Written by Benjamin Butz-Weidner, Interviewed by Benjamin Butz-Weidner and Alex Goldman, Photographs by Ameer Alba
Montreal “is like a university-city… youth culture is what makes Montreal what it is.” That is the sentiment that predominantly drove Inoue Vong-Seguy, a third year Political Science and Economics student at McGill, to the city our student body is lucky to inhabit. However, Inoue continued on to express “it’s more… [It’s] a city of international kids that come here to make it on their own,” which is what he and a collective of his friends “wanted to capture” when they launched their multi-platform arts initiative: TamTams.
The Bull & Bear sat down with some of the founding and leading members of TamTams, a group that runs what they describe as “a community.” “Inspired… from the location… young people go [to] converse,” Victor Bouteiller, also a third year Poli Sci/Econ student, told Business & Tech editor Alex Goldman, this group of friends wanted to do something that was fun and also served a purpose in their new home. None of the members are Montreal natives, and so their city-focused project was a product of their arrival. Nevertheless, despite there being seven billion of us humans, the world remains small. When asked what brought the group together, Victor informed The Bull & Bear, “Despite being in the [Faculty of] Arts… a few of [them] have backgrounds that stem from high school.”
In fact, of the six members that The Bull & Bear met with, their how-you-met story was something out of screenplay. Victor, Inoue and Yuta Bostwick, as well a third year Political Science and Economics student, had known one another previously from attending the same high school in Beijing: when they arrived at McGill, however, they became slightly more separated (although only really in terms of geography). Inoue and Yuta ended up in McConnell where they, along with Chansey Chiang (surprise surprise, also a third year Poli Sci and Econ student), were all on the fifth floor. Meanwhile, Victor was off in New Rez where he was on the same floor as Freddy Detchou, a third year studying Political Science and African Studies (finally, a change). It was through Freddy’s roommate, who was the only person he knew before coming to McGill, that Sebastian “Sebi” Turano, a third year Political Science and International Development Studies (IDS) student met Freddy – the rest is history.
Seemingly, Victor brought the group into contact and things shortly began thereafter. “Victor was the impetus,” according to Inoue, who quoting Victor said “right now is the time, as young students… now’s the time… to start a project with a group of friends.” Sebi, reinforcing Inoue’s description, added that Victor was highly productive, and that he had come up with the name for the website, tamtams.ca, but ultimately the group’s various talents gave the project lift off.
So the story goes, what began as an arts sharing website grew into more. Publishing articles on the website became a means for all of this crew to channel their inner passions, which are intense, and so before long just the website wasn’t enough. Yuta and Chansey are “Two amigos passionate about all things music,” which is their description of themselves on their regular column, “Discovery Sessions.” Here the duo curate playlists from the music they’re ‘vibing’ with at any given time: the latest jams included lesser known goodies like “In Your River” by Snoh Aalegra, classics by James Brown, and Apple Music trending tracks like “Redbone” by Childish Gambino.
While on the subject of rappers, there is actually one in the group: Super Freddy. You might have seen him perform at his recent show at La Vitriola, but if you missed it or you’re looking for music from a multifaceted individual, Freddy is performing at another event hosted by KickDrum this Saturday, February 18th, at Le Cagibi. Like Donald Glover (Childish Gambino), Freddy is more than a rapper. When asked who did what in the group, Freddy modestly responded that he “was firmly in content,” which the group quickly corrected to being “involved in many projects.” “Freddy knows a lot of musicians,” Victor explained, making Freddy the point person, or the ‘connect’, for many of TamTams’s collaborators. Freddy told The Bull & Bear that his goal, and perhaps his motivation for such involvement, is that he feels Montreal is divided into too many camps. McGill students stay in the ghetto/plateau, “Concordia students just stay on their side… everybody just stays where they and their friends go… but there’s so much more” outside these little worlds; “We put a shine” on cool things goings-on in the city, Freddy explained with a smile.
Indeed, the group is involved throughout the community in more ways than one. For Inoue, “narrow[ing] down what exactly [the project does]” has been the biggest challenge so far. As of now, the initiatives the group has underway consists of a website, a podcast uploaded to their SoundCloud channel, events, a new short film production crew, and coming soon, an “artists’ package.” The group tries to seek partnerships with artists in the area and to help curate them to a bigger audience. “Every artist needs exposure,” Inoue explained, and helping to individually tailor video or any other form of content to each specific artist, they believe, is the most effective means of doing that.
While many of the projects TamTams works on end up being through personal connections, their crew has diversified well beyond their OG friend groups. Sebi informed The Bull & Bear: “some people on [the] team found (the six of them)… from pretty far outside Montreal… they just found us online.” Demonstrating the power of modern technological platforms, online networking brought a number of MTL locals into the mix, such as Adrien, the “one man army” who has been integral in filming and recording the podcasts. Still, the roots are deep and Freddy’s former boarding school roommate, who is in his second year at Concordia studying Finance, Zied, has made his mark on ‘basically every article’. Beyond that, he was largely responsible for setting up one of the group’s primary mediums, its website.
Nonetheless, operating so many media platforms and incrementally coming to encompass more contributors (over 15 members have contributed in some way), the group sometimes has disagreements. They resolve any disagreements at their “shareholder meetings,” as they call them; thankfully, they never result in a tie – even if they go three hours overtime (something Inoue jokingly told us happens frequently). Make no mistake this group is in it for the love of the arts. Already surprised at how successful their collaborations have been, TamTams’s plans for the future are still vaporous. Chansey, who plays violin, saxophone, and DJs in the city, was excited about increasing numbers from their previous videos, which, Victor corrected, were not 10k views but “14k!”
Catch this group on campus and keep an eye out for their next move. TamTams represents what the McGill experience is for so many: coming from a far away place to a cold city with a cooler culture only a centimeter under the ice. These guys are cutting circles and fishing out some dope collaborations. They live up to the namesake.
When we asked what artist they would like to “plug” we were told Mick Jenkins, a new rapper with ties to the 514, the namesake of one of his songs.
As Sebi Turano’s senior year Language Arts teacher in New Jersey, I knew he was headed to Canada to accomplish big things. This collaboration is no surprise. As one one of the most respected members of his class, Sebi always thought before he spoke, so when he commented, people listened. And he was always kind to everyone; community has always been important to him. To find that he is a part of a team that is promoting community via the arts makes me incredibly proud. Well done, gentlemen. May the fruits of your labor be sweet.