How Community Bread built a global music network for marginalised people
When we reach Arthur Kozlovski, Angela Fan and Paul Bui on Zoom it’s just days after nightlife unexpectedly returned to the Big Apple. Suddenly free of pandemic restrictions for the first time in over 12 months, all three talk excitedly about three day queues outside venues, sharing the floor with strangers again and the sense of relief at life restarting. But it’s also clear they see there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
The trio launched Community Bread in the wake of lockdowns decimating global club cultures. A “queer-owned streaming and resource platform”, the aim was to create vital new revenue for marginalised POC and LGBTQIA+ artists and social causes via digital donations at a time when income from gigs had collapsed. One glance at their website reveals this project has become much more.
To date, the team have aligned themselves with 25 collectives for exclusive visual arts and music streams, with instalments also featuring in-depth conversations on issues impacting those communities, from politics and economics to identity and oppression. All this is now archived online, meaning the domain is slowly becoming a directory signposting to people across the planet who use music and performance in the fight for greater representation and equality. The potential is huge.
“Angela built the website, and Paul came on board for creative direction,” Kozlovski explains. “We were then able to curate live stream events, the basis for which is fundraising not just for artists but also organisations. So the trans women of colour collective, G.L.I.T.S., fights for housing and economic justice for sex workers. [Community Bread’ was always an initiative not just for the artists, but communities at large.
“We were able to raise more than $20,000 for over 50 artists, organisations and charities, and produced over 60 hours of content over the course of the pandemic,” Kozlovski continues, explaining the idea was really born from the urgent sense of wanting to give back and support dance music crews in New York that put so much into the city.
“For us it was shocking that it grew to this from a concept no one really knew would amount to anything.”
“Left and right we were seeing our close friends, and family, loose their income, immediately, because everything shut down,” Fan says of how spring 2020 went from standard practice to the new abnormal, catalysing Community Bread.
“We asked ourselves, how can we at least use our involvement in the community and our individual skills to recoup some of that income, and at the same time build a very loose network of people.”
What started locally quickly broke geographic lines. Collectives and partners are united in a love of music and desire for social justice, but come from cities as disparate as São Paulo (ALT) and Chester (Nexus). And there’s even more breadth in the tunes. Archives include a muscular but atmospheric masterclass from Discwoman’s Juana and the peak time assault of Berlin’s Mala Junta boss, Hyperaktivist. Seth Troxler’s exceptional “acid drenched” set is also in there. As is the incomparable performer and activist Kevin Aviance, who twists and turns through live vocals layered over disco stomp.
Most recently, Community Bread hosted a Pride special of Beatport x Ballantine’s True Music, spanning Afrobeat to IDM through Big Apple icons Quest?marq, SHYBOI, Jasmine Infiniti and The Carry Nation. But at the other end of the sonic spectrum, you’ll find a breathtaking classical opera piece from Isola, of Manila’s trans party ELEPHANT. The Philippine troupe made contact after seeing what Community Bread had started, indicative of the platform’s power.
“ELEPHANT said, hey, look, we cater to artists, especially trans artists, and we are dealing with violence and murder from our government. This is what we’re experiencing, this is the music we’re playing, how can we collaborate to raise funds,” Bui recounts. “That opened our eyes to new areas of the world, where people are really doing this to fight for their lives, or to showcase you know, what is the most meaningful thing for them. That’s what we hope to foster — a way to connect our communities around the world, because we don’t have that outlet or platform to do so.”
“They said, hey, look, we cater to artists, especially trans artists, and we are dealing with violence and murder from our government. This is what we’re experiencing, this is the music we’re playing, how can we collaborate to raise funds,” Bui recounts. “That opened our eyes to new areas of the world, where people are really doing this to fight for their lives, or to showcase you know, what is the most meaningful thing for them. That’s what we hope to foster — a way to connect our communities around the world, because we don’t have that outlet or platform to do so.”
“One of the things that we’re doing here, the reason we’re bringing collectives on board, is to share their story and their impact on their local community,” Kozlovski says of Community Bread’s determination to swim up stream in terms of who gets the spotlight. “For example, Eternal Dragons in Singapore, I didn’t know the work that they were doing there, but they are so integral in terms of fostering their local queer marginalised community.”
“I feel like techno as a whole has become very centralised, in terms of like, who gets to gate-keep. I would say the major platforms right now, culturally and monetarily, are very much controlled by white men in Western Europe. Um, it just doesn’t line up with like, who’s actually participating in the community and who is the driving force, whether in origin or even in present day,” says Fan when asked about industry collusion in the status quo. “You see like the same sorts of talent being featured over and over again and they’re also the ones making the majority of the money, and I think there’s something really wrong with that system.”
For Kozlovski, feeding off artistry while disenfranchising those creating scenes in the first place is exploitation. “To have these people say that they’re representing the community without actually engaging the community. You know, it comes off as a means to profit. A means to essentially use what queer and marginalised people have created and either make money off of it, or use it for some sort of clout, and that takes away from from the true genuineness of community and collaborative environments,” he says, clarifying tackling this problem is a priority. “[Community Bread] is about creating these experiences including artists from all over the world, from collectives who really focus on elevating local communities.”
Improving the visibility of these groups has the potential to provide cash support, but it can also protect legacies from a system that has been historically neglectful at best, at worst actively obstructive to artists at risk of marginalisation and exclusion. But perhaps what makes Community Bread so unique is the focus on access, too. That could mean connecting different groups of people on opposite sides of the world who can hear and help each other. Or more literally and locally, getting behind Synth Library NYC, a new lending facility for music production equipment. Although we don’t realise it, our conversation’s natural conclusion begins with Kozlovski outlining what makes this practical element so vital and significant.
“The information isn’t readily available online. You know, if you’re trying to find your local rave, whether it is done by marginalised artists or whatever certain type of music, maybe rightfully so because it’s meant to be underground but this stuff isn’t available online,” he says. “I can’t go online and look up, you know, a queer marginalised collective let’s say in Ukraine or Georgia, that are doing these types of things… And so it has started this whole global community endeavour, of supporting one another. And that’s something we actually never had before.”
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