Caleb Latreille, AKA Dreams Cum True, listens to the masalacism.com podcasts as a matter of regular DJ musical discovery. Earlier this year, the set stood out like no other. He stopped what he was doing and listened, rump bouncing, to the sounds of The Salivation Army.
The Salivation Army is a one-woman brigade. Her weapon is "booty bass" music from all over the world and it quickly became Latreille's daily soundtrack. He reached out to Sarah Bernard, via SoundCloud, with words of appreciation for her arsenal of drum-heavy rhythms and seamless style, featuring Nigerian pop, Afrobeat, Caribbean dancehall, reggae and soca.
Bernard spends all her hours scouting for sonic treasures. "If I like an artist, I want all their music," she says. "Then I look for whom they have collaborated with. I check out the producer and I find all the music they made." She's so devoted to her search for music that she often forgets to eat. "I've been collecting music for 15 years," Bernard says. And there's always a show coming up, like Latreille's Glamoflage party she plans to blow up this Saturday. The organizer promises no injuries.
"I want people to feel safe at my shows," says Latreille. "I want different people to find their identity in the music I play. It's not an anti-society event. I want people to dance."
It sounds simple enough, yet Latreille troubles over the consumption of black culture and his part in it. He asks himself questions like, "Is it appropriate for a white guy to play explicit lyrics to a predominantly white crowd just because the drum line is irresistible?" He cringes at posters around town that use images of black men to advertise events where you'd be hard-pressed to find any in the crowd. And he struggles with how to diversify his audience.
Promoting women of colour to flex their DJ skills behind the decks is one such attempt. In fact, Alia Saied, local DJ Regalia broke the technology barrier as a result of Latreille's invitation and demonstration to try his equipment.
Bernard grapples with the contradictions within the music itself.
"It hurts me when the lyrics are hateful. So I edit. Sometimes I edit a part," she says. "Or I just won't play it." Content matters. Message matters.
Saied agrees. Her personal experience at parties and clubs inspired her to create alternatives. "I felt uncomfortable with the same voices over and over," she says.
The contemplation and screening processes represent the code they share; a political ethic applied to their craft. It is part of the something else Latreille was initially attracted to. As he replayed Bernard's digital uploads, he heard a positive undercurrent.
Come Saturday these intentions will hardly be noticed and that's the point. The DJs are determined to make their audience move. Bernard aims to bob even shy heads and empty all chairs until everyone is ready for her full force. Since her early days as a teenage house party DJ in Haiti she's been tailoring her collection for a banging non-stop dance floor.
"You never kill a dance floor," she says. So come in peace.
Glamoflage with The Salivation Army w/DJ Regalia, Dreams Cum True Saturday, November 10 at Michael’s Bar and Grill, 6100 Young Street. 10pm, $6
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