Nas’ seminal debut album Illmatic because of the quality over quantity aspect (the album tops out at 33 minutes of boombap) and lack of featurings (MTL MC L’Xtrmst.Zen is his AZ), however I would go further and argue that Obia is the closest Montreal has gotten to a franco incarnation of God’s Son. At times, Obia’s biting pince sans rire style can be as pretentious as this assertion. However, he backs it up with devastating lines and a bragadicious flow that perfectly complements Cotola’s incisive production. Nasir Jones took the rap world by storm with his cunning verses and painted a grimy picture of hood life using intellectual wordplay. Well if Nas is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, Obia is the undisputed French battle king, the most feared lyricist in Quebec. He lays down thoughtful tracks that cover important subjects such as police brutality (État Policier) and teen pregnancy (L’Histoire se Répète) while going after fake rappers (Je Sais) and even tackling the illmatic anthem (Le Monde T’Appartiens) switching it up on the sociopolitical tip. Whether it be storytelling,ego tripping or dropping knowledge, Obia consistently maintains a high octane delivery. But it’s more than ambitious song structures and subject matter that make Obia stand out, his lyrical arsenal includes explosive punchlines with a belle province flair (”c’est des tit-vierges comme Guillaume Lemay”) and complex rhyme schemes whose rich verses are punctuated by an encyclopedic array of references (Basil Parasiris,Summarian tables, Dahomey kingdom ) and verbs (”les bâtards titubent”). Throughout the album Obia manages to stay focused and razor sharp, he walks the fine line between egocentric bragging and insightful politickin’ and yet manages to have more than a few rewind moments and rhymes you get after the fact(”un triplex, ça c’est trois 3 1/2!”).
If illmatic had ten tracks this album has eleven if you count the instrumental track that manages to get a message about immigration across using only a beat and scratches (X immigrés). To say Cotola has deep beats would be an understatement. Obia killed it lyrically but its Cotola’s musicality that will keep you reaching for the repeat button. He has brought back the hard beat, deep cuts production style in a decade where synth led production has flooded the airwaves. Member of the instrumental hip hop collective Metazon (and new project agua negra) Cotola released a beat tape (twin obelisks) in 2009 that made the rounds in the underground Montreal scene. The futuristic thump of Le Procédé’s intro (featuring up n’ coming RnB signer P-Noyze) is an throwback to the sci-fi section of the second-half of that tape. However, Cotola then veers off in a totally different direction and delves into a wide array of sample sources from all over the map to lay down complex beat-scapes that are bangers from start to finish. From the asian tinged meditative Focus to dramatic string stabs and a recurring vocal sample on Je Sais, Cotola brings the bass(Hein!?!),horns(Grosses Bastos), the drum breaks (T’as compris) with some psychedelic guitar licks for good measure and also let’s samples simply shine through (État policier). Cotola succeeds in balancing grimy moods with uplifting rhythms and sprinkles just enough interesting skits to keep things flowing, making the EP an end to end burner. It’s rare to hear a rap album that doesn’t only have a couple of hot tracks, instead this EP is a carefully crafted gem where both MC and producer equally shine. Indeed, the final track Le Procédé features an appearance by Cotola on the mic and announces the greatest conclusion: that the Procédé is only a prequel to the real album (set to drop this autumn) Le Théorème.
This is a strong Montreal record from a duo that truly represents this city’s wealth of diversity and depth of talent. Furthermore, it has benefited from an incredible series of videos the latest being one of my favorites the certified banger Grosses Bastos.
In fact, two of them were produced by Cotola himself (the album does at times have an almost cinematic feel to it) and edited by Obia. I have not heard such a complete album since the Narcicyst (S/T) and in many ways Obia has the same hunger, cynical spite and raw intelligence as the Iraqi Montreal MC (he used Cotola’s Volvi beat for one of his songs) add that to Cotola’s duro beats and you’ve got one the best franco rap records to come out of this city in a long time…so needless to say COP THAT!
Piece written by: Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo
(New Member of the Say Word writing Fam. Keep your eyes peeled for more!)
‘A truly deep experience of musical sharing between music junkies. Yes, the fact that it’s a vinyl only thing is a big part of it: it brings the DJ back to his roots, reconnects them to their collection.’ – DJ Lexis
I 1000% conquer!
MIMS‘s 24 hours of vinyl for those who didn’t know is a great project going on in Montreal where for 24 hours straight a compilation of some the greatest DJs in and out of Montreal get together to hit the world with a purely vinyl set. Started in Dec.2011 this event is already on it’s 4th edition. Not only is this concept absolutely amazing but it also manages to reach so many music hearts because of the wide variety of DJs and cause you can tune in live from the comfort of your home at 24hoursofvinyl.com . This edition took place at Death of Vinyl, a great local record store, so we had to do a cruise by. It was such a joy to spend some time with my favorite music producers, heads and DJs but it was especially special as DJ Lexis said to reconnect with my music collection. Ever since that night I’ve been crate digging even harder and really feeling inspired for my radio set. We quickly get caught up in one genre or style when you’re selecting all your music via the web but crates well they force you to open eyes. You find sick samples, you reconnect with your youth, you broaden your scope, its just a beautiful experience. So I want to thank DJ Lexis with alllll my heart for initiating and continuously hosting this outrageous event that Montreal (and the world) desperately needed.
Yup as of today Say Word will be bringing you an artist of the week every week so we can try to showcase all of the amazing artists we feature on our radio show.
To get the ball rolling I thought it was only appropriate that we start with all stars Dead Obies cause as I mentioned in my MIMS piece, I am absolutely obsessed with their new Album ‘Collation vol.1′
Amazingly were we able to contact some of the Obies to come in for an Interview with us at Say Word this week so be sure to tune in Thursday from 11am-1pm for some sick tracks and an exclusive look into the Obies world.
To be sure that you feel well versed in their beats and language be sure to cop yourself the free download of ‘collation vol.1′ as well as the other digi-albums on their bandcamp.
Walking into the Gésu Theatre on Friday night I already had high expectations for the Robert Glasper show. The few pre-releases from his album ‘Black Radio’ had been on replay on my Ipod for weeks and I had only read rave reviews for this tour. As I searched for my seat I ran into at least a dozen elite members of the Montreal music industry. It’s quite clear that you’re going to be part of something extremely special when members of Nomadic Massive, Alaiz, Ruckus and Kalmunity all make it out.
As people shuffled into their seats there was much talk about the drums, bass and saxophones set up along side Glasper’s pianos, this was clear confirmation that the rumors were correct; Glasper came along with his notorious Trio: Casey Benjamin, Derrick Hodge and Mark Colenburg [Unfortunately Chris Dave didn’t make it out but Mark blew our minds anyway]. Just as the last person settled into the intimate Gésu hall, Robert Glasper and the fellas strolled on stage, rocking their day-to-day flair, unassumingly approaching their instrument of choice. The level of comfort and trust between the musicians was immediately apparent and Glasper joined the audience into that intimacy by joking around and responding to our every giggle, sigh, and applaud. Though everyone in the crowd was aware that they were about to experience superior quality music, it was clear that all the chichi jazz etiquette was out the window and that people were encouraged to express their enthusiasm during the performance.
The four-tet started off with a continuous hour mix of improvisation and pieces off of ‘Black Radio’, Glasper’s recent album. It was an absolute music-trance; our heart rates rose and fell with the rhythm of the drums, the saxophone solos took our breath away, the bass keep our minds in check and Glasper’s piano keys were shivers down the spine. The musicians played together proficiently and harmoniously yet were still highlighted in their uniqueness. The solos they shared with the audience not only exposed their amazing talent but also the grander and capability of each instrument. Casey Benjamin deserves a special mention for his innovative skill on four instruments: the alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, vocoder and keyboards. The first set would’ve already been more than your bucks worth, but Glasper and the band continued on for another hour with more material and a very special J Dilla tribute. Robert Glasper’s versatile musical background creates so much depth to his arrangements and makes his repertoire widely accessible for the masses. He covers J Dilla classics just as smoothly as he remixes Nirvana classics and all that with the essence of jazz in mind. Hip-Hop fans, R&B fans, Soul fans, Rock fans and Jazz fans, all became one for those two hours: True music fanatics.
With all the pretensions, typecasting and genre-barriers out the way, people were able to focus on the creation rather the creators, which in my mind is what the Robert Glasper Experiment is all about.
Be sure to pick up a copy of his new album ‘Black Radio’ to be part of this experiment.