First seen on AMNplify!
Back for its third annual run, Yours & Owls Festival really stepped up its game, delivering 40 artists across two stages last weekend. With the backdrops of the Illawarra escarpment and North Wollongong beach, Stuart Park was no doubt one of the most luxurious festival locations in NSW, maybe even Australia.
The focus of course wasn’t just on music. There was a huge range of food and retail stalls, several art installations, a projector tent for a live screening of both footy finals, the charity Project Forever markets and a panopticon rave prison. When Foucault makes an appearance at a festival, you know there’s something truly unique happening. (more…)
Just as Nollywood is an example of cultural production reflective of and adding to the notion of “home”, a great number of culturally and geographically displaced peoples can find comfort in diasporic or inter-cultural cinema. People are dislocated for a variety of reasons: war and oppression, such as with the Jewish fleeing Babylon (the origins of the term, diaspora) , something we see now in the refugees fleeing Syria; or the acceleration of immigration to industrial worlds (Tölölyan 1996).
Daniela Berghahn (2006) discusses the notion of Heimat in the films of Fatih Akin, a Turkish-German filmmaker who reached critical and commercial success with Gegen die Wand/Head-On in 2004. Heimat is a German term with no direct translation in European languages. It essentially refers to “home” or “homeland” with social connotations beyond pure geography. It is a uniquely German cultural and cinematic tradition however Akin’s exploration is based around a homecoming journey more closely associated with accented cinema as opposed to the convention of protagonists rooted in one place found in most Heimatfilm (Berghahn 2006 155-156).
The preoccupation with the home space is one constantly thrown in flux by global media. Diasporic film attempts to remedy racial stereotyping found in dominant global media by reflecting the lived experiences of those who have been displaced. As an umteenth generation Australian, I can with some difficulty try to relate. Australia had a very emphatic push towards immigration throughout the 20th century, as well as the diasporic nature of all White Australians being three centuries new to the country.
A recent Australian film that explores some elements of diaspora and displacement is The Sapphires (2012). Four indigenous women form a singing group and perform for troops in Vietnam during the war. Aboriginal communities are portrayed, family relationships, reference to the White Australia policy and racism based on white-passing indigenous children. The film won a number of awards and reached 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, evidence of its cultural value. The following clip shows evidence of diaspora experienced by a white-passing Aboriginal woman during the 60s.
Berghahn, D 2006, ‘No place like home? Or impossible homecomings in the films of Fatih Akin’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 141-157.
Tölölyan, K 1996, ‘Rethinking Diaspora(s): Stateless Power in the Transnational Moment’, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 3-36.
Growing up in the Western culture of Australia, heavily influenced by USA in the wake of political and military agreements following the Great Depression and WWII, Hollywood is my dominant film culture. In recent years I have realised there’s a shocking lack of reality to conventions that make up Hollywood cinema though. It’s less relatable from an Australian perspective, even a white female Australian such as myself. (This may be because the USA is becoming less relevant to the rest of the world. See this article one why their lack of diversity affects the Australian film industry. Global media and information communication technologies expose us to other cultures more diverse than the commercial forces driving Hollywood productions, but that’s for another blog post.)
For BCM 111, a course at University of Wollongong, I was asked to read ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption’ by Onookome Okome. This is literally the first time I’ve come across the notion of Nollywood, the cinematic phenomenon reported to be the “second largest movie industry in the world“. Unfortunately, Okome’s article is 21 pages and does not at any point actually define Nollywood, simply assuming I would know that it is a slang contraction of Nigerian Hollywood in the same style as that of Bollywood (Bombay + Hollywood).
[Nollywood audiences] are both defined by a strong desire by those left out of public narrative of life in Nigeria to be part of the story of the city and the nation (Okome 2007 17).
Nollywood films go straight to video without cinematic release, allowing them to produce 1, 844 films in 2013 alone and grossing $3.3 billion (Bright 2015). I have learned they characteristically look “inward”, discussing their own culture, which may be why it has not previously gained my attention. Form and content of these narratives inadvertently reflects the influence of global media (Okome 2007 3), something that need not be stated since art is not made in a vacuum. Overall the prevalence in film festivals and profit margins of the industry as proof of its success and cultural relevance. The article includes thorough media analysis of Domitilla, a 1997 example of Nollywood film.
I’m not sure if this is an example of Western mediation but, upon trying to actually watch a Nollywood film, most examples found in a YouTube search were low budget, relationship dramas that bordered on pornography. The following documentary as well as Okome’s article contradict these results.
Basically, as an outsider to the culture, even in this age of global media, it’s difficult for me to experience and understand Nollywood authentically. There is quite obviously a disconnect between Nollywood and the global film industry due to shoe string budget and what could be described as an over-saturated market (high production numbers mean a lot of content to sift through). Global media may inform Nollywood but Nollywood seems to be an example of a culture being absorbed into the homogenisation of globalisation.
Okome, O 2007, ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption,’ Postcolonial Text, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 1-21.
Globalisation as a concept is aptly introduced by Pico Iyer’s TED talk on “Where is home?” Thinking about where you come from and what you identify as in comparison to so many other people is a product of the lived globalisation experience.
Post-colonisation and global media mean an individual’s experience of “home” and the world at large is both saturated and mediated by technology. O’Shaughnessy and Stadler identify developments in information and communication technology as “increasing levels of global interrelatedness, ultimately prompting questions about the legitimacy and defensibility of national borders” (2008 458). This process of breaking down borders previously held in place by geographical distance through means of communication has resulted in an amalgamation of homogenised world cultures as well as opportunities for hybridisation and multiculturalism.
It began with the printing press and has grown exponentially with the proliferation of the Internet. So for those with access, globalisation is many cultures at your fingertips and your choice (within circumstantial constraints) as to how deeply you experience them. Unfortunately, without Internet access, “media globalisation can be a powerful mechanism of social exclusion” (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler 2008 464-465).
Last year, Netflix brought its subscription service and vast library of audio visual content to Australia’s shores. This year they went global. However, Internet access is a must, whether by cable or mobile data. It’s a fair assumption that people of lower socio-economic status can’t afford the subscription and requisite GBs of data to access the library. Once those circumstances are overcome, the library varies depending on the geographic location of the IP used. That is, Netflix Australia has significantly different licensing deals to Netflix USA and they both differ from Netflix UK, and so on. So Netflix is a legal means of accessing copyrighted material for viewing but it is by no means comprehensive in terms of what a subscriber may access nor is it really available to all.
O’Shaughnessy, M & Stadler, J 2008, ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition), Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.
First seen on AMNplify here!
On the one-year anniversary of her debut concept album Cry Baby‘s release, Melanie Martinez headlines a tour around Australia and New Zealand this month. First making a name for herself as a contestant in The Voice in 2012, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter made it through a few live rounds before being knocked out during nationwide voting. After her surprising success on the hit singing competition, Melanie spent a year working on Cry Baby, writing and recording and crowdfunding the first single’s music video. It is an album full of electropop drenched in childhood symbolism and matured by the underpinning concepts at play. The Cry Baby Tour is well at home here, performed at the Big Top in Sydney’s Luna Park and supported by Triple J Unearthed High winner of 2014, Japanese Wallpaper.
In a startling display of unprofessionalism, producer Japanese Wallpaper is forced to play to a crowd with the house lights on for his whole set, rendering the experience horribly informal and chatter-drenched. For his part, the young producer proceeds with gusto, backed by bandmate Miles who apparently ran the City to Surf earlier that day. Crowd favourites Breathe In and Between Friends featured as part of his set, working to create atmospheric melodies amongst the crowd. Special guest, Airling finished out the set, lending her vocals for Forces.
Lights down, phones up and a huge cheer as Melanie Martinez takes the stage in the form of a huge, covered set piece wheeled on by roadies revealed to be a huge bassinet. We are in store for a theatrical production. The intro music is a pastiche of feedback and arbitrary sounds interrupted by baby cries. A mobile lullaby churns out and the two band members in their adult-sized teddy bear outfits take their places behind drums and synth keys. As the intro to the title track, Cry Baby begins, Melanie bursts out of the crib and the crowd erupts in delighted screams.
Fortunately, we can hear Melanie’s vocals of the screech of teens, maybe at the expense of our own hearing… Big Top’s acoustics do nothing to improve the matter.
Greeting the crowd straight out of the first track, Melanie announces it’s Cry Baby‘s first birthday, she’s that damn happy to be [in Australia] and emphatically thanks all the support she’s received from her fans. The next song is her first song ever released and does anyone know what that is? The crowd yells “Dollhouse!” at her and this pleases her.
Sippy Cup gets a dialed back intro with subdued synths and the crowd racing ahead of Melanie with the lyrics before the beat kicks in and it resumes its regular pace. The thumping beat for Alphabet Boy absolutely goes off, with the whole crowd bouncing in time. Milk and Cookies has some particularly impressive guitar work in the band and a beat break down before the close that’s very dance worthy.
By the time Soap comes around, the crowd should have realised she’s playing the album start to finish in the same order, as per the story the collected songs tell. Still, every song arouses a huge scream of joy. Melanie Martinez’s fans are passionate if nothing else.
She makes a big show of saying Mad Hatter is the last track of the night then spends next to no time teasing the audience waiting to come back for an encore with a cute little quip: “Is it cool if we play two more? This one is a present I put out for Christmas.” Gingerbread Man, a Christmas single from December 2015 is a much better way to hear her voice. Slower and more heartfelt and less known by the crowd.
21-year-old tip-toeing around the stage in her socks, wearing pastel pink with a furry bolero, tattoos peeking out and some complex ideas coming out her mouth in the form of elaborate metaphors. She’s very good at moving around the stage and engaging both her band and the crowd in her vicinity and her voice is exactly as the package describes: soulful and whispery yet playfully suited to her lyrics and theme. At the very least, she had a ball with her fans: “I’m so excited to come back with the next record!”
Check out Catherine Connell’s full gallery from the night here!
Connect with Melanie Martinez!
First seen on AMNplify here!
Off the back of their fifth studio album, Afraid of Heights, Canadian four piece rock powerhouse Billy Talent returned to Australia in their first headline tour in over four years. Forming in 1993 under a different name, Ben Kowalewicz (vocals), Ian D’Sa (guitar), Jonathan Gallant (bass) and Aaron Solowoniuk (drums) were part of the Toronto indie music scene until 2001, when they reached mainstream success. While Aaron continues his long-standing battle with multiple sclerosis, Jordan Hastings of Alexisonfire filled in for him, with local five piece The Lazys supporting the tour.
After hooking up with Billy Talent at Canadian Music Week 2014 in Toronto, The Lazys arrived on stage with literal buckets of energy, rock god shapes and tunes to make AC/DC head bang along. In actual fact, I expected them to break into an AC/DC song from the outset of every intro. The influence is obvious with power chords, songs soaked in guitar solos and feel-good lyrics. The highlight of their set was lead guitarist Mathew Morris foraying from the stage to the sound desk to rock out amongst the crowd. They did an excellent job of rallying the audience for the headliners.
In a blaze of guitar riffs, screaming, and clashing percussion, Billy Talent took the stage like a foreboding storm. Vocalist Ben was a veritable lightning strike, unable to stand still for more than a few moments. His range included anything from a whisper to a scream with a decidedly theatrical expression colouring every lyric he sang. Ian‘s guitar work was formidable however it needs to be said he provided an intriguing vocal dynamic for Ben to play off, especially prominent in the harmonies of Saint Veronika and later tracks from the set list. Not to be left behind, bassist Jonathan provides gravely backing vocals on every chorus while Jordan keeps everyone in time on the drums.
The setlist had an even focus across all five studio albums, revisiting some oldies like Prisoners of Today and This Is How It Goes, as well as playing Pins and Needles – a track that is rarely played live. Ben dedicated Surprise Surprise to himself for being awesome, and Stand Up and Run was dedicated to Gord Downie.
There was a really cool moment in the show where Ben left the stage, strengthening the focus on Ian, Jonathan and Jordan jamming in an extended version of Try Honesty. The best part was that he actually joined the audience and watched the boys on stage tear it up for a good few minutes. It must be a mark of professionalism and respect, as well as his deep appreciation for music, to act this way. When he returned to the stage he made a point of thanking each of them for their contributions to the band, saying they would miss Jordan when he returns to Australia in January 2017 with Alexisonfire‘s forthcoming tour.
Much of Billy Talent‘s repertoire having a socio-political focus, there wasn’t much time wasted on speechifying. However, during the encore Ben laid down the law: “Times are tough. Every day there’s a new tragedy in the news. Let’s be thankful we’re together, safe and happy […] Because my reality does not include people like Donald f**king Trump!” He also spoke out against the mass murder in Orlando before switching back to lead singer mode and powering through Falling Leaves and Viking Death March to close out. Overall the night was nothing but hard rock and fun for all. It was great to see these guys finally on the road again, performing their new material live. The fan base is as strong as ever and stoked to be a part of Billy Talent‘s journey.
See Britt Andrew’s gallery from the night here!
Connect with Billy Talent!
Devil In A Midnight Mass
Big Red Gun
This Is How It Goes
Afraid of Heights
Rusted From The Rain
Pins And Needles
Prisoners of Today
Stand Up And Run
Louder Than The DJ
Viking Death March
If tears eroded my face
revealing the damage within,
would it still be beautiful?
Following their debut record The Positions from 2014, Gang of Youths have returned with a new EP Let Me Be Clear dropping on Friday 29th July aka TOMORROW! AMNplify was lucky enough to get a sneak peek and here’s what we thought.
What starts off with a piano melody that gives you a feeling like you’re about to be taught an important life lesson soon feeds into a slow, deliberate build of a marching beat and sincere strings, culminating in the musical manifestation of The Good Fight, literally. David Le’aupepe’s desperate vocals crash against cymbals and wretched guitar, scratching at the final question of “Will someone tell me why I need all this stuff?!”
If you want to bit hit in the feels, this is the song to listen to. Have no fear though, there’s a certain hopeful quality to everything the Jung Kim and Joji Malani do with those guitars. It sets a precedent that Gang of Youths mean business. They aren’t afraid to have a bit of fun while they take on some tough concepts in Let Me Be Clear.
Native Tongue is a feel good piece detailing the gorgeous evolution of relationships. Every instrument thrums with delight to be a part of something so beautifully messy as getting to know someone and being honest with them. There’s an element of tonal clash reminiscent of Silversun Pickups but Gang of Youths’ sound has evolved in a totally different direction.
With a jovial introduction promising an anthem both Strange Diseases and A Sudden Light bring hope to any listener from the base beauty of normality. The chords are clear, drums uplifting, Dave’s imploring voice seems to yield a kind of release. The realisations in the lyrics seem to free us all. There are definitive hints of Arcade Fire and even The Middle East.
Slowing it down with Still Unbeaten Life, acoustic and electric blends with all manner of sounds. The horns and harp in particular stand out, an intricate combination of layers showing nothing but good certainty and clarity of purpose. This track is a relaxing yet complex. You could listen to it over and over.
The EP also features a bonus track, Both Sides Now. It’s a raw track, a seemingly “uncut” insight into David’s mind and ultimately relatable for anyone listening.
A number of meaty tracks to sink your teeth into, with thoughtful lyrics and time to process the concepts explored, Let Me Be Clear suggests nothing but more good music to come. Pick up a copy as soon as you can!
Connect with Gang of Youths!