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Being named as ‘New Talent of the Year’ at the recent National Indigenous Music Awards is only the latest accolade that Mildura’s rising hip hop artist Philly has received in his short career. In 2010 he was awarded the National Noel Tovey Achievement Award and was picked as Mildura’s NAIDOC Artist of the Year – but Philly says his major break came after winning triple j’s Unearthed NIMA last year. “I’ve felt so blessed over the past five years – and to be recognised at that level is amazing.”
Winning one of triple j’s most coveted awards helped to strengthen his ties with two of the country’s leading forces in Indigenous hip hop, Briggs and Jimblah. “I just signed to Briggs’ new label, Bad Apples, so I get a lot of advice from him,” Philly smiles, “and Jimblah is another artist who has reached out to me and loves to give advice. It’s been such a big help to have those two as contacts.”
With Philly’s career on an upward trajectory, he’s a perfect addition to the already stellar line-up set to take the stage for the return of NaranaFEST. Not since 2007 has the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre put on a live music event of this size. Headlined by Archie Roach, who also celebrates the 25th anniversary of Charcoal Lane at the festival – and the significance of the occasion is not lost on the humble songwriter.
“I’ve had the honour of meeting Uncle Archie a couple of times now, but I don’t think he ever remembers me!” Philly laughs. “But it’s always cool to see him perform – he’s a beautiful soul and an amazing person.”
At NaranaFEST Archie Roach and Philly will be joined by Yirrmal, Chris Russell’s Chicken Walk, Frazer A. Gorman and Ezekiel Ox & DJ Marze, just to name a few.
“All of the acts are incredible artists in their own right,” he continues. “It’s always a privilege to perform alongside artists that are doing so much for Australian music.”
Philly’s passion for music, his culture and the community is obvious when he speaks about wanting to incorporate the traditional language of the Wemba-Wemba people into his song writing.
“Learning this language is really important to me – it’s not just for my music but also for me. I believe it’s something I should learn, to be closer to my people and my culture. Unfortunately, because I’ve been so flat-out lately I haven’t been able to study it as much as I would like to – and I need to be fluent before I start using it, so that I’m not lying,” Philly admits, “but I think it will be very powerful in my music.”
Earlier this year triple j listeners felt the full force of Philly’s talent when he performed a cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ for Like a Version, accompanied by Jayden Lillyst (who’ll be appearing with Philly at NaranaFEST).
“We’re both still buzzing from the triple j response,” he says. Their rendition was voted as one of the top covers of the year and is included in triple j’s Like a Version Vol 11. Philly and Lillyst are currently working on an EP.
“Together me and my brotherman Jayden have an acoustic hip hop vibe, and we think it brings something different to the hip hop scene,” he says.
Written by Natalie Rogers
When & Where: NaranaFEST, Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre – November 14