Culture  Kalmunity’s new digs

Improv hip-hop collective finds new home and wider audience

First your veggies, then your bread, and now your music – everything is going organic these days. But if Kalmunity Vibe Collective is any indication, there shouldn’t be any problem with that. The group, a diverse array of local musicians, vocalists, and spoken-word poets, describes their collaborative performance style as “live, organic improvisation.”

Kalmunity isn’t new on the block; the group has been performing at the Sablo Kafé on Beaubien for the past six and a half years. They’ve developed such an impressive following that the group has outgrown its haunt. On October 6, Kalmunity is moving to the larger, more centrally located Le Consulat – and not without a bang. “It’s gonna be a huge party,” says Lady Katalyst, a hip-hop artist, poet and member of the collective.

Katalyst, whose real name is Katherine Blenkinsop, explains that one of the collective’s main objectives is “to bring improv music to Montreal, bring improv music to peoples’ minds.” She describes an artistic process that truly does sound organic: the performers hash out their plans in the wings during a show, “layering more and more ideas on top of each other.” The result is an international fusion of hip-hop, funk, jazz, soul, and spoken-word poetry. Since Kalmunity’s roster of performers is constantly in flux, rehearsals are a non-event. “We’re growing tracks right on the spot,” Katalyst says, with a hint of pride. “We really don’t know what we’re going to do.”

But Kalmunity’s project is social as well as musical. Katalyst declares that above all, “we want to communicate.” The collective functions as a forum for “people in communities who don’t normally have a place to bring forth their issues,” to initiate dialogue, and express hope for change. Though many of Kalmunity’s artists hail from the Caribbean, the collective allies itself with any group that feels marginalized within Montreal society. “We want to bring a voice to the voiceless,” says Katalyst, stressing that out of this comes “messages that are really uplifting.” The group’s ultimate objective is inherent in its name – besides a play on the word “community,” Kalmunity is a reminder that “you can’t have unity without calm.”

Possessing sheer talent and a social agenda, though, are not the only prerequisites for gaining entry into Kalmunity’s ranks. “Some people have an excellent message, but they just don’t get the vibe,” Katalyst explains. That vibe, it seems, contains an element of old-fashioned teamwork; within the collective, all artists are on a level playing field. “It involves a certain degree of letting go of your ego, and if you can’t do that then you can’t perform with us,” she says.

Katalyst has grand aspirations for the imminent change of venue. “We love [the Sablo Kafé],” she insists, “But we’ve pretty much hit the ceiling. This year we wanted to expand, so people can dance and move around.” The collective hopes not only to make room for its current devoted regulars, but to attract even more: “We want to allow more people to see what we’re doing…to get the audience who doesn’t know about Kalmunity yet.” The inaugural celebration at Le Consulat features a guest appearance by D’bi Young Anitafrika, an author, playwright, actress, poet. “She’s strong, gifted, and in your face,” says Katalyst. “One of the best poets in Canada, North America, and well – the world.” And if that isn’t enough to draw you, Katalyst assured that “it’s going to be pretty crazy.”