Street Jive

9 May 2012 | 6:30 am | Benny Doyle

“We were surrounded by about twenty or thirty homeless people," recalls Stu Boga Fergie, of Aussie groundbreakers OKA, about their busking experience on Venice Beach.

"I think that's one thing that really works with our music, whether it's a little crowd or a big crowd, it still holds the same energy. We have the same thought process whenever we are playing music, which is just to enjoy that time that we are there and not focus on the crowd too much. Just focus on playing music with each other, then you can get into the energy there before you look out.”

Boga Fergie is relaxing on the Sunshine Coast, enjoying a rare bit of downtime on the tail end of OKA's east coast tour of the country. The band played to a big crowd at the Apollo Bay Music Festival on the weekend, and he admits that the experience was yet another great one for the trio. But finding their rich blend of sound inciting throngs of people to lose themselves in the moment is nothing new for the OKA boys, who for over a decade have been soundtracking a path that only they are travelling.

Impossible to pigeonhole, OKA have thrived where few Aussie acts have – in the tough overseas market. Their sound amalgamation, tipping its hat to dub, jazz, hip hop and more traditional Australian and Middle Eastern sounds, has seen them take the stage at some massive festivals around the globe, including the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Green Room Festival in Japan. However, for Boga Fergie, the pinnacle of 2011 came from an experience a little more grassroots.

“For me, the highlight of last year was going down and busking on Venice Beach,” he recalls. “We were surrounded by about twenty or thirty homeless people and it was a really strange but amazing feeling; they were loving it, we drew a massive crowd and for me personally, I really dug that. I like the connection on that scale because people are not there to come and watch you. Busking is free, so people will only stop if they dig it. So that was pretty amazing for me.”

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Boga Fergie admits that the band try and squeeze in the spontaneous style of play wherever they are in the world.

“We started on the street, that's how we began a decade ago in Melbourne. Going and playing street festivals, then our first trip was Singapore. People saw us in Singapore, and then we were over in Canada. For us, we probably feel the most comfortable on the street. It's funny; that's why we always laugh when we get up on a big stage, because it is always funny watching yourself progress, from a street corner to a big stage where everybody is looking out at you from the back, it's all a bit over the top, y'know, it's pretty crazy. But we really value the street, it keeps you honest and humble, and the music only stands up at that base level if people stop and listen to it.”

His unassuming nature is refreshing, and it's that relaxed vibe which emanates through the music of OKA. Milk & Honey is the band's sixth studio album and their first, Boga Fergie admits, that was written from the stage to studio as opposed to vice versa. The sounds of these constant journeys are reflected in the diversity across the 14 tracks, the honesty in the music, and simply the band's honesty themselves.

“Because we travel to so many places, we get inspired by different types of music and beats,” he says. “Everything is different, and our music particularly is a soundscape to wherever we are. I think as long as we keep our music current, it will stay like that.”