When locally based activist “Cali Bee” is not creating her own art, she is enticing others to share theirs. These two passions go hand in hand for the spoken-word musician and open-mic host.
It’s fitting that on Sunday, April 23, at 7 p.m., Cali Bulmash will kick off her debut album release party with an open mic hour at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North. The album, “Bee RADical,” is something she considers “QT (queer/trans) punk.”
“Bee RADical” is about “coming into queer identity, fighting for water, aka life (and) celebrating being a weirdo,” Bulmash said. “If there is an underlying theme, I would say resistance.”
Bulmash calls her music “vomit comet” to describe the spewing and processing of feelings about violence and traumas in the world. Yet her whole style screams fun and aims to instill hope in the hearts of listeners.
“It’s also (about) finding silliness, healing, joy in the muck as an act of resistance,” Bulmash said.
Local artist Dailey Haren first heard Cali Bee reciting original work over the airwaves of community radio station KZMU.
“(It was) something about the depth of love and the human psyche and soul and realness… so passionate,” Haren said. “I thought to myself – who is this girl?”
Haren recognized the distinct fluctuations and enthusiasm of Bulmash as she performed at a Moab Grassroots Music Exchange (MGME) live music event in the spring of 2015.
“I ran up to her when she got off the stage at MGME,” Haren said. “(It was) directly to the heart – what she was saying.”
Haren, now a familiar fan, describes New Jersey-born Cali Bee as a “city girl globetrotter turned small-town activist artist.”
“Cali holds her heart open full and raw, keeping her gaze steady and leaning into the challenges of our times,” Haren said. “I look up to her as she refuses to shy away from the daunting tasks of standing up day in and out for all the things that we so often push into the corners … I see her standing on street corners holding signs, and holding space for voices to be heard, organizing open mic for all walks of life to come together and share, showing up unwavering for any opportunity to spread love through the complexity of the times.”
“Bee RADical” is a blend of spoken word over ukulele. Bulmash doesn’t claim to be a musical master, and instead drives home a powerful message of speaking one’s truth.
“True story – when I was in fifth grade I got kicked out of chorus,” Bulmash said. “I spent the next decade self identifying as ‘musically challenged,’ because one teacher told me I couldn’t sing … I know I am not ‘on key’ most of ‘Bee RADical,’ but it is all heart music, and people feel that.”
Bulmash said she strives to create vulnerable safer spaces that have room for everyone to share.
“By sharing, we are stronger,” she said. “And speaking through music and art is a way to sneak into people’s ears who might not otherwise listen. I like to challenge people with my lyrics, make them think – start conversations.”
Bulmash has toured around the U.S., stirring up conversations from the Northwest all the way to the East Coast and the South. She initially intended to record “Bee RADical” in Louisiana.
“I hitchhiked and bussed all the way to New Orleans only to realize that I needed to be closer to the place that inspired my art in order to really capture the work,” Bulmash said. “I eventually found Archive Studios of Salt Lake City with Wes Johnson. His rates were significantly cheaper than anyone else in town and he had a good energy, so I took the plunge and booked the studio.”
Cali Bee will continue spreading her message throughout the Moab area, and is hosting the next Rock the Mic at the MARC on Saturday, May 27.
“We can’t give up! There is too much beauty and water and life to fight for,” she said. “Moab … the Tavaputs Plateau, the La Sal Mountains and all the rivers … they inspire and ground me, remind me I am a tiny little human.”
Cali Bulmash sends big messages to local community
“… (Speaking) through music and art is a way to sneak into people’s ears who might not otherwise listen. I like to challenge people with my lyrics, make them think– start conversations.”
When: Sunday, April 23, at 7 p.m.
Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North