A&E » Music

Victoria violinist Kytami, the best of both worlds

Former Whistlerite defies categorization with her blend of violin and electronica



Kytami is a woman without a country.

The Victoria violinist has made her career by deftly straddling the line between the classical and the electronic, two wholly distinct worlds with orbits that rarely intersect.

"I know that with violin being my instrument, I can cross boundaries. It's not just a DJ show. I've definitely been able to reach out to people who wouldn't normally like electronic music," says Kytami, born Kyla LeBlanc. "But then also having credibility in the electronic world, that has been a challenge, too."

Fortunately, Kytami has never been much for categories. And anyone still sitting on the fence about her music, which combines elements of drum n' bass, hip hop and dubstep, only has to bear witness to one of her adrenalized live shows to be counted among the converts.

"I just feel like I have something I need to communicate, and getting onstage and playing music is my conduit. The violin is my conduit," she muses. "I've been so tired minutes before going onstage, and the moment I get up there and start playing exactly the music I want to be representing, from remixes to my own works, I feel the energy from that. I think that's what people respond to; that they can tell I'm legitimately trying to express myself."

Kytami has been expressing herself, musically at least, since the tender age of three, when she first picked up the violin. Classically trained at the Vancouver Academy of Music, she took a break from playing for a while, until a move to Whistler in the early '90s sucked her back into the performing life, fiddling at — where else? — the resort's proper Irish pub, the Dubh Linn Gate.

The gigging grind whet Kytami's appetite for performing, but it also convinced her it was time to stop playing cover songs and start forging her own path in the industry.

"I decided I only wanted to produce original music, so I went to Vancouver and started collaborating," she says. "At one point, I think I was playing with like five different bands of all different styles."

One of those bands, which Kytami also co-founded, was Vancouver world-music group Delhi 2 Dublin, whose unlikely fusion of Celtic music, Bhangra, reggae, funk, and practically everything in between, has amassed a legion of fans around the globe.

But as the band pushed deeper into its Indian influences, Kytami felt the pull of her musical roots.

"My roots come from hip hop and drum n' bass and punk, so I wanted to focus more on those elements," she explains.

Her last album, 2017's Renegade, which helped earn her an Electronic Artist of the Year nod at the Western Canadian Music Awards, saw Kytami team up with her longtime DJ and producer, Phonik Ops. The seven-track EP is her most drum n' bass-heavy record to date, with Phonik Ops' production providing a booming backdrop for Kytami's slicing strings. The result is a sonic potpourri unlike anything you're bound to hear in the mainstream.

While she used to work with live drummers and MCs, these days Kytami's set tends to be more barebones, with just her, her violin, and Phonik Ops onstage.

"Some feedback I've had is that we still have a full sound, and we definitely can, between the two of us, have a lot of stage presence," she says. "I think we can create a lot of vibe onstage and with our audience as well."

Kytami's love of drum n' bass, a genre she says has become "the main umbrella" shading her sound, is also what connected her to the Whistler Junglists, the resort's collective of drum n' bass and jungle artists who regularly put on electronic shows at Tommy Africa's — including Kytami's live set next week.

"I used to go to drum n' bass nights all the time in Whistler," she recalls. "They were bringing some pretty reputable artists through way back in the 2000s. It's really cool to be able to now come full circle and work with them."

Catch Kytami at Tommy Africa's on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 10 p.m. You can also check out her new video for the single, "Brave the Storm," which, in true Whistler fashion, features Kytami playing furiously as dirt bikers flip and fly overhead.

For more information, visit kytami.com.