Visit the YMCA the first stop for refugees and newcomers to Montreal - via the poetic narration of a Zimbabwe immigrant who arrived alone with “one piece of luggage and a ton of hope ….”
As we sat in her living room, which incidentally also functions as her work space, we quickly came to realise that for Nantali it is often difficult for her to separate her work as a community organiser and activist from her music. There are inextricable links that exist between the music that she makes as an MC for popular Montreal group Nomadic Massive, the work that she does with Hip Hop No Pop, a program that she co-developed with founder, Maryse Legagneur, which uses hip hop as a means of encouraging critical thinking and media literacy amongst Montreal’s youth, and her personal life. It is apparent from our interview that for Nantali, each of these informs and enriches the other. Arguably, one could not exist without the other.
Over the course of our 2 hour long interview, it was clear that Nantali is very passionate about both her work and her craft. Her tireless involvement, as she pointed out, is no doubt born out of a sense of urgency that compels her to do her best to make society a more inclusive space for all peoples.
While having been born and raised in Montreal, she has never forgotten the origins and circumstances that brought her parents to Canada; her mother originating from St. Vincent and her father from Grenada. It is evident that her parents, both of whom were influential members of their respective cultural communities and active participants in Montreal’s 1960s and 1970s civil rights movement, have strongly influenced her current ambitions. Her parents’ commitment to creating more opportunities for marginalised members of society has undeniably made a lasting impression on her.
Eloquent and well informed about nearly every subject we discussed, it is clear that education also plays a significant role in Nantali’s life. When asked what advice she would give youth, she simply answered: “Read, Read, Read!”
As a 'non-traditional' teacher Nantali, through Hip Hop No Pop and her music with Nomadic Massive, seeks to inspire her students and audiences to develop a more critical mind. While she did not mention this explicitly in our interview, it is clear that education, for her, is a great means through which inequalities and divisions can be deconstructed and eventually rendered obsolete. For her it seems that it is more important and effective for us to concentrate on “sameness as oppose to differences,” an approach that she says is upheld and shared amongst her Nomadic Massive band mates.
In the Fall, Nantali plans to continue her own education, with the intention of pursuing a Masters in education at McGill University.
It was a truly inspiring experience to see someone so devoted and passionate about their work. I wish her all the best in the future.
Interview with Nantali Indongo
Conducted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Interviewer: Gracia Jalea
Videographer: Liz Miller
Written by: Gracia Jalea