hip hop, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Hip-hop odyssey tells confronting truths

Review: Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, Ice Land: A Hip h’Opera ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 17 October ·
Review by Gina Williams ·

Don’t let the lush red curtains, the painted ponies and the pretty lights fool you; this production was never going to be about beauty or feeling good. Ice Land: A Hip h’Opera examines the ugly consequences of a society that stops living like a community and begins to function as an economy. As the bottom falls out of the mining boom and the cracks appear in community, our most vulnerable fall into the abyss of ice addiction.

It’s almost midnight in the Emergency Department of Royal Perth Hospital. Unseen staff move slowly as the plot unfolds. Here, we meet Joy (Layla Hanbury), Carly (Moana Lutton aka Moana Mayatrix of West Australian rock band Moana) and Cole (Benjamin Hasler of WA hip-hop group Downsyde). As the title suggests, this is a story told through the densely packed blend of words, song and beats that is hip-hop.

Research has ensured this production has authenticity. Pictured is Layla Hanbury as joy. Photo: Dana Weeks.
Research has ensured this production has authenticity. Pictured is Layla Hanbury as joy. Photo: Dana Weeks.

There’s plenty of drama; Joy’s only child has taken ill and is receiving emergency treatment. Carly is almost driven to distraction with fear as her brother is placed in psychiatric care following a psychotic episode. And Cole is waiting for his critically ill nanna, who is in intensive care.

Collectively they battle a common enemy; methamphetamine addiction. Their stories are held together and moved along deftly by Dnale Ci (Downsyde’s Scott Griffiths). As dealer, devil and seducer combined, Griffiths is compelling to watch; at once menacing and charismatic.

We discover that Joy has fallen into addiction following the rejection of her parents and the loss of a previous pregnancy. She loses her job and significant relationships and supports, leaving her child as the sole reason to continue living.

We learn that Carly’s parents died in a car crash, leaving Carly with her brother. Depression, alcoholism, self harm and domestic violence are never far away.

But Cole has the story which is easiest to relate to and hardest to watch. Cole lives with his nanna, his family torn apart by addiction. The intergenerational trauma is palpable. Cole, the King of Belmont, named “Waarlitj” (Eagle) by his nanna, has swagger to boot. Yet if you dig a little, you’ll find a hurt little boy who is disconnected from culture and community, who was abandoned by his parents and now struggles to articulate what he needs to heal. “I have love to give,” he says, and it’s hard not to feel the sadness.

It’s hard not to feel the sadness: Benjamin Hasler as Cole. Photo Dana Weeks.

Under the clever direction of Kyle J Morrison (King Hit, The Fever and the Fret, Skylab), the performance moves along swiftly. The set and lighting (Matthew McVeigh, Joe Paradise Lui) add to the dramatic effect of the storytelling without distraction.

Of course, the music is fantastic – a real credit to the collective talent of the four cast members/lyricists, and music director Darren Reutens (Downsyde), librettist/lyricist Zac James and lyricist Ryan Samuels aka Trooth. I’d love to see the soundtrack released as a concept album.

For me, the musical highlight was a rare moment when Lutton softly sang to herself and we were treated to one of the most bittersweet, purest voices you’re ever likely to hear. But again, this production was never going to be a thing of beauty and her powerful vocals are undeniable.

Avoiding clichés: Dnale Ci (Scott Griffiths) and Carly (Moana Lutton). Photo: Dana Weeks.

It would be easy to trot out all the regular tropes and clichés around stories of addiction, but Ice Land manages to avoid this. Interviews held for 18 months with various sectors of the community in the lead-up to the creation of Ice Land have informed this production and given it an authenticity it may otherwise have lacked.

Ice Land: A Hip h’Opera was confronting and difficult to watch. But lots of important stories are. At the end of the opening night performance, Scott Griffiths thanked the audience and hoped out loud that “we fill this venue, because we need to start these conversations and we need to start ridding ourselves of this scourge that is ice addiction.”

After watching this production, it’s impossible not to agree.

Iceland: a Hip-h’Opera runs until October 26.

Pictured top: Layla Hanbury and Scott Griffiths. Photo: Dana Weeks.

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Calendar, hip hop, Music, October 18, Performing arts

Music: IMPACT – Youth Hip Hop Showcase

6 October @ YMCA HQ ·
Presented by YMCA WA ·

Impact The Culture – Real Honest True Positive
Youth Hip Hop showcase – 6th October @ YMCA HQ, Leederville.

Door Pressure $10
All cash raised goes towards IMPACT #2 in November.

The YMCA Drug Aware – HQ Youth Leadership Group’s latest concoction brings together a culturally diverse selection of young Western Australian Hip Hop artist’s united for IMPACT. The inspiration for this event is the desire to highlight the unifying & uplifting aspects of Hip Hop & in doing so – IMPACT the culture with positive vibes, counteracting the negative stereotype that is often associated with the Hip Hop Scene.

Featuring new music from emerging artists MelloDian & Aali backed by LIVE 4 piece up’n coming band JAG from City of Vincent. Other artist’s bring’n the fire on the night are Zak Scorch & Young Dersch both rep’n City of Swan, plus the three boys from Lucid Reality – Records rep’n the northern suburbs. These five fellas have been honing their craft for years & been mentored by WA Hip Hop legends Bitter Belief & Complete.  Slotted in throughout the night we got outfits comprising original beat producers with Emcee’s – Hold’n it down for Fremantle youngsta’s MALi JO$E with OJ43 plus Myriad Sun Feat: Nelson Mondlane from SUPEREGO (FKA Pow Negro) & Leederville locals Kahli & Jippy.  Dropp’n short punchy sets you’ll experience the current fresh sounds of original beat producers Phries & Uncle Sam Beats & helping warm up the early part of the night we have special guest: interdisciplinary artist & youth mentor Paris Mitchell with the wisdom.

More info:
W: www.facebook.com/ymcaHQ3/
E:  info.hq@ymcawa.org.au

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Denmark Festival of Voice
Choral, Contemporary music, DJs, Features, hip hop, Music, News, Performance poetry, Performing arts, Pop, Rap, Slam poetry

Raise your voices

Denmark will be awash with harmonies over the WA Day long weekend, when hundreds of people descend on the town for its annual Festival of Voice. Nina Levy caught up with the Festival’s artistic director, Vivienne Robertson, to find out more.

Vivienne Robertson
Vivienne Robertson

Nina Levy: Tell me about the history of the Denmark Festival of Voice (DFoV)…
Vivienne Robertson: This is the fifteenth year of the Festival – it started as a grassroots, small-scale festival about the joy of community singing, and for many years its focus stayed on choirs and community song. That’s still the heart of the festival – how magical it is when people come together to sing – but over the past few years DFoV has also morphed into an all-encompassing celebration of the power and beauty of the human voice. Song, story, spoken word… and this year, we introduce the beauty of visual voice with WA Deaf Arts.

NL: How did you come to the role of artistic director?
VR: This is my fourth year as artistic director of the Festival. I have been the artistic director of Denmark Arts (the organisation that presents DFoV) for seven years, and in that time, intimately involved with DFoV. Four years ago we didn’t have a Festival AD, so I stepped into taking that role as well. I love voice – Sufi chant is my personal thing – and I’ve steered the Festival into incorporating a strong focus on “voices from the edges” – First Nations, refugee, inclusion, experimental… as well as more focus on the varying ways of voice, including story-telling and spoken word.

Ensemble Aznash Laaman Photo: Hazel Blake
“The Festival is a mix of Denmark’s own amazing performers and presenters alongside national and international acts.” Ensemble Aznash Laaman Photo: Hazel Blake.

NL: So DFoV encompasses more than just singing… tell me more, tell me more!
VR: It’s about “voice”. As well as song, story and spoken word, that means exploring ideas about voice. It’s all in there – and, because it’s an intimate festival, you get a small amount of everything – the cream of “voice”, if you like!

In addition to performances, there are also 28 workshops – from Gregorian chant to beatbox, Indian vocal percussion to slam poetry, Auslan to the voice of mime… and we have a special one day workshop on the Monday on breath with shakuhachi master Dr Riley Lee.

So we’re big on participation – letting people experience the wonder of their own vocal adventure, finding new sounds in their mouth. The story-telling is in a beautiful hand-made yurt running a program of skilled tellers, mainly, this year, from Noongar and immigrant backgrounds. Denmark is an intensely musical town and the Festival is a mix of our own amazing performers and presenters alongside national and international acts.

NL: What are some of the highlights of this year’s festival program?
VR: We are featuring some fabulous acts: Perch Creek, the Yabu Band, Riley Lee, Ziggy Ramo, Carla Geneve, Men of the West, Elena B Williams…. but perhaps this year our spoken word program is a real highlight.

We’re honoured to be presenting Bilya Kep Waagnkiny from Northam, and three local elders as speakers/story-tellers in our “Voices of First Peoples” thread; we have a poetry slam run by TedX speaker and Australian Slam Champ Jesse Oliver; the Centre for Stories is attending with four guest story-tellers and we have a wonderful panel on “Voice and Identity” featuring Kim Scott, Pakistani poet Zainab Zahra Syed, Rae Gibson from WA Deaf Arts, Matthew and Daniel Bacon on gay/transgender issues and Yabu Band’s Noongar/Wongi lead Delson Stokes.

Also special are the “Thonglines” and “5 Days not 5 Years on Manus Island”  projects – film/exhibition/song/talks about and from asylum seekers, and our two guest migrant/refugee background story-tellers Hossein Bouazar and Esther Amito Onek.

Denmark Festival of Voice
“The story-telling is in a beautiful hand-made yurt running a program of skilled tellers, mainly, this year, from Noongar and immigrant backgrounds.” Photo: Hazel Blake.

NL: The festival looks HUGE… how do you fit so many acts into a small town like Denmark?
VR: What we love about the Festival is actually its intimacy. Performers hang out with audiences, we finish each night around the fire down at the Festival Club together, and most of the venues are cosy and magical! We have 18 venues – that includes coffee shops, studios, churches, wine bars, bookstores, the Artshouse, Blue Lounge…as well as our three main concert venues. And of course we’re on the streets – this year we launch the Denmark Town Crier competition in Fig Tree Square – doing town crying Denmark way…

NL: What are your tips for festival-attenders in terms of how to get the most out of the weekend?
VR: It’s always interesting at festivals – some people study the program, circle who they want to see, some people go with the flow, others fall in love with a particular venue… I think it can be powerful to embrace what you know you want to experience, as well as going to something you wouldn’t normally go to.

The Denmark Festival of the Voice takes place in Denmark, 1-4 June.

Pictured top: Apakatcha at the Denmark Festival of Voice in 2017. Photo: Hazel Blake.

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A.B. Original
Calendar, February 18, hip hop, Music, Performing arts

Perth Festival: A.B. Original

Music ∙
24 February @ Chevron Gardens ∙
Presented by: Perth Festival ∙

Riding high on a crest of anarchic fervour, A.B. Original is a hip hop force to be reckoned with. Pulling no punches, MCs Trials and Briggs are taking Australia to task with an irresistible slam of politically-motivated songs that celebrate our black history and demand a better present – one where diversity reigns and razor sharp raps dominate.

Rest assured, this is no sermon, but rather a radical storm of Public Enemy-style energy punctuated by a fireball of hip hop awesome.

More info: https://www.perthfestival.com.au/event/ab-original

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Features, hip hop, News, Performing arts, Rap, Slam poetry

Poetry for our times

What do you get when you mix performance poetry, spoken word and rap? Star-Crossed Poets, a group of Perth performers who will be mixing poetry with a little hip-hop at Fringe World. Jesse Oliver, founder of Star-Crossed Poets, gave Seesaw an insight into the wonderful world of performance poetry… including competing nationally!

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
Jesse Oliver: I knew I wanted to be an artist when I realised that my poetry is worth more to me than having money. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of artists start. I left a full-time retail job and lived hard for the art! I’m just glad it paid off in the past year.

S: Did you do formal training, learn on-the-job, or a bit of both?
JO: In the few years leading up to the National Poetry Slam, I trained myself in my bedroom. I think you’re the hardest on yourself, the worst critic… but that can be a good thing! It just requires patience, forgiveness, determination and being able to recognise when something’s finished.

S: Describe your artistic practice.
JO: Usually my best work comes to me around 11pm when I’m falling asleep and I annoy my girlfriend by jumping out of bed and scrambling for a pen in the dark. Once I have these sleepy scribbles I make sure I make time to workshop them for performance. It’s a lot easier with the Star-Crossed crew because we have scheduled meetings. Every one of the team inspires me with their unique styles and it’s easy to roll with each other’s poetry. Two things we do always ensures a great session; laughs and food.

Jesse Oliver
Jesse Oliver, winner of the 2017 Australian Poetry Slam Championship.

S: Career highlight so far?
JO: October 15, 2017. After months of daily practise, I won the Australian Poetry Slam Championship at the Sydney Opera House to a crowd of 600+. Since then, I’ve been blessed with amazing opportunities like directing the National Young Writers’ Festival, a world tour and of course, starting my Star-Crossed crew.

S: Career lowlight?
JO: Not winning in 2015. I missed out on attending the Sydney final by half a point, and was so ready to give up poetry all together as I battled social anxiety. But on the plus side, it’s the same time that I met the amazing Perth Poetry community (SHOUT OUT!) and it was like a warm hug through a dark time of my life.

Seesaw: What do you love most about what you do?
JO: The intimacy, connection and liberation that comes from sharing yourself. Poetry is personal, when I’m on stage with a poem that’s true to who I am I feel like I’m flying. After the social anxiety thing, it’s the most amazing feeling to be fearless in your words and to have people clicking your truth. That’s the connection, having a whole room on the same page. (Fun Fact: Clicks are a poet’s applause, as clapping is thought to throw off a performance)

S: Tell us about your 2018 Fringe show, Star-Crossed Poetry!
JO: Star-Crossed Poetry is a brand-new show! It’s actually based on my own love life, told through poetry, rap and storytelling. I’m performing alongside some of Perth’s most talented young writers; Laundry Man, Demie Scally, Saoirse Nash and Jake “Wiseguy” Sulli. It’s a light hearted, funny journey through four stages of being in love; love, heartbreak, meaningless sex and something more. We’re all really excited to show it to the world!

S: What made you decide to give Fringe World a whirl?
JO: Some of the SC crew and I were heading back to Perth from the National Young Writers Festival. So we were hanging at the Sydney airport terminal when I saw that the Fringe registrations were open, and to be honest, also closing that night in exactly one hour. I have never mobile typed so fast in my life. But underlying this, I’ve just always wanted to do one. Also, sometimes I just cheekily want to see what I’m capable of, I’ve spent too long living in fear. Sometimes I surprise myself, other times I fall flat on my face. Thankfully, this crew has been the coolest thing I have ever put together.


S: What is your favourite playground equipment?
JO: I am NOT a fan of slides… When I was about eight I went down one after a kid who had peed himself and it’s never been the same for me. I like the weird animal things that are on a big spring, to this day I cannot resist a quick go.

Star Crossed Poetry’ plays Mezzanine Bar at Cheeky Sparrow and the Common Room at Paper Mountain, 29 January – 4 February.

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North East Party House
Calendar, February 18, hip hop, Music, Performing arts, Pop

Perth Festival: Northeast Party House + Wafia + Willaris. K

Music ∙
18 February @ Chevron Gardens, Elizabeth Quay ∙
Presented by: Perth Festival ∙

A cavalcade of hedonistic electronic-rock good times, Northeast Party House represent all there is to love about footloose and fancy-free musical fun. As exuberant as they are rousing, the band has a knack for taut melodies and pulsing crescendos, celebrating youthful rebellion and raucousness.

As we rage into the summer night, Wafia, one of our most intriguing young artists, joins the line-up. Minimal in structure and delicate in her approach, Wafia takes influence from her Middle Eastern background to deliver downtempo hip hop and soulful electronic pop.

There to keep the beats rolling is emerging techno golden boy Willaris. K. His ability to create an ambient space of dark mystery through beautiful sounds and thick texture will astound.

More info: https://www.perthfestival.com.au/event/northeast-party-house-wafia-willaris-k

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Dizzee Rascal
Calendar, February 18, hip hop, Music, Performing arts

Perth Festival: Dizzee Rascal

Music ∙
17 February @ Chevron Gardens, Elizabeth Quay ∙
Presented by: Perth Festival ∙

All hail the Rascal – the king of grime is back. The original firestarter, Dizzee Rascal, bombs the bass with hip hop slingshots that leave the imitators for dead. Throwing gangsta barbs, this UK pioneer laid the foundations for a scene that continues to fizz and pop with innovation. Brace yourselves bassline junkies, this cheeky grandmaster drops ‘em hard.

More info: https://www.perthfestival.com.au/event/dizzee-rascal

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Electric Fields, Kardajala Kirradarra, Skinnyfish Sound System
Calendar, February 18, hip hop, Magic, Performing arts

Perth Festival: Electric Fields + Skinnyfish Sound System + Kardajala Kirridarra

Music ∙
9 February @ Chevron Gardens, Elizabeth Quay ∙
Presented by: Perth Festival ∙

We open the Gardens this February with a hot new wave of contemporary artists – soulful innovators  who fuse  tropical beats and infectious grooves that transcend time.

Electric Fields,  a duo of grinding electro-pop splendour, show us why they are tipped as the hottest new act in the country. With an angelic lead vocal evoking  Anohni and  Sia in each spine-tingling  crescendo, they’ll take you to dizzying heights.

Kicking off the evening we present Kardajala Kirridarra, a troupe of women from the sand hills behind the remote community of Marlinja, in the Northern Territory. Combining ethereal voices with hip hop and electronica, in collaboration with producer/multi-instrumentalist Beatrice Lewis, these women will explode your concept of Country.

Closing the night are maestros Skinnyfish  Sound System,  remixing their catalogue of masters  with live didj  and  beat poet who  throw  Arnhem Land  rap with flair.

More info:  https://www.perthfestival.com.au/event/electric-fields-skinnyfish-sound-system-kardajala-kirridarra

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