The path to art is paved with corporate logos. But where other brands use cash to influence or buy cachet, some remain “pure” by being artist-driven and commandeering new spheres of influence. The Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) is a workshop and festival caravan for budding music professionals. Starting in Berlin in 1998, every year RBMA selects 60 participants from around the world for a two-week recording/jamming/workshopping intensive in a new city. Some of today’s most influential musicians — from Flying Lotus to Hudson Mohawke — are RBMA alumni, and what’s more, they’ve learned from true industry innovators, from Alice Russell to Gilberto Gil to Erykah Badu.
To promote this year’s workshop, which returns to New York City, RBMA Canada teamed up with Montreal-founded Mutek — an international electronic music festival — and is touring the country with Dutch producer Martyn and our own Egyptrixx.
“Mutek was created for serious Canadian artists to perform alongside and interact with the most inventive artists from the international scene, to bridge that regionalism,” explains Dimitri Nasrallah, Mutek’s director of promotions and interactive content. “If Mutek gives [Canadian artists] the credibility to pursue an international career, RBMA takes that same artist out the bedroom and gives him the confidence to take his skills seriously.”
Andre De Pape, cultural manager for Red Bull Canada, points out that this Canadian tour zooms in even further on that gap. “Sometimes the rest of the country gets skipped over,” he says, pointing out tour stops in Ottawa, Saskatoon and Victoria. “We want to make sure that all regions get to experience a bit of what it’s like at the Academy.”
Like a touring version of the official workshop, each city gets an evening lecture with Martyn and Egyptrixx, followed by a DJ night featuring both producers as well as past participants like Exeter. Nasrallah observed the 2010 RBMA in London as a journalist and vouches for its immersive value: “Beyond the educational aspects and having access to state-of-the-art studios … the intangible quality the Academy offers is the luxury of believing in yourself, which doesn’t come easy to young musicians, starting off. And they stick by students, helping release their music or setting up showcases, like this tour.”
Below, De Pape and Nasrallah point out five Canadian RBMA alumni making noise internationally.
Who: Poirier (London 2010)
Why: “The reigning king of Canadian dancehall, soca and bass manipulations, Poirier has been at the forefront of the Canadian club scene for nearly a decade,” says Nasrallah. “Through his massive Karnival monthlies, Poirier’s introduced many hotly topped international DJs to Canadians and championed a number of younger producers and DJs to his well-earned fanbase.”
Who: Lunice (London 2010)
Why: One-third of the Montreal’s LuckyMe bureau, alongside Jacques Greene and AnGo. “Lunice breaks the traditional hip-hop template and infuses what’s left behind with R&B, bass and UK garage. He has a thrilling live presence, a new perspective on an accessible sound and a fully-formed local scene backing him up,” explains Nasrallah.
Who: New Look (Seattle 2005)
Why: “The duo, producer Adam Pavao and singer Sarah Ruba, were brought together by a shared love of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You. The producer of that record, Leon Ware, ended up as Pavao’s lecturer when he attended RBMA,” says De Pape. New Look pair melodic vocals with electro beats.
Who: Exeter (Madrid 2011)
Why: “A sucker for ‘catchy music,’ Exeter’s goal is to make songs that get stuck in your head,” says De Pape, adding the producer/DJ opened up for SBTRKT and Araabmuzik last fall. Influences: The-Dream, Prince and PrisonGarde.
Who: Sibian & Faun (Madrid 2011)
Why: Xavier Leon and Milo Reinhardt recently signed to Glasgow’s Numbers label. Starting out making ‘happy music,’ they began trading that concept in “for crunchy bass lines and heavy production. It’s hard to categorize, but nonetheless stellar,” says De Pape.
RBMA and Mutek present Martyn and Egyptrixx in Toronto, March 1. Click to RSVP for the free lecture, 7 to 9 p.m. at Red Bull 381 Projects (381 Queen Street West), or dance the night away at Wrongbar later that night. Click to apply for RBMA NYC 2012.