“Chill is explosive,” is the opening line of the weekly Tuesday night showcase of the Kalmunity Vibe Collective. This idea rang true throughout the three hour set. Held at Petit Campus, the lesser known first floor of Café Campus, Kalmunity’s unique approach to improvised jazz is as captivating as it is relaxing.
Kalmunity was founded in 2003 by the current drummer, Jashun. Since then ,the collective has cultivated a dedicated rotation of accomplished musicians and poets. In the 13 years since their inception, Kalmunity has grown from hosting small jam sessions at the Sablo Cafe to drawing in weekly crowds at the roomier venue Petit Campus. Throughout the years, Kalmunity has given an opportunity for countless instrumentalists, vocalists, and performing artists to improvise together. Kalmunity has become Canada’s largest collective of musicians ranging from the professional to the amateur.
Before the set began, Jashun took the stage to remind the audience that what they were about to hear is 100 per cent improvised. This feat is made all the more impressive by the skill with which Kalmunity’s performance is delivered. Jashun established a backing rhythm with polished ease; the bassist, keyboardist, followed by the rest of the band joined in to produce a cataclysm of jazz sound that had elements of funk, indie, electronica, and blues. While ad-libbing an entire song, the musicians maintained a cool, calm, and collected demeanour—truly befitting their “vibe collective.”
Though the backing music is impressive in itself, a large portion of Kalmunity’s draw comes from the vocals. Singers, spoken word poets, and rappers alike perform, each bringing their own unique style and rhythm. When two, three, or even four vocal performers take the stage at once, the effect is amplified as they effortlessly combine their voices into one dynamic, yet undoubtedly unified, sound. The stories told are not strictly improvised; many performers bring a written journal, or even a phone onto the stage, and read or sing pre-written thoughts out to the audience. The beat of the backing track is always followed to a tee, and, in the case of the singers, the improvised melody is entrancing. Vocalists explore themes ranging from love to political and social issues, each highlighting the artists’ diverse backgrounds.
The ever-changing rotation of artists creates striking differences from one Kalmunity performance to the next. One week, the band can be jovial and relaxed, with funky basslines and animated brass section. The next week, the band could be more reserved, with brass being replaced by bongos and jangly, indie-sounding guitar. Some sets of vocalists may favour performing one at a time, while others prefer two or four people sharing the stage. The Kalmunity vibe rotates with the musicians, but the talent and spirit is unwavering.
Kalmunity’s Tuesday night show at Petit Campus are lesser known within the McGill community—many students favour the more popular Throwback Tuesday Night at Café Campus, happening just above the heads of the improv jazz fans. But for those looking to branch out and experience more of what Montreal’s musical culture has to offer, Kalmunity is a perfect introduction. Their catchy hooks and chill vibes can be just what one needs for a mid-week study break.