5 Questions With Kali Mutsa, Chile’s Global Bass Priestess

Kali Mutsa

It’s no secret that Chile has become one of Latin America’s biggest hot beds for indie music. From the synth bliss of Javiera Mena, to the raucous politics of Ases Falsos, and Gepe’s colorful folk fusions, the last 10 years have seen Chile consistently churn out a parade of exciting and well-rounded acts. Coming from the more experimental end of the Chilean spectrum is Kali Mutsa, the nearly 100-year-old transcontinental persona of Celine Reymond, a successful Chilean actress turned cleric bandleader.

Kali Mutsa burst onto the scene in 2011 with her Ambrolina EP and its earth-shattering lead single “Tunupa,” a mind-bending mix of cumbia, reggaeton, gypsy music, Hindu mysticism, and Andean band arrangements. Souvenance, her full-length debut, followed the same adventurous trajectory she mapped out in the EP, with eclectic dance floor-oriented singles like “El Jardín” and “Canción de Amor Colla.” Not to be outdone by her sound, her visuals for both video and stage are a veritable feast for the eyes, often featuring psychedelic set pieces, color distortion, textured clothing, collaging, kaleidoscopic camera shots, and trinkets from around the globe. Imagine a younger, bellydancing version of fashion icon Iris Apfel, but with the vocal inflection of a shaman.

Referential yet always intriguing, Kali Mutsa defies categorization, challenging genre, geography, sexuality, and even history. We spoke to Reymond to get a better understanding of where her madness comes from, and where she believes it’s going.

You are very much a concept artist and your work encompasses lots of different influences, sounds, visuals, and languages. Can you describe the thought process that leads you to becoming Kali Mutsa?
The picture and the idea are always changing for me. I’m currently going through a conceptual evolution, even though many people are just starting to know me, and I’m hoping they’ll like it. Kali Mutsa is a kind of costume I don to perform and to help me get my vision across to the audience. I’m constantly exploring new sounds and it’s exciting, because with each new production I feel like I’m getting closer to fully expressing what I mean to say. The journey is a non-stop learning experience. The more you push and experiment, the more you learn and grow, and eventually make it to a sort of ocean of understanding dotted with unique and precious islands that manifest as art.

Your music has been described as “true world music” due to its remarkable global sound. How did you arrive at this intersection of East, West, and everything in between?
I don’t find world music or global bass to be specific musical genres, but a jumble of everything. World music is the music of today. All music is now world music, with social media putting us in each other’s living room at any given time. The genre lines have become blurred over time, but the message is still the same.

“World music is the music of today.”

Your songs, videos, and outfits have become notorious for their abundance of historical and cultural references from around the world. What are some of your biggest influences?
These days I’m really into the works of Franco Rubartelli, [Pier Paolo] Pasolini, [Federico] Fellini, and [Akira] Kurosawa. I pull from The Cantebury Tales and One Thousand and One Nights. I’m really interested in collage work, as I also do some myself. Old Hollywood actresses, belly dancers, and Egyptian cabarets fascinate me. Visually, I reference so many things, so it’s very important to me. The image always comes to me before the song does. Sound should be visual! I’ve been thinking a lot about [Iranian director and poetess] Jafar Panahi and Forough Farrokhzad, who both incorporate a lot of beautiful and melancholic imagery into their work. I love surrealism and black-and-white films with complex mystical characters. I think everything should be a little magical.

Kali Mutsa
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As a well-known actress in Chile, how much of your acting background do you incorporate into your performances?
Honestly, I still have terrible stage fright. I try to relax after getting on stage, and the times I do manage to calm my nerves lead to some of my best shows. The live aspect of the music is very important to me so I work hard to make it a mysterious and engrossing experience. What I’m thinking or feeling at that moment isn’t interesting; what matters is the energy of the show as a whole. Having an acting background informs the way I approach the stage and setting is very important to me. I wouldn’t ever perform in jeans and flip-flops, because the beauty and fantasy would be lost.

Though you haven’t officially released new music yet, your recent collaboration with Enciclopedia Color showcased a new track. What do you have in the works for 2016?
The song I performed in that clip is called “Interestelar,” and it will be the first single off my upcoming EP. I worked on the track with Pablo Stipicic and there’s an official video coming soon, which I also shot with the Enciclopedia Color crew out on the coast. I’m super psyched about the new material, which I’ll be releasing through ENDMK. It’s a six-song EP and I got to work with some amazing local artists like Imaabs, Erasmo Parra, and María Magdalena. It actually looks like I will continue to work with Imaabs, which is pretty exciting. I have a rather ambitious idea to release a series of EPs, because with all the influences and inspiration coming in, by the time I’m done with one project, I’m already thinking of the next. Since the concept is always changing, I’d like to think of each collection of songs as a standalone movie, captured in time. Let’s see what happens!