An Ode to Timekode

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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.