Kalmunity Live Collective - word) sound (isness -

Courtesy Kalmunity Vibe Collective.


- word) sound (isness -

by field correspondent kaie kellough
special email-font concrete reportage for www.litlive.ca
written between montréal & toronto


sometime in the mid-2000s in the middle of winter, the middle of the week, close to the middle of the night, there was a blackout in little italy.  all of the streetlights suddenly snuffed out.  the kalmunity vibe collective was in sablo café, on the corner of st-zotique and st-dominique streets, about to start into a live set, when the room went dark.  the audience murmured and wondered - sablo kafé was full - sweating room only - as it was every tuesday.  so what?  so what happened?  the collective improvised, collectively. wicks were lit, the musicians ignored amplifiers in favor of acoustic ) live organic ( the vocalists disregarded microphones and projected direct into the air.  the audience closed in to the bandstand.  the collective captured the moment and created an ambiance from the darkness, and just as the rhythm began to move & breathe, the lights flickered, fluttered, and finally glowed.


calm. unity. kalmunity: a compound word coined by the collective's founder and riddim diversifier, jahsun.  jahsun emphasizes that calm is a necessary precondition of unity.  kalmunity: in the word itself, the calm precedes the unity.


it may seem odd to apply 'calm' to a full band whose rhythm is louder and more minutely syncopated than the rhumba & skank of a downtown rush-hour traffic-jam.  but   ::: deep, attentive listening demands an internal calm ::: .  when the collective performs, each artist listens closely to the musical nuances, and strategically enters the music with their unique voice.  the kalmunity sound is anchored by drums and bass, made brazen by a horn section, and vocalized.  the audience resonates.  the ensemble improvises on the rhythms of the afri-spora, nimbly shifting from reggae to funk / afro-be to soul // shape to ship /// arrival to arrival // sailing from harlem to lagos / spacing out the pace // ascending /// zionizing // soloing latin / percussing port-au-princely.  the collective's rhythmic insistence can have a meditative effect, swaying people into balance with one-another, balancing people's thoughts and opening their minds to the vocalists' tickling articulations.


the kalmunity vocalists include rappers, singers, beatboxers, and poets.  the poets are unique.  they are able to function like musicians, entering the music on the om, the big bang, the one, alternating between verse and chorus, hanging back and gifting space to other instrumentalists, observing the strictures of the misc.  their delivery mouths through the entire range of speech, from whisper to shout. it can be bird calls or a fleuve's flip ripples. the delivery can become fluid as a rapper's, cutting, a rapier's, or can take momentary wing in zong.  the poets are also able to spontaneously (s)elect, then edit, then adapt their verses to the musical now.  this is a rare ability, as most oral poets are solo artists familiar with being on stage alone, adhering to a text, and having near-complete artistic control of their performance.  the kalmunity experience demands that a solo artist relinquish: relinquish text, control, and time.  the solo voice must be balanced with the collective expression.  the solo voice, no longer 0 or 1 alone, but




et al, ad infinitum, the solo voice no longer dictates time, but responds as time is kicked out on the kick. poet must possess calm to accept, to relinquish, to swing into bigness with the band, to be collected by the vibration, to be un while being i, in unity.  in this situation, a poet's entire poem, sophisticated as it may be, may not fit or find its pocket.  the poet has to be mindful of how long she spends on the microphone, and of any sudden musical swerves.


this musical facility has been nurtured over 8 years, and has given kalmunity's poets a special performance toolkit, which includes: rhythm and sound; ability to be economical and to condense work to fit the dimensions of the music; understanding song structure and being able to work within and without it; understanding the uses and figures of repetition - repetition as it relates to words, but also to rhythmic units; ability to work in alternation with other instruments, sometimes pausing to let an alto saxophone or a trumpet solo; flexibility to embrace improvisation. poets like zibz black current and jason 'blackbird' selman have worked with the collective since its earliest days, and have a near-instinctive knowledge of this toolkit.   others, like katalyst and fabrice koffy, have used these tools to tinker solo albums together.  one newer addition, miss d-na, takes her kalmunity expertise onto the national slam stage.


many of the collective's senior musicians now have extensive experience working with poets.  these collabs do not only take place on tuesday nights, but have found other forms and other venues.  jason 'blackbird' selman, trumpeter and poet, has long hosted a series called intimate skyintimate sky explores the relationship between voice and instrument, word and music, often doing so using small innovative combos.  at a recent intimate sky event, the theme was 'double trouble,' and it placed vocalists in collaboration with two musicians who played the same instrument - two pianists, two guitarists, or two saxophonists, for instance.  smaller-ensemble collabs have also taken place in the music studio, and have yielded a fruitful of recorded tracks.




the collective's musicians have also worked with poets from outside the group.  the list of poets is stellar, and it includes:


         lillian allen

john akpata

         klyde brooks

clifton joseph




naila keleta mae




         greg 'ritallin' frankson

dwayne morgan

          d'bi young

nth digri


while some of these collaborations have been brief on-stage it-ins, there have been full-length feature performances : ::: : with lillian allen at the 2005 festival voix d'amériques  &w d'bi young at/on several occasions.  collaborations with naila keleta mae resulted in two full-length albums (free dome and bloom), and work with d'bi young resulted in several recorded tracks.


even after 8 years, kalmunity continues to host its weekly live organic improv event.  the event has moved from its early home at sablo kafé in little italy, to le consulat, right in the heat of downtown, to its present playhouse up along boul st-laurent, at les bobards, 4328 st-laurent.  the regularity of the series has given new poets the chance to give 30+ performances a year.  this has helped many artists to hone. & flex. their abilities - their comfort on stage, their vocal versatility, their understanding of how to work with musicians - have multiplied and grown nimble.  this has also helped to bill & BUILD the nouns of poets unknown.  this regularity has also kept oral -oetry at the heart of the uptown music scene, maintaining the art form's visi-via-bility and facilitating collaborating & x-crossing // splicing disciplines.


ca( ,,,  en ,,, un ,,, er ,,, i ,,, g ,,, re  ,,, ty ,,, en  ,,, )lm


back in the early 000's, i used to help host a program called soulperspectives, on ckut radio, 90.3 fm.  i don't remember the specific reason for   kalmunity's visit - but why does there need to be a reason? as kalmunity has demonstrated for 8+ years, why not swing into the world & create the occasion from air, err, ear, and dare? be creation the occasion.  in the on-air studio we had guitar, bass, drummms,  percussion, trumpet, and several vocalists performing live. the sound engineer had to crawl under the desk to get in and out of the studio. once again, sweating room only.  the bass drum was a secret, improvised implement. i was toasting the broadcast, but i never did get the chance to hear it.  i've always wondered whether our listeners across the island, out in n.d.g., round about campbell park in burgundy, up in the funky flats of the plateau & mile end, down in the old port beside the fleuve, deep in the east, hochelaga maisonneuve, or up north in st-michel, where some of the world's best boxers are born ambidextrous, i wonder whether those listening could perceive the closeness, the heat, the ripe evolution of the moment. what about the communication? could they perceive the communion with one-another, with sound, with word, and with mo'real, the city whose bricks kalmunity syncopates every week?  mm.  musing.   


pls visit :::




Stephen Thomas performs. Courtesy Kalmunity Vibe Collective.
Courtesy Kalmunity Vibe Collective.
Kalmunity visionary JahSun. Courtesy Kalmunity Vibe Collective.
(L to R ) Fredy V, Queen, Patrice, Preach, Jean-Francois, Karl, Jahsun, Bungle Natty, Steev K, Foblaze
Talking horns. Courtesy Kalmunity Vibe Collective.
Courtesy Kalmunity Vibe Collective.