Melbourne Music Week kicks off this weekend and our favourite Melbourne hip hop duo, Remi, will be returning to the event for the brand new showcase, Blue Black Beatz.
Taking place at the Immigration Museum on Saturday 17 November, Afro Hub are delivering the first all African and Third Nations based event to the long-running program, where Remi will be headlining the “straight up eight hour music festival”.
“What I know about it is that it’s going to be an incredible predominantly black line-up with incredible artists spanning from recording artists and change-makers in our community to quite obviously the hip hop on our end and everything in between, so it’s going to be really tight,” says Remi Kolawole.
“You know I trust the organisers, especially Saba indefinitely so if she’s putting something on, I know it’s going to be dope. If she wants to make it happen, it will happen. She’s been very instrumental in our community.”
Saba Alemayoh is the organiser Remi is referring to. She is the founder of Afro Hub, a community Afro-centric performance space in Carlton North, as well as Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant in Fitzroy. Her space has been home to a number of emerging and established African and Third Nations artists, including Remi himself. Alemayoh joined the MMW program to have a “bigger stage” where “black and African artists aren’t labelled the ‘other’” on the bill.
“We have a black-centric and Afro-centric line up but it’s taking the African musicians away from that kind of community based, or having to play a particular genre of, music. Not everyone is playing that cultural expectation; that cultural voyeurism wasn’t there and we made sure that it wasn’t there so they are just musicians playing what they love to play.” Alemayoh explains, “People are from community, absolutely! People are African, absolutely, but they are musicians first in this festival scenario, heritage second.”
Alemayoh pulled a lineup of artists together from her community, or “family”, that she would personally pay to see. That family includes Remi who will be joined by Sophie Grophy, Consciously Kyah, Soli Tesema, Idil Ali, Maï, Alárìíyá, Sonik Waves, Band of Brothaz and P-Unique.
“What my inspiration actually is, there’s a festival called Afro Punk,” Alemayoh explains. “Something like that in Australia would be ah-mazing. This is an eight hour music festival at the Immigration Museum but we would love a much more Afro-centric, kind of intensive festival that goes for a couple of days. A Bush Doof- that would be amazing!!” she laughs. “But small steps first, if it all goes well we would love to run it again next year.”
Blue Black Beatz is further about sparking a conversation in the music community, and in wider society, about equality and representation. The all-ages family event will have a main focus on the music, but punters are invited to wear their traditional outfits and dress bold to highlight culture and wearing heritage on their sleeves.
“It’s about the restructuring of the language and how African people are being represented today.” Kolawole explains, “A lot of us are going to talk about our stories and we’re going to be as real and honest as we are. We have to feel like we are being represented properly so there is a huge trust issue a lot of the time as well [with other organisers and festivals], so I think that’s something to be said for this event.”
The ‘Sangria’ songwriter has never been one to shy away from conversation surrounding racism, both vocally and through song. Though he was born in Australia, Kolawole’s father is Nigerian and the traditions of his culture are embedded in him.
“My being, you know what I mean. Like, you wear it on you. That’s really what it is. We wear our tradition. A lot of us are very far from the lands that our parents are from or that our parents were born on, so our traditions and our cultures are etched and are applied to our new way of life.”
These sentiments are very distinct in the early October release of ‘Black Hole Sun’ (not to be mistaken for the Soundgarden anthem), a collaborative album with New Zealand hip hop artist, Raiza Biza. The two have just hit the road on their Australian and New Zealand tour showing off the six track EP. ‘Runner’ has made the rounds on Rage and commercial radio which come as a surprise to the 2013 Triple J Unearthed Artist of the Year.
“It’s been dope and really beautiful and awesome to see how people are relating to it,” Kolawole says. “I know how different it is from what people are used to hearing in Australian music so it’s been really dope to see people are feeling that and accept it and love it. So it’s tight.
“I’m overwhelmed always that people actually give a f**k.”
Catch the songs being played live at Blue Black Beatz and go bold or go home!
What: MMW Blue Black Beatz
When: Saturday, 17 November 2018, 2.00 – 10.00pm
Written by Tammy Walters
Photos by Ian Laidlaw