A Revolution of Kings and Queens
Buried somewhere deep in the Australian psyche is a political mentality. Seemingly apathetic and disenfranchised on the night of this year’s election, Australia voted even-handedly. We were to choose between the not very liberal Liberal party and the also not very liberal Labor party. Neither received a majority vote. At present Australia’s future hangs oddly in the balance, and in the hands of Independents, one of whom wears an akubra and a “protest poncho” and looks like the baddie from Ghostbusters 2.
Over the years, Blue King Brown has firmly established their hip hop/r ‘n b/reggae music with strong political concerns, mainly regarding poor and overlooked regions in and around Australia. Natalie Pa’apa’a explains that Australia has “an issue with poverty even though we’re a wealthy nation. There is an Indigenous population in the centre of Australia who still live in third world conditions. [Band member] Carlo and I have been teaching music in one particular community for six years. We go out every single time and, pre-intervention, post-intervention, nothing has significantly changed. There’s not enough housing, not enough resources… There’s a high level of poverty.”
Natalie speaks to and for these marginalised and isolated communities when she sings, “Resist what they tell you. Resist what they say. Cause they don’t wanna know you if you don’t play their game.” There is a chance that this dismissive naivety may finally be turning around though, as we see the Greens (the closest thing to a political agent for the Australian environment and its small communities) gain a little more power this election round.
“The way I see it is, it’s really interesting that the country voted like that,” Natalie starts out.
“What I’m very happy about is that we finally have our first Greens member in the house and it looks like we’ve got a strong representation in the Senate and I just feel that the Greens have had great success in this election, despite the country being split in two. Otherwise, from what I understand, it’s an opportunity for Australian politics to broaden its horizons a bit in having to make deals with the four Independents in the House of Reps. So I’m hoping that that will be a good thing for Australia and the world. We have still got some ways to go which is why I approve of progressive thinkers like the Greens having a strong representation.”
Natalie and I discuss the importance of education on our own country. I recall myself that I was taught in High School only that Aboriginal children were stolen from their families up until the 1970s. It wasn’t until Uni where I gained more of an understanding about what kind of culture had been attempted to be “bred” out. Natalie says, “What we’re really abdicating (and you can see through our website that we have an activism page) is self education because there have been stories in the media which often miss a lot of what’s going on on the ground, on the grassroots level. With the internet it’s very easy for us to educate ourselves in anything that we’re interested in to get a broad range of views. And there are some great films which inform us too. There’s one called Strange Birds in Paradise, about the struggle of the West Papuan Nation and how oppressed they are by Indonesian militancy. I had no idea how full on it is! People are getting shot for raising a flag… Really full on! It’s scary to know that this is going on in our region and the rest of us aren’t really familiar with these issues.”
This passionate, persistent, and fiery push for awareness and subsequent change has always been as prevalent in Blue King Brown’s music as M.I.A’s concern for Sri Lanka has been in her own music. The difference between Blue King Brown’s last album, Stand Up, and the recently released Worldwize, is that they “spent a lot more time producing this album and really just getting in there with the nitty gritties; spending as much time as needed on each track to get the sound that we were hearing in our heads. We really took the time to try the good AND the bad ideas! We just tried them and felt that the final result is really strong.”
This production definitely hashes out a more unique Blue King Brown, boasting producers who have worked with Rihanna, Madonna, Gwen Stefani and Damien Marley. Blue King Brown certainly earned the slick production in travelling to Jamaica and America. Natalie explains, “Basically we tracked all the instrumentation in Melbourne, and then a few of us went over to Kingston [Jamaica] to track the vocals, which are an important part of the album. So much of the music that we love has come out of that region. So we felt that we should go there and it was such a great experience! In being there we had the door of opportunity open to work with Fly and Robbie, Jah Mason and Queen Ifrica. It was a really great time and that was one of the highlights in crafting the album.”
Blue King Brown are currently touring in support of John Butler Trio.