Voyage Funktastique: Hitch a ride with Montreal’s Funk Soul Brothers
The guys and I caught up at local bakery over lunch. A few months removed from the release of “You Got Me/Maybe It’s Time,” their first ever 7″ with Buscrates featuring Laura Benack on Side A, and Dr. MaD featuring Illa J & Fawna on the B Side. With a slew of projects on the horizon and a Summer schedule packed with festival dates and everything in between here in Montréal and abroad, Montréal’s premier funk ambassadors have reason to be in good spirits.
See if you’ve been paying attention to Montréal’s nightlife over the last few years you would have definitely noticed the name Voyage Funktastique, on everybody’s lips. The funk is experiencing a resurgence north of the border and it can be in part traced back to two individuals; Walla-P and Dr. MaD, known collectively as Voyage Funktastique.
But the Voyage Funktastique brand, goes way beyond these two individuals it also encompasses a radio show of the same name, with a listenership that spans the globe and is produced in collaboration with Music Is My Sanctuary. Two highly successful monthly parties (Voyage Funktastique and Fly Ladies), plus a record label, all dedicated to the promotion of modern funk, boogie and true school hip-hop.
Before Walla-P was known as a world-wide ambassador of funk. He was a fan of hip-hop. In the early days it was bboying and MCing that first caught his attention, it even led to him sharing the stage with Montréal hip-hop royalty Muzion in the late 1990s. He would eventually move to producing.
“I was tired of waiting for beats from other people, so I started making my own beats. I was always on the hunt for new samples so I started to collect records, from there the transition to DJing was natural.”
He’s been a Music Is My Sanctuary collaborator for many years now and was a key member of the collective MELT. He has taken his talents on the road to audiences around the globe in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City.
Dr. MaD, who’s known as the co-founder of Voyage Funktastique, was also a founding member of the now defunct Alaiz crew. A loose collective of MCs, producers, DJs and graphic designers. Their ranks included the likes of Kaytranada, High Klassified and Lou Phelps, guys who would go on to take the Montréal’s futuristic sound worldwide. He’s also one of the figureheads of Artbeats’ latest venture, Loop Sessions. An event that gathers producers of all stripes from around the city. At a typical Loop Sessions event a record is chosen at random (usually by the first person there) and each producer is then given 5 minutes to sample whatever they want from the same record. They then have a few hours to whip up a beat they will share with all in attendance at the conclusion of the evening. Did I mention that he’s also in Law School?
It wasn’t until until a trip to LA that the idea of Voyage Funktastique would start to form. Dr. MaD:
“Back in 2012, I was at a Stone’s Throw party in L.A. where they played Funk all night long. I told my friend who had made the trip with me that we needed to bring something similar to Montréal.”
Walla-P: “Dr. MaD was my favorite producer in Alaiz, hands down. He’s always had that Jazzy, Soulful sound that I love!”
Walla-P was first introduced to Dr. MaD by a mutual friend at a Slum Village concert at the Belmont. Walla-P: “I told him I was playing a bunch of his beats at NxNE a few weeks earlier.”
The rest is now Funk history. Today, Voyage Funktastique is one of the most recognizable names in Montréal. And that notoriety has led them to playing some pretty high profile events like Piknik Electronik and Igloo Fest in Montréal.
What was supposed to be a one time thing has now turned into a highly successful venture, with a radio show and record label, all in the service of Funk.
Dr. MaD: “Our first unofficial gig as Voyage Funktastique at Groove Nation was supposed to be an Alaiz event. The guys were all kind of going their separate ways so I pitched the Voyage Funktastique concept to the manager there and he loved it.”
But it was the move to the Bleury that was instrumental in allowing the guys to curate the event and allow the night to grow and blossom into what we now know today. The Bleury has always been known as a venue that attracts a forward thinking, musically inclined crowd. It was the perfect situation to bring their idea to maturity.
Dr. MaD grew up on the soul music his mother loved to listen to in her homeland of Algeria while Walla-P grew up soaking in the sounds of jazz, rock and reggae. From there they discovered hip-hop which is itself at its most basic a melting pot of sounds and musical influences across many genres and eras.
The focus of every Voyage Funktastique party is the dance-floor, pure and simple. With a strong emphasis on 80’s boogie and disco. But it doesn’t stop there. They managed to stand out from from other Funk and Rare Groove nights by taking certain chances with their selections.
Walla-P: “We were never afraid to play new sounds. Purists tend to focus on what came in the 1970s and 1980s. But we also played modern Funk and Boogie from Japan and California”
This is where the radio show comes in. It is a great way to introduce new artists and new sounds to their audience on weekly basis. Walla-P: “It wasn’t hard for us to find an audience for what were were doing, even at first. MaD already had a following through his association with Alaiz and I had been DJing all around the world and opening for acts like M.O.P. and Action Bronson in Montréal and Toronto.”
While we’re having lunch, it’s not hard to see that the chemistry we see on the decks translates to real life. The guys constantly crack on each other and everything around them, “la deconnade” is relentless. It wasn’t always like this. It was during an infamous record digging trip to the Big Apple that things began to crystallize: “A few months before things kicked off we took a trip to New York and I think that trip was key to solidifying our friendship and building that chemistry.” That chemistry is clearly evident when they’re rocking the ones and twos.
“When I throw on a record he knows exactly what’s coming next,” says Wall-P.
The Voyage Funktastic brand is fully entrenched in the fabric of Montréal. This months edition of Voyage just wrapped up and the next edition of their other endeavour the monthly retro 1990s, hip-hop and r&b night Fly Ladies is on the way.
Things don’t seem to be slowing down either. Fresh off of there highly acclaimed showing at this year’s Piknik Elekctronik, the boys are getting ready to finish the summer off with a bang. In the Fall, the focus will return to the label with various new releases in the works.
“We’re working with The Kount, a producer from Toronto who now resides in Montréal as well as Lee Funksta featuring B. Bravo, plus we’ve got many more surprises in store.”
Four years in it doesn’t look like this trip is about to come to an end anytime soon. In fact, it looks like these Brothers in Funk are just getting warmed up.
You can follow @Voyage_Funktastique on Instagram.
Be sure to check out the official site VoyageFunktastique.com.