Nomadic Massive
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Nomadic Massive

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF
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How To Become a Global Person Without Leaving Your House

By Marlon Bishop
December 5, 2011

Straight out of the frosty multi-culti metropolis of Montreal, Nomadic Massive have set a new standard for polyglot hip-hop. The group’s nine members come from seven different countries – Haiti, St. Vincent, Barbados, Chile, Argentina, Algeria, and Cuba – and rap in just about as many languages. Over live boom-bap beats and international samples, Nomadic’s members sing, chat, and rap in English, French, Kreyol, Spanish, and Portuguese, switching tongues mid-sentence without missing a beat. When they’re not trotting the globe and filling up passport pages spreading the gospel of international hip-hop, the band’s members keep busy with extracurricular projects ranging from running legal aid clinics for immigrants to making a documentary film about the recent Haitian elections.

MTV Iggy’s Marlon Bishop met up with Nomadic Massive members Vox Sambou, Meduza, Lou Piensa, Waahli, and Tali in French Guiana, where they were brought down to play Transamazoniennes, a music festival set in the South American jungle town of Saint-Laurent-Du-Maroni.

Even the heavy tropical haze didn’t manage to stop them from staying busy. The group set up a mobile recording studio in their little hotel room to write new material on the go, and managed to find time to record footage of themselves swaggering around town for a future video between the rehearsals and performances.

Keep reading to find out why you should listen to rap music from other countries, why you should probably be living in Montreal, and the meaning of the “Michael Jackson Theory.”

You guys come from a lot of different places – what inspirations did you draw on to come up with the Nomadic Massive sound?

Tali: I think first and foremost we have to say we draw on hip-hop culture because we identify as a hip-hop band. Growing up with an East Coast influence from the U.S. but having an interest in all American rap styles, and taking that further to rap from our countries of origin and elsewhere. So Kreyol rap, Algerian rap, and so on.

And we draw on our own traditional music in the communities we grow up in and mix that all together. It’s important to us maintain that fusion.

Meduza: The art of sampling has been a major inspiration for us. Through hip-hop, we realized that we could bring a track from all the way from the Sahara and take it to North America and drop it into a hip-hop beat.

Are there any particular genres that you’ve sampled in your beats?

Lou Piensa: Well I would answer that saying that we don’t limit ourselves to anything. We’re interested in sampling good music and that can come from anywhere. And we’re interested in the history of the music as well. We won’t just grab something and flip it. We’ll try to find out where the music is from, what it means, what went into it, and that will influence our way of writing the lyrics for the track.

How did all nine of you, from very different backgrounds, manage to find each other?

Meduza: One word – Mon-tre-al [laughs].

Do explain…

Tali: Montreal is a city full of art and culture from all over the place. Because we are bilingual city we end up being a multilingual city and people from these different communities really blend together, live amongst each other, and ultimately through their children, we get this really interesting mix. We jump on that and celebrate that and try to put that forward at every opportunity we get to represent the city that we’re from.

I’ve heard that you guys run hip-hop clinics back home.

Tali: Nomadic Massive goes beyond music. We conduct educational workshops around the technical things like rhyme writing and beat creation. But we take it further. Waahli for example does legal aid clinics to help young people who are often hip-hop identified deal with issues around the law, racial profiling, and etcetera. Myself I have an educational series of workshops called “Hip Hop No Pop.” It’s a media literacy project that looks at the non-violent origins of hip-hop culture.

What about hip-hop makes it a powerful vehicle for creating communities? What is the strength of hip-hop to you?

Meduza: If I was to speak for myself, it’s the concept of expressing yourself without fear and being able to find your individuality through that expression, unapologetically. I come from Algeria, from oppressive world, and a world where women are not supposed to be loud. Hip-hop gave me idea that it was possible to be loud, and in a creative, musical way, and in inspire others to express themselves as well.

From baile funk to kuduro and whatever else, a lot of global dance music styles are circulating pretty widely these days. What international music has caught your ears recently?

Lou Piensa: There are a lot of incredible musical movements that are getting a little bit of light but I want to just put a spotlight on international hip-hop as well. Because I think that doesn’t get enough attention really. Some scenes like France and Germany maybe got their place on the map, but you’re now hearing hip-hop all over the world on a really high level. Great productions, great flows.

There’s amazing stuff coming out of Cuba, Chile, Brazil, Senegal, Burkina Faso – great, great hip-hop that’s at the level now where you can compare it to anything. Sometimes it’s a lot more refreshing to listen to those records than the stuff being pushed on us over here.

Of course, you guys can actually speak all those languages…

Lou Piensa: [Laughs] Sure that helps, but I’ll listen to a whole album where I don’t understand anything, just for the flows.

Well let’s talk about that, it’s a good question. Hip-hop has always been so much about the word. Why should people listen to hip-hop in languages they can’t understand?

Lou Piensa of Nomadic Massive. Photo: Marlon Bishop

Meduza: Tell him the Michael Jackson theory.

The Michael Jackson theory?

Lou Piensa: Oh yes, the Michael Jackson theory. If you grew up anywhere in the world that wasn’t English speaking, then you sang “Beat it” or “Thriller” in nonsense words. [“Yep” “Definitely’] That’s a reality. In that case why can’t the reverse happen?

You shouldn’t be turned off by a language you can’t understand because there’s much more than just the language going on. Of course you miss a huge part of the message, but music goes way beyond that, it’s something you feel physically. There’s no reason you should turn it off if you can understand the flow of it. If an MC is whack in another language, you know he’s whack even if you don’t understand the words.

Tali: Me, I’m always waving the educational flag. You can learn a lot about the world if you’re listening to hip-hop in other languages, because you are hearing the story of some place you’ve never been to. That’s what happened to us.

In Montreal, for those of us that didn’t have a direct line to Brooklyn or the Bronx, you all of a sudden knew what New York looked like without ever being there, because you were listening to MCs who were describing corners and bodegas. We don’t have bodegas, we call it a depanneur. If you can pick up another language, or listen with a dictionary, all of a sudden you are becoming a global person without leaving your house.

Marlon: Maybe one day there will be an app for that. An international hip-hop translation app.

Tali: That’s a good idea, you should probably patent that.

Feature image courtesy of Nomadic Massive. - MTV Iggy


Nomadic Massive -- Nomadic Massive

Boasting ten members, six languages, (English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Creole and Arabic) and even more nationalities, Nomadic Massive takes multiculturalism to the next level. Though the nomadic members have settled in Montreal for the time being, they harness the sounds of their respective pasts to create truly global hip hop. Swaying from straight-up rap to reggae beats to soul-soaring vocals and even jazzy or ska instrumentals, their sound evolves across genres as well as across cultures.

The album opener, called simply “Intro” provides the album’s thesis. Atop a crackling radio, Nomadic Massive explains in sampled, pieced-together sentences, “it doesn’t matter what kind of language you do… hip hop isn’t only about understanding, hip hop is about feeling it.”

Feel it you will. Whether they’re offering danceable grooves like “Nou La” (The New), with its earnest French rapping and catchy, horn-adorned chorus, or tougher Rasta-influenced rap that ping-pongs between languages like “Moving Forward,” Nomadic Massive’s hip hop is inclusive and genuine.

Their large collective of band members allows them to jump from culture to culture without making these transitions feel forced. “Guaguancaso,” sung in Spanish with punctuating salsa horns, captures a Latin flair while the following track, “My Rhythm,” provides a heaping of afrobeat with thumping hand drums and a tribal tempo.

Nomadic Massive thinks globally, not just in the style of their music but also in their message. Regardless of whether you can understand the language that they’re singing/rapping in, it’s clear their lyrics have significance by the way they present them. The female vocalists wail and the rappers snarl, accuse or plea.

There are no “shorties,” no talk of money and “gin and juice.” Instead, Nomadic Massive weaves stories, like in the grooving, guitar-strumming track “Child’s Smile” (which also has a beautiful, soulful Arabic chorus). The smooth male rapper says, “My days in Algeria/ come on let me carry ya/ to a time and place where my mind was much merrier/…I would wake up to the sound of Islam/ thou is peace/ god is great/ meditation brings calm/ even my Pops who’s not religious/ as the sun rose he saw the beauty in the way they sang songs.”

Less sentimental tracks like “Say the Least,” scold apathy towards other cultures and the oppressed. The track opens with clips from a news broadcast and game show. The British host asks, “The language they speak in Latin America is Latin. True or false?” then a deep-voiced rapper enters with slightly pained, slightly accusatory Spanish rhymes. With just the tone of his voice he implores his listeners to reach out.

Every facet of Nomadic Massive exudes multiculturalism. Their languages, instruments, genres, lyrics, even the ethnicity of their band members speaks to an inclusive global community. Perhaps such a community doesn’t yet exist, but this album brings people across cultures a little closer together.

Nomadic Massive

Nomadic Massive

Release Date: October 10, 2009
- MTV Iggy


By Del F. CowieMontreal’s Nomadic Massive are probably one of the most aptly named bands around. Boasting 12 members and vocalists that rap and sing in five different languages (English, French, Spanish, Creole and Arabic), Nomadic Massive provide a truly multicultural listening experience. Predictably, with such a diverse number of influences in a group made up of artists who were previously pursuing solo careers, the album’s musical approach rarely settles into one groove. Incorporating their diverse cultural backgrounds, Nomadic Massive successfully transfer traditional musical forms to hip-hop’s intrinsically syncretic approach with polished production skills. The group’s philosophy informs album opener "Nofy’s Peace,” where most of the shout-outs aren’t to their crew but to the likes of Steve Biko and Patrice Lumumba. Likewise, head-nodder "OWD (Oil, Weapons and Drugs)” underlines the social and political commentary that informs their music. "Sad But True” offers an indictment of institutional corruption over alluring acoustic guitars. While the songs on this set may be very familiar to anyone who’s caught the group’s impressive live show over the past couple of years, the music is now justifiably and logically available to a wider audience.

What do you want people to take from the social and political messages in your music?
Waahli aka Wyzah: We’re all uprooted since birth. Dispatched and moved away from our homelands. Basically all of the countries have been through a lot politically. And the political instability in these countries is something we all grew up with and have been faced with. Since hip-hop was, and still is, the voice of the people, it was good when hip-hop came for each individual in the band. And to put that in the music to make people socially aware and politically inclined about the insides of the political system, that oppressive people had lied to us every time, it was a good thing to do it. And a great occasion to do it. It’s not something that develops itself. It was not planned. It’s something that was dear to us and we just wanted to address it to the people and we see that people are relating. They could be from Argentina or Cuba or Iraq, Algeria, Haiti or Hong Kong; they see they have a place within Nomadic Massive.

Do you ever worry people may see the group as a gimmick or a novelty?
That’s never been a thought in our minds. People see what they want to see and take what they want to take. We’re not really concerned about how people will see us, in a sense. You can have all these ideas and maybe preconceived notions when you see us on stage but when we start playing music it’s different. Everything is put on the backburner, it’s "okay, let’s have fun.” I think something’s happening behind this massive, massive crowd on stage.
(PTR) - Exclaim.ca


Discography

With the first critically acclaimed EP, Nomads Land (2006), more than 1000 copies were sold independently on the strength of the group's performances before inking a distribution deal with Montreal-Toronto based Public Transit Recordings. Between shows at home and abroad, Nomadic jumped back into the studio to record a full-length, self-titled LP; released in March 2009. The new record sincerely reflects the group's diversity and an ever-evolving ability to filter musical influences into a unique sound. more than 5000 sold.
Supafam, a mixtape was launched in 2012 and for 2013 a new EP Any Sound with four new songs.

Photos

Bio

Montreal’s own Nomadic Massive has firmly established itself as a group of premier performers and skilled musicians in a genre that has evolved from its early days of two turntables and a microphone.

Sharing the stage with such notable acts as Wyclef Jean (2008), K’naan (2005), Guru’s Jazzmatazz (2008), Deltron 3030 (2012) or Blitz the ambassor (2012); Nomadic has also performed at world class festivals including the Montreal International Jazz Festival (2007, 2011 and 2012), and in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square's Global Rhythms Festival (2008), and the Harbourfront Global Hip-Hop Festival (2006, 2007). Grand performances in Los Angeles (2012). 2013 will be full of surprises : APAP in New York, Printemps de Bourges in France and many shows in western canada and american west coast.

The group has also left its mark internationally; initiating socio-cultural exchanges with like-minded artists from Sao Paolo, Brazil (2008) and in Havana, Cuba (2004, 2006). In both countries, these initiatives involved educational and musical workshops, concerts and studio collaborations. From these enriching exchanges, the grassroots “Get Down” mix-tape series came to life; showcasing the collaborations as well as solo contributions from Brazilian and Cuban artists. Functioning somewhat as ambassadors, Nomadic continues to redefine what Hip-Hop can achieve on a global level.

With the first critically acclaimed EP, Nomads Land (2006), more than 1000 copies were sold independently on the strength of the group's performances before inking a distribution deal with Montreal-Toronto based Public Transit Recordings. Between shows at home and abroad, Nomadic jumped back into the studio to record a full-length, self-titled LP; released in March 2009. This new record sincerely reflects the group's diversity and an ever-evolving ability to filter musical influences into a unique sound. As the group's ongoing explorations open up new ways to interpret a musical style that has traditionally been marginalized, the “good stuff” that has always existed in the Hip-Hop movement is revealed in everything that is Nomadic Massive.