Kalmunity, a Night of Improvisation in the Plateau

“We don’t practice any of this,” the man on stage shouts into the microphone. “It’s the feeling that we get… and we express it… through our instrumetsssss.” The drum picks up the beat and the fragments of a song begin to materialize. It’s 10 PM on a Tuesday night in the Plateau and Les Bobards is packed full – it’s Kalmunity night.

While the temperature outside sits at a cool -24°C, the shiny foreheads and matted hair found inside set a different tone. Not a single table or chair is left unoccupied and the small space before the stage showcases some of the more ardent Kalmunity fans, noses pressed against the fourth wall, heads nodding steadily to the beat.

This is my second time experiencing Kalmunity. Although I’m more of a sit-and-sip sort of music listener, the lack of available tables and the over-eagerness of the friends I came with finds me up against the stage, making direct eye contact with the performers, and blinding everyone around me with my camera. In retrospect, this is the most fitting way to fully take in the unique production that is Kalmunity. Despite the surprisingly heavy presence of fellow civvies around the bar, I had not heard of Kalmunity until this, my fourth year, and I find that many others are in the same boat. This article serves as an introduction and an invitation.

Kalmunity is a group of over thirty performers, with talents ranging from drums to poetry-readings, with dancers, beat boxers, singers, trumpet players, and several others thrown in between. The performers are not all on stage at the same time, or even all performing on the same night. The vocalists take turns on stage, either solo or in smaller ensembles, while the instruments carry on in the background. But it is not the sheer number of members that makes Kalmunity unique. What sets Kalmunity apart is that the band doesn’t practice any of its music; everything they present is pure, unadulterated, improvisation, cooked up on stage before our eyes. For me anyway, it is the first time I’ve seen anything like it.

The music they construct can’t be put under a clear-cut label, per say, but it tends to revolve around meshes of funk, jazz, blues, reggae, rap, and music genres I’ve probably never heard of. In one moment, the trumpet takes the spotlight with a solo, accompanied by many cries of encouragement from the audience. The next moment a bollywood dancer takes the stage, and the next, a rapper grabs the microphone. The performance keeps the audience glued to the stage – even a beer run is out of the question; if you blink you might miss something.

All in all, I would categorize Kalmunity under the must-see’s of Montreal. The show concludes at midnight with shouts of ‘encore’ resounding from every corner of the room. The band treats us to one more song and then it’s time to catch the last metro home – ideal timing for a Tuesday night.

Brigid Cami

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