An Ode to Timekode
With co-founder Kwende Kefentse leaving Ottawa, the 12-year-old dance party expands and contracts
Emerging in 2005 from the basement of Eri café, the first thing I heard about this party is that it was one of Ottawa’s “hottest” dance parties—by which I mean the temperature in that room was very warm. The ventilation wasn’t great, dancing made you sweat more than you typically would in a public space—physically, it might not have been comfortable. Despite this, my friends would recount their evenings with glowing smiles. Clearly, the DJ collective founded by DJ Zattar were onto something.
“For over a decade, we’ve been providing a space to consume culture that’s fresh and new and pluralistic and that’s part of a larger collective,” says Kwende ‘Memetic’ Kefentse. “We feel that it’s essential and it exists in a lot of modern cities—at least, a lot of the places that I want to be.”
On August 25, one guest, Martin, told me about his memories. “I first went to Timekode at the Eri café, in the early 2000s when I was new to this city. Sometimes I went for the pool, but mostly for the hip-hop. They were good parties.”
Timekode celebrated an ending of sorts on August 25, where they took their party to a boat along the Outauoais River. Half of this dynamic duo is about to embark on the next part of his journey, bringing him to London, England to study architecture.
In some ways there is a sense of loss—once again, someone who works to make this city a more vibrant place has moved to a bigger city. Yet, the impact of someone like DJ Memetic is is such that it can continue without him being here. He, along with DJ Zattar and Timekode’s many guest DJs over the years, have helped to create the conditions where culture can develop.
The story I want to write isn’t about someone moving away. This may be a retrospective look at a cultural institution, but it isn’t an ending. Running into Kwende at House of PainT, I ask earnestly, “So is Timekode finished?”
He comfortably replies, “You could say that we’re expanding. We’re planning a guest DJ [in Ottawa] next month, and we’ll have events in London [England].”
One guest to Timekode on August 25 said “a monthly dance party is about the right speed for Ottawa.” It’s true. This city is well-educated, highly engaged, and diverse. We are a small city—there are familiar faces pretty much wherever you go out. Many of our residents tend to look for patterns, and find comfort in the option of a routine,whether or not we choose to follow them. Our sister, Gatineau, is less predictable, at times rougher around the edges. She’s fun; it’s nice to have her around.
It’s interesting how a collective experience in appreciating music will bring people closer to each other, and closer to the city. One of the guests on August 25, Tariq, said “Timekode was always my faith in Ottawa. When Ottawa failed to step up, Timekode was always there.”
He told me more about how he heard about the party, first attending about 12 years ago. “It was upstairs from a bumpin’ party at the time called Disorganized. Upstairs was Zattar. It wasn’t crowded or anything, it was just awesome. After that, Zattar wanted to do his own party, which turned into Timekode.”
They’ve had a number of homes over the years, from Eri Café to Makerspace North to D’Afrique. Still, some things have remained the same. Guests at the August 25 party communicated a sense of appreciation for the open atmosphere that had been created over the years.
Another dedicated fan said “I started going four years ago. They were some of the most accepting, easygoing parties you’ve ever been to. It wasn’t a party dedicated to one group—it wasn’t a hipster party, or a raver party, it was just an everyone party.”
Creating this atmosphere was intentional.
“Part of it is about the space, part about the music, part is about the process of mixing,” said DJ Memetic. “Pluralisms, bringing people together from different places, sounds, and communities. In way that forms something unique, if just for an evening. There is value in that process, no matter where you go.”
DJ Zattar plans on keeping the TK tradition alive. (Photo: Facebook)
A good DJ is able to provide “edutainment,” as the Mercury Lounge’s resident DJ Trevor Walker once told me, citing KRS-One. Walker has been a recurring guest at Timekode, and these groups have a shared ability to both educate and entertain their guests. Certainly, in experiencing music we tap into a sense of community. There’s beauty in having multiple generations in a room together, enjoying the same music.
“I am keeping Timekode going here every third Friday like the last 12 years,” assured DJ Zattar. I’ll be presenting more guests both local and out of town. I’m also doing live TK webcasts every month or so from Record Centre and a new location to be announced shortly”
Ottawa is changing. As a city, we are growing and developing something entirely unique. As individuals interacting in this space, we have a chance to leave each other better than when we met. It would be a great honour to know that you made an impact on a city, but in this case the evidence is clear. Kwende Kefentse left Ottawa better and for that we have one thing to say—thank you.
Be sure to check out Timekode’s 12-year anniversary party at D’Afrique on November 17. This article appears in the September edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column. More information here.
Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 Compilation
Back in May, we celebrated our five-year anniversary with a couple of shows at The Record Centre. That was a whole lot of fun, but we’re not quite done yet. Because why stop there?
Over the past five years we’ve had the opportunity to meet countless musicians in Ottawa, go to hundreds of shows, and really dig deep into the music landscape here. These artists continue to impress us, inspire us, and keep us doing what we do. It’s been our mission and raison d’être to support these musicians through coverage of new album releases, interviews, live reviews, and much more.
We’ve put together a compilation called Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 which contains music that has impacted us since Showbox started in 2012. This span of five years, in our mind, was a crucial period in the Ottawa music scene. More DIY musicians than ever before came out of the woodwork and made albums, and many were released independently without labels. Some music was underground, some wasn’t.
Different types of music pervaded throughout this period, demonstrating Ottawa’s potential hub in the Canadian landscape. Our hope is that this compilation will act as a snapshot of a strong and robust local music scene in Ottawa between 2012-2017, and allow folks to have a view into the music that came out during this period. It goes between garage, punk, hip hop, folk, and
While we could have double or tripled the size of this compilation with all the incredible artists out there, we kept it modest and capped it at 51. So while this list is encompassing, it’s certainly not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch. Please enjoy a free stream and download of the Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 compilation below.
A huge thank you to all the artists who contribute their music to this compilation, and to Pascale Arpin for designing such a good album cover. Enjoy!
The compilation is PWYC, and any proceeds will be donated to Girls+ Rock Ottawa in memory of Jean Sebastien Belleau. A special fund in his name has been established for the maintenance, repair and preservation of their growing instrument library, made in the spirit of honouring JS’ much deserved legacy as a passionate supporter of the Ottawa music scene.
Folkfest Day 1: TIMEKODE & Foster The People
Ottawa Folk Festival is upon us once again, and that means that the summer festival season is drawing to a close. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hold onto every last bit of what’s left of summer… even if it’s a little nippley out. You may have heard people complain about Folkfest not being “folk” enough – much like how Bluesfest isn’t “blues.” Well, they need to get over it. This year the festival has offered up a stellar lineup of music of all kinds – from a local DJ crew TIMEKODE to soulman Lee Fields. Kudos to the programmers for getting some great talent on board!
I only caught a couple acts on day one, as the first day didn’t have too many bands playing. A new addition to this year’s fest was the Craft Beer House, which was a large tent located just outside the actual grounds that are fenced-off. Not only are there plenty of craft beer options to indulge in, but also because there is free programming happening throughout the festival there. I treated myself to a beer from the Whitewater Brewing Company, another small Ottawa Valley craft beer company delivering some of the finest quality liquid in the country. I tried their Class-V IPA, a hoppy 5.5% beer that goes down smooth and has a hell of a bite to it. I highly recommend the Class-V to anyone who can appreciate full-flavoured, bitter beer. I think I fell in love that night, forever.
Our little group skipped on Blues Traveller, because, well… none of us really know them that well. However, I did hear that they played a cover of Sublime’s “What I Got,” which would have been a good one to sing along to. In any case, Ottawa DJ crew TIMEKODE were playing in the Craft Beer House and they are always a hell of a good time. Earlier this year, TK lost their home base at Eri Cafe but are still carrying on strong. They made their new home at Folkfest this night, and had a nice little crowd up dancing on the wood floors.
I love TK because they play whatever they feel like, and it’s always good. Really good. DJ’s Zattar and Memetic were representing, as Eric Roberts wasn’t around for the set. The two held down the fort and played a wide range of material, including some samples from producer David Axelrod’s “The Edge,” popularized by Dr. Dre’s song “The Next Episode“. From there they played a little remix of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” as well as my absolute favourite of the night – a medley of two different versions of “Guns of Brixton.” The first was a really funky dub/reggae version that took the baseline and lyrics of the original and made everything a little easier for people to get their groove on to. Then Memetic came on the mic and told us that he was going to play the best version, which of course was the original by The Clash off of London Calling (composed & sung by bassist Paul Simonon). It’s as if they could read my mind, because I totally fan-girled it when the song came on (but I kept it mostly inside, so as to not completely embarrass myself). TK stayed on the decks until about midnight, keeping people sheltered from the rain with some great tracks.
We then headed to the main stage area to catch Foster The People from Los Angeles, CA. Around 10,000 people showed up to witness the final event of the night, which was headlined by Mark Foster and his band of talented freshmen. We braved the rain and got there just in time for “Helena Beat,” one of the many catchy songs off their 2011 album Torches. Their anthemic, dance-inspiring tracks are along the same lines as bands like Passion Pit or Cut Copy – synth-laden songs with relatively simple arrangements but structured with layers of captivating instrumentation and textures. Foster’s falsetto vocal parts were right on, and the band sounded extra good with a few new supporting bodies on stage for the tour. One of the band members even joined drummer Mark Pontius for a little extra beat. A few others from Torches, such as “Houdini,” “Call it What You Want,” “Don’t Stop,” and “Pumped Up Kicks,” made the rain-soaked crowd forget about their current state of discomfort in the name of music. Although the radio played most of their 2011 singles to death, the positive response from the audience was proof enough that their songs were not simply fleeting hits on the airwaves. Hands raised in the air, and smiles were seen all across the crowd as these foundational songs for the band kept the crowd singing along.
They also played a lot of songs off their newest album Supermodel, released in March. Although I was not as familiar with the album, I did enjoy their live performance of the new songs such as “Coming of Age” and “Are You What You Want Be?” It has to be said that none of their newer songs have the same power as the singles from their first album, except for one (and for a different reason). A new song that really caught my attention was “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon.” It’s robust, distorted baseline, heavy percussion, and Foster’s relaxed vocals differentiated it from the rest. I liked it because it had some grimy elements in it, and diverged significantly from the lighter, electro-pop band they’re known to be. Even the lyrics are darker than we normally hear from Foster The People:
“Now I’m staring at the moon wondering why the bottom fell out
I’ve been searching for answers and there’s questions I’ve found
Open your eyes and share this burden somehow
Are you ready to drink
Or are you waiting to drown?”
Still, the majority of the songs played were from Torches, to which they owe their fame and fortune. A good mix of new and old never hurt anyone, as everyone left the show pleased. The rain pelted down hard, and noise complaints were made to the City by crotchety assholes miles away complaining about strange sounds coming from somewhere, but damn them both. People of all ages came and danced in the rain until late at night, which is what this city needs.
Ottawa Folkfest 2014: Local Preview
Photo credit: Steve Gereke
Ottawa Folkfest 2014 will take place in beautiful Hog’s Back Park again this year. It will be the Great Escape we’ve all be waiting for and caps off the summer, from September 10 to 14. It will feature several great local groups & solo musicians, not to mention a remarkably large amount of free scheduling and many big names of the industry. Here is a list in alphabetical order to help you support local at this year’s Folkfest!
The Cardboard Crowns
First place winners of the 2013 Live 88.5 Big Money Shot, The Cardboard Crowns are a mix of ska-beats, reggae and punk rock. Their shows are always super upbeat and bring people to their feet. Make yourself a cardboard crown at home and wear it to the show if you really want to fit in. Dance under the sun with them Sunday Sept. 14 at 3:30 p.m. at the Valley Stage.
This Juno & CFMA-nominated artist has built a dedicated following through the art of storytelling, with countless shows and 18 albums under his belt. According to Canadian music icon Gordon Lightfoot, Craig Cardiff is a “songwriter who needs to be heard.” Come see and hear for yourself September 14 at 5 p.m. on the Valley Stage.
High Waters are an art-rock quartet that deliver harmonious vocal arrangements and sombre melodies with hints of folk-rock. Kick off your Friday evening with them at one of the many free stages at 6:15pm on the Hill Stage.
Ottawa’s own soulful Jill Zmud is fresh off the release of her first album in four years, Small Matters of Life and Death. Get ready for songs of heartache and hope September 11 at 8:15 p.m. on the Valley Stage.
This year’s Galaxie Rising Star Award Winner is a passionate young singer-songwriter with a lovely voice and even sweeter lyrics. Laurent will be performing his fun folk pop sound twice, first on September 11 at 6:15 p.m. on the Hill Stage and September 14 at 9:15 p.m. on the Eh! Stage.
Lora Bidner is an incredible multi-instrumentalist, composer and performer. Her music takes you on a trip ranging from darkness to upbeat folk thanks to her her haunting vocal melodies, loop pedals and great use of guitar, ukulele, hang drum and piano. Come be wowed September 13 at 3 p.m. on the Eh! Stage.
If you haven’t been the Chateau Lafayette, shut it all down and go there now. Lucky Ron, a country legend in Ottawa, has been performing his show there for over 28 years. Grab your cowboy hats and get your vocal chords ready to sing at his free show September 11 at 8 p.m. on the Hill Stage.
The duo formed while busking on the streets of Ottawa. They just got out of the studio so expect some great new indie/folk music as well as some sweet covers from the pair. They play a free show September 13 at 3:15 p.m. on the Hill Stage.
The Noisy Locomotive
Not based or formed in Ottawa exactly, but Mountain, ON is just below the Rideau on the way to the 401. The Noisy Locomotive is brothers Trevor and Corey Pool and friend Ben Nesrallah. They play old-time, knee-slapping, dinner-party-style folk and bluegrass. Get folky with it and them September 11 at 7 p.m. on the Valley Stage.
Bringing dark themes and 21st-century social commentary squarely into the pop realm, the funky nine-piece, The PepTides deliver super moveable and fun electro-synth pop. Their shows are always full of eye-catching costumes, a lot of dancing and theatrics. Come dance and flashback to gogo dance days of the summer for a free show September 12 at 8:45 p.m. at the Hill Stage.
One of Ottawa’s somehow still hidden gems, Pony Girl will amaze with their briliant art-rock. Capping off an east cost tour with their performance at Folkfest they are a must see act. Come get locked into a trance and float off in the beautiful sounds of Pony Girl September 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hill Stage.
Saturnfly are one of the most intriguing and interesting bands of the festival. Armed with a cello, electric guitar, moog and drums, the four-piece play spacey rock. Their debut album, set to be released in October, is a science fiction concept album which tells the story of a cyborg who leaves her home on Earth to search the universe for humans who have left the planet long ago. Come be part of the otherworldly experience at the ever free Hill Stage on September 13 at 4:30 p.m.
Another one of Ottawa’s finest multi-instrumentalist, Spencer Scharf will dazzle you with his abilities on six & 12 string, 8 string baritone, resonator/slide guitar, electric guitar, cigar box guitars, piano, keyboard, banjo, harmonica, ukulele, and mandolin. His finger picking is hypnotizing and his sound draws from the likes of Eric Clapton, Robert Johnson and Neil Young. Get yourself a dose of twangy folk and a delicious craft pint September 14 at 5 p.m. at the Craft Beer House.
Electro-pop siblings David and Rylee Taggart are at the head of The Strain from Wakefield, QC. Their infectious pop sound that won them the 2012 Big Money Shot will get you out of your camping chairs and get you clapping and dancing. Come see what all the fuss is about and don’t forget your dancing shoes, September 11 at 6 p.m. at the RavenLaw Stage.
This DJ crew, Zattar and Memetic, have made a name for themselves since forming in Ottawa in 2008. Although their former home at Eri Cafe is no longer, these guys continue to keep Ottawa a hell of a fun place to live. They motto is soul moving soles, and they never disappoint. Come move and be moved September 10 at 8 p.m. at the Craft Beer House for a free Timekode!
The Wicked Mercy
Good cold beer and rock n roll. That is what you are in for when you check out The Wicked Mercy at Folkfest. The show is free so you can spend your extra coin on craft beers while you groove to their blues-infused rock. Try not to spill too much September 13 at 5 p.m. at the Craft Beer House.
TIMEKODE @ Eri Café No More, Team TK Set Its Sights on the Future
Sadly, once in a while we have to write about bad news. After eight years of rocking the dance floor at Eri Café Pan African Social Club, TIMEKODE will no longer be taking place. We’re not exactly sure what happened, but it looks like Eri Café has shut down operations completely and is no longer open for business. Since 2005, TIMEKODE at Eri Café has been a night where DJs Eric Roberts, Memetic, and Zattar came together and gave people in this city a reason to bust a move or two. We’ve all at one point had some great memories from TIMEKODE, and it is with a heavy heart that we have to see it go. In their address they mention taking some time to regroup as the next chapter of TIMEKODE is in the making, so we’ll likely hear more from these guys in the near future. Here’s what they had to say about it: