Chimwemwe went on from his studies at Vanier to become a highly recognized and prolific musician and actor.
His latest project has him performing and writing for a music and video project with a group called The National Parcs. Their album “Timbervision” has just been released and the response so far has been overwhelmingly favourable.
This concept album can be previewed in some detail by viewing sample video clips from their website.
Arriving in Montreal from Malawi at the age of seven, Chimwemwe stepped directly onto the local stage – where he continues to this day. Since his teens, a variety of bands and ensembles have benefited from his drum, trumpet, piano and vocal training. In the nineties he joined the People’s Gospel Choir of Montreal, where he went on to be tapped as baritone/bass soloist.
He first lent his stage presence to Freeworm’s live show in 2001, stunning audiences with his charismatic percussion and beatboxing skills, and now joins the rechristened National Parcs for their trip into the woods.
He holds a BFA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Concordia University.
The National Parks
The National Parcs, veterans of Montreal’s celebrated Freeworm, have gone into the wild – and come back with a look and sound that’s as big as the world.
The three young men were born in the backwoods of Quebec, Malawi and B.C., but bred on Montreal streets buzzing with the noise of every nation on earth. For this groundbreaking CD/DVD album, they strip back down to basics, returning to their roots in the bush. The great outdoors becomes their studio, and their songs come alive with all-natural samples of wood splitting, sand slipping, paddles slapping, water dripping. Their cameras and microphones are trained on the trackless woods around them, but their ears have been trained on Grime and Hip Hop, Afrobeat and Baile Funk, American Spirituals and Malian Blues. The resulting Timbervision tracks are an invitation for the world to dance, starting with the half-remembered hum of our own backyards and smuggling in the best that the world has to offer.
The band first joined forces for Freeworm’s 2001 live shows, which pioneered their fascination with grafting exotic and broken beats onto the rhythms of maple forests and canoeing. This was the year the city first got out of its seats for the trio’s infectious found-sound and found-image stage experience: their Club Soda performance at the Montreal Electronic Groove Festival won them the MIMI “Show of the Year” award. Two Freeworm albums later, they’re making the partnership official as The National Parcs. The French-English mash-up of the band’s new name suggests the range of their influences, while the parkland theme is a nod to preserving what matters.
Summer, fall and winter, the band went off the grid to collect the raw materials for the Timbervision album. Miles away from a studio or even a drum, they discovered echoes and ambience unlike anything heard in the city. The footage records the three-man crew in their natural environment, banging sticks, jumping on four-wheelers. The National Parcs’ new album is a reminder that freedom makes the kind of art you can move to. This is the message of Timbervision, shot and recorded in the wild: let everyone join the party, and let the party never stop.
According to Vincent Letellier (AKA Freeworm): “We wanted to throw a party that would get five continents bouncin’ – and you need more than just an album for that. You need music and video that rise up together, shot and recorded as one.” Says Chimwemwe Miller, who joins Vincent on the music and lyrics: “If you want to bring the world together, you need summer hits that ignore borders and boundaries, but you can’t close the door on the shadier stuff: Death in a bone suit, African snow like a sky full of ashes.” Ian Cameron, the visual director responsible for the videos’ nature documentary esthetic, agrees: “Most of all, you don’t just ring up six billion neighbours without knowing where you came from yourself.”
Chimwemwe’s acting credits, both with the Black Theatre Workshop as well as at the MAI and Centaur Theatre have received rave reviews.
His leading role in “Tightrope Time” at the MAI Theatre in October 2004 was a huge success. It was written by Walter Borden, a fixture in Canadian theatre. (Read the Montreal Mirror article.)
In 2003, his work in the successful play “A Common Man’s Guide to Loving Women” won him an award for being part of the “Best Ensemble” from the Montreal English Critics Circle Awards. (Read a review.) He also co-wrote the play Cattle Call for the Black Theatre Workshop in 2002. (Read more about this play.)