Le Cypher Jam Night Celebrates Four Years of Success
What They Accomplished and What’s Next for the Established Event
A few months after performing the Francofolies’ closing show alongside Quebec music industry giants Dead Obies, Koriass, and more, Urban Science reached a new milestone. This October, the hip-hop and soul band celebrated their weekly jam session’s fourth year of running.
Le Cypher is a jamming event where established and emerging artists connect and play together every Thursday night.
“[Le Cypher] provides a weekly space where people can come and express themselves,” said Milla Thyme, who has been a rapper in Urban Science, the band who started and runs Le Cypher jam nights, for almost four years. “We pride ourselves on being a safe space, where people can come and get whatever it is they need to get off their chest.”
Le Cypher jam nights began in October 2014 as the first session kicked off at Le Belmont, where the first few events were held. Le Cypher moved to a more permanent address in February 2015, Le Bleury-Bar à Vinyle, after trying out different venues throughout December.
In August 2017, Le Cypher jam night was relocated for the last time to the The Bootlegger L’Authentique, because the Bleury bar was closing.
“They have been part of a really vibrant musical community [composed] of audience, musicians and artists who really consume music,” said performing artist and community organizer Marcelle Partouche Gutierrez. “[Le Cypher has] really become a hub where community and people can go to on a weekly basis. It’s really hard to run a weekly event that runs for four years, so that’s amazing.”
Partouche Gutierrez has been frequenting Le Cypher since the beginning. She attends and participates in the jam nights, but also takes part in multiple collaborations. Partouche Gutierrez, the co-founder of Lotus Collective, a group composed of femme and female musicians, said that as soon as Urban Science and Lotus Collective could collaborate she wanted to make it happen; they have collaborated many times, and plan to continue doing so.
“The observation that women musicians, or femmes or gender non-binary folks would not take as much space in that setting,” said Partouche Gutierrez on why she co-founded the group. “I decided that ‘you should actually create something,’ with a couple of co-founders, that would give us a platform (…) How can we learn from what is being done that’s beautiful, but how can we also make sure that there is equity and representation.”
Rapper and performing artist Backxwash discovered Le Cypher in November 2017, when she had recently moved to Montreal. After looking up hip-hop shows on Facebook, she came across the jam session and decided to try it out.
“It was a bit quiet, I wasn’t expecting much, and I was blown away by everything that happened afterwards,” said Backxwash.
A valuable opportunity for learning, the artists participating in the jam get hands-on experience in front of a crowd. The recurring event is a chance for rappers to put new verses to the test, for all artists to hone their craft and for artists to develop over time.
“When I first started recording I was very unsure about my rap voice,” said Backxwash. “I was very insecure about [it], and Le Cypher allowed me to find a voice that I’m comfortable with.”
Aiza, a singer songwriter, has been going to Le Cypher since the beginning at the Bleury bar. Last spring, she became a member of Urban Science’s house band.
“One thing that I find beautiful is seeing someone who is particularly shy; see them open up as the weeks go by,” said Aiza.
“[Budding artists] come and they show up at Le Cypher,” Aiza added. “[They] become more confident and take more space on the stage. It’s nice to witness a lot of people growing as they go.”
“They make wonderful moments. I’ve seen it enough, and I’ve been there enough to see that there is actually magic to a moment like that, and that music really does bring people together.”⎯ Marcelle Partouche Gutierrez
Le Cypher represents the pulse of the city, said Aiza, for its “artistic, open and free vibe.” She hopes to see it keep growing and expanding, and for it to become embedded in the Montreal culture.
“I also hope to see a lot more women involved,” Aiza said. “Women coming out and coming on the stage and playing with the band. It’s a lot of talented young men playing on stage, and every now and then it’s sprinkled with women. That’s another wish that I have, is to see even more of a balance between men and women on the stage.”
The crowd is very honest at Le Cypher, said Aiza. She added that performing on their stage allows her to test her ability to get a crowd going.
While Le Cypher is a valuable opportunity for musicians, singers and rappers to jam together, it’s a party, and the audience is an important part of the experience.
“The chemistry of everybody just in the room,” said Backxwash, “whether you’re watching (…) or having drinks at the bar, just the energy in the room, it’s a good place to be. Once you get in, you don’t feel like leaving.”
Urban Science’s involvement with the community branches out from what goes on inside the Bootlegger L’Authentique. Urban Science has often been the backing band for the Rap Battles for Social Justice, which has been tackling important topics such as sexual violence and climate justice for many years, said Milla Thyme.
According to founder Vincent Stephen-Ong, Le Cypher’s biggest accomplishment is that people can count on it being on every Thursday night.
“We have artists from all over the world (…) who have heard of it and who come through, which was always, kind of, the goal, and now we’re there,” he added.
Stephen-Ong said that he wants to work towards making Le Cypher and Urban Science institutions, “really something that could potentially go on forever, so long as there’s people interested in continuing to run it.”
“They make wonderful moments,” said Partouche Gutierrez. “I’ve seen it enough, and I’ve been there enough to see that there is actually magic to a moment like that, and that music really does bring people together.”
For more information about the event, find Urban Science #LeCypher on their Facebook page.