Everything you need to know about Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal

In Montreal, you can’t get away with throwing just any kind of party. This is the kind of city where design, fashion and music intersect in such a seamless and considerate way that you must include so many scenes and styles. Take the Red Bull Music Academy’s current month-long bash for example. The amount of thinking that has gone into the throng of RBMA’s lectures, DJ setlists and related art initiatives, has made it—so far—one of the most optimistic and leading-edge music gatherings in Canada this year. Here are a few reasons why newbies and icons (including Blood Orange, Björk and Iggy Pop) from more than 35 countries have gathered to Montreal to celebrate:

The Academy took Montreal’s Olympic pool and transformed it into a club
Speakers were installed under water and vibes came from one of Italy’s most prominent dance producers—Lorenzo Senni—as well as Detroit’s legendary Dj Stingray. Club goers had two experiences with Senni and Stingray’s music—soothing beats underwater was followed up by thumping bass on deck.

Photography by Dan Wilton / Red Bull Content Pool

The RBMA system makes the creation of music a priority
While most music fests and events focus on artists solely tear up the stage or slay a set, RBMA’s program mixes education with celebration. It gathers artists together and gives them a place to actually record new material in state-of-the-art studios (all expertly designed by Montreal architect Zébulon Perron). Musicians and singers from different disciplines often meet and collaborate here, mixing genres, cultures and state-of-art tracks and performances. This creation-before-observation method benefits artists immensely as they own all of the tracks they’ve made at RBMA studios and are not beholden to anyone after they lay them down.

Photography by Santiago Felipe

New musicians have a chance to graduate from the school of Björk
Songwriters such as Daudi Matisko—who hails from Uganda—was one of the 15 participants who were chosen from around the world to be a part of the academy. He said that getting to hear and meet artists such as Björk felt like he was getting educated. “As a songwriter, you are constantly trying to figure out how to be and how to live as an artist without fear,” he says. “This event gives me that Intel. With people like Björk—who is the one who has pushed every envelope out there—we can learn about how to deal with the industry.” Aside from learning from man and woman, he also learned from machine, using his studio time as a classroom. “Here, I was could finally figure out how to use some music software properly,” he said, speaking to the folk and blues-oriented tracks he’s made so far. “In that regard, my sound is better now than when I first arrived—it is more refined.”

Photography by Karel Chladek / Red Bull Content Pool

New music genres are born and raised here
A rising genre in music right now called Turbo Crunk partially has RBMA to thank. One of the genre’s leading figures, an artist named Ango (aka Toronto’s Andrew MacPherson) has helped spread its popularity immensely. The Red Bull Academy Alumni started his experimental R&B voyage as a participant at the RBMA London back in 2010 (he is also on the studio team in Montreal) and soon came up with his own version of sounds which define Turbo Crunk: live analog synth mixed with drums and Southern rap acapellas.

Photography Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool

The RBM Academy is a haven for musical connection and motivation
Joan La Barbara—a legendary composer and vocalist who can sing in two or more pitches simultaneously—was by far, one of the biggest inspirations at RBMATL this year. Her sit down interview with Aaron Gonsher, which was a run down of her career as an extremely experimental singer, songwriter and composer (she began doing recordings of what she calls “Sound Paintings”,) connected artist/participant Sign Libra to La Barbara’s process. La Barbara hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is 69-years-old and has recorded more than 12 albums. In contrast, emerging artist Sign Libra (real name Agata Melnikova), who is a native of Latvia, is just starting out and has released several tracks on soundcloud and bandcamp. Despite the age and experience gap, 20-something Melnikova felt deeply connected to La Barbara. “I couldn’t believe how much I could relate to her. I felt like seeing her was like seeing more possibilities,” Melnikova said. “She’s almost 70 years old and has been able to do this for so long and she’s still inspired, which inspires me,” Melnikova added. “I could relate to what she was talking about when she got into her thoughts on nature and when she talked about how tree branches were like notes. Its comforting to know she sees nature as part of the puzzle of music,” she said. “Two of my own tracks trying to [musically] translate the tongue of the chameleon and the bee getting pollen from a flower. Her work makes me want to do more, create more and watch BBC wild doc’s again to find that symbolism.”