Calgary musicians are often separated based on their genre of music, playing different venues with the goal of reaching their niche audience. However, since the beginning of Groove Theory in 2015, an increasingly popular platform has developed, bringing artists of various disciplines together for improvised jam sessions.

Groove Theory, which has been held at The Unicorn pub on 8th Avenue and surrounding Calgary music venues since 2015, has new artists debuting every Thursday night. The performances continue to push the envelope, proving the tired old stereotype that Calgary is only for country music is changing with events such as these.

Jamil Ahmed, the founder of Groove Theory, curates the jam session around hip hop culture, saying it’s currently the biggest genre in the world.

“A lot of it is based around hip hop, which is based around jazz, which is based around soul,” Ahmed explains. “We kind of like go back in time that way as opposed to being, you know, completely one thing.”

Groove Theory has found a home at venues all over Calgary but none have stuck like The Unicorn. Ahmed, a guitar player himself, says the venue needs to be inviting.

“The thing about musicians is that we play so many different venues all the time and a lot of them are pretty upscale. What I like about the Unicorn and like the places that I did end up staying at, was that it was very welcoming to a musician that is not going to the gig.”

Groove Theory began as a jam session but quickly turned into a community building experience for founder Jamil Ahmed. Video by Isaiah Lindo. 

Ahmed isn’t the only musician to perform — there usually is a full band watching in the crowd that gets pulled on stage after sets when the feeling arises to play. Although professional artists come to perform, the stage is open to all musicians looking to collaborate and have a good time. Last week, a few singers showed up, among them is Nadi Downz, who’s been a friend of Ahmed since high school.

After touring around the country as an opening act for the likes of Akon and other major artists, Downz has become an avid Groove Theory participant, having attended the events for years. She sings mostly rhythm and blues but alters her style to fit the band she finds herself jamming with.
Nadi Downz singingNadi Downz serenades the Groove Theory crowd, during one their jam sessions at The Unicorn Pub. Photo courtesy of Qassim Merali.

Downz likes Groove Theory because she loves the vibe and atmosphere of the whole event. She finds a sense of community amongst the musicians playing and makes deep meaningful connections. “You get everybody, we all make connections with different opportunities …It’s my favourite place.”

As Groove Theory continues to gain traction on social media and in the local music scene, Ahmed hopes that more musicians and artists will come to perform and share their skills and talents with the community. As for the future of Groove Theory, Ahmed hopes his jam session will stick around “every Thursday and until the end of the time.”

YouTube video

A 360 point of view of the jam session, Groove Theory, founded by Jamil Ahmed who hosts and performs in the event every Thursday at The Unicorn Pub on 8th avenue, downtown Calgary. Video by Isaiah Lindo.

Editor: Sofia Gruchalla-Wesierski | 

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