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Local artists are taking centre stage with a futuristic mindset through diverse art and music

Arts Commons TD Amplify Cabarets is back for its fifth season of bringing together local artists to share their talent with the city, and also to create conversations about the world we live in.

When choosing the annual theme for the cabaret series, Arts Commons gives creative reign to the chosen incubator fellows—a different cohort that’s selected each year to lead the show.

This year’s cabaret series theme has been curated by program coordinators and artistic leads Yolanda Sargeant and Evgeniy Bykovets from Sargeant X Comrade, a local music duo that infuses jazz, soul, funk, dancehall, and hip-hop into a unique sound.

“They left the whole theme and all those ideas up to us. And they work behind the scenes to make those ideas come to life,” says Evgeniy Bykovets, also known as Comrade from Sargeant X Comrade.

The perfect selection

In 2021, Sergeant X Comrade launched its new record label, Mo Gravy Records, to work with both musicians and artists to create unique music.

“I think that was maybe one of the reasons that we were selected for this program. We’re already in the community working with musicians and working with artists, trying to promote local art and music and culture,” Bykovets says.

The theme for this year’s cabaret series is Lo-Fi Future, with four live and in-person segments at the Engineered Air Theatre showcasing local artists’ creations through a talk show-style setting hosted by Sergeant X Comrade.

“The inspiration for the TD Amplify Cabaret Series was to create a performative home to connect local artists to audiences,” says associate director of social impact, Josh Dalledonne.

A futuristic theme

Dalledonne says Sargeant X Comrade’s theme Lo-Fi Future is about looking back to look forward.

“Their vision challenges our rapidly evolving world with both new and old aesthetics, sounds, and ideas that call back to reveal new ways forward,” he adds.

While the theme is a big factor for the TD Amplify Cabarets, giving opportunities and a stage to local artists is the heart of the program.

“This series is focused on showcasing the incredible talent of local artists—all the opportunities here aim to elevate these artists with audiences new and existing,” Dalledonne says.

“We’re incredibly proud of the local artists we get to work with throughout the season.”

Mentorship and workshops

Not only are these artists given a stage to showcase their work, they are also mentored through the program.

“There’s a development program behind the scenes where the artists go through a bunch of workshops,” Bykovets says, adding they learn about grant writing and how to promote their brand.

Calgary is a diverse and culturally rich city, and the TD Amplify Cabaret Series aims to reflect that diversity through the chosen artists, Dalledonne adds.

“This series is very much about the pulse of Calgary and Calgary is home to a galaxy of intersections; of communities, roles, identities… the list is expansive,” he says.

“We simply couldn’t talk about the pulse of Calgary without the robust leadership, contribution, and participation of artists from diverse equity-seeking communities.”

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes, there is much work to be done to run the cabaret series. Many individuals from all different areas of expertise come together to set everything in motion.

“It’s really great working with [the Arts Commons], because they’re super easygoing and they work really hard to make our visions come to fruition,” Bykovets says.

While working for the production, Sergeant X Comrade has had the chance to talk with every artist chosen for the talk shows.

“The most memorable [experience has] been meeting all the artists… and seeing how they interpret what we’ve presented forward to them… because everybody has their own style,” Bykovets explains.

The performances

The first segment airs on Nov. 18 with three more to follow.

“We basically start from scratch and we create a whole talk show series,” Bykovets says.

The first segment is Mars: Second Home with themes around parallel selves and making Mars a home.

“We’re hoping it inspires the artists and in turn, the artists will inspire the viewers,” Bykovets says.

“We want the artists and viewers to have fun thinking about the future.”

Tickets are available online.

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