How Music Is Bringing Diversity And The Western Suburbs Together Into The Spotlight

25 November 2015 | 2:19 pm | Upasana Chatterjee

"Finding what we have in common rather than what we have different is always beautiful."

The four artists are excited to meet each other and, as soon as they start speaking, it looks like they'd be friends even if The Music hadn't brought them together today. L-FRESH The LION, aka Sukhdeep Singh, starts us off.

"It's very much about Western Sydney, it's very much about Parramatta. There's a lot that the city and that area has to offer and that's what I'm looking forward to. To see Western Sydney shine the way I know it can." 

Ngaiire (full name Ngaiire Joseph) pauses for a moment, then says, "He basically covered eeeverything!" while B Wise, aka James Iheakanwa, adds, "Being from that area myself, I would feel naturally excited even if I wasn't on it — that something like this sort of line-up was coming to the area. We don't see much of that happening..."

Sampa The Great (real name Sampa Tembo) is the newest to the scene and her energy is contagious. "I'm all for artists working together and getting together, we can do many more things when we do that, so a community vibe, I'm all for that."

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"I tend to forget being the only brown person in the room a lot of the time, and where I come from and how my culture informs me."

It's a simple question, but one many of us forget all too often when we're faced with social turmoil. Though The Music spoke to these guys — of Punjabi, Papua New Guinean, half-Nigerian and Zambian heritage, a real melting pot of cultures — before the horrifying Paris attacks, their sentiments on why diversity is important ring true now more than ever.

Sampa says excitably, "Man, to understand each other better! I'm an international student so I travel around a lot, and just finding what we have in common rather than what we have different is always beautiful, to see what we can do together. Diversity is a huge thing, man." 

Ngaiire looks around then offers, "I'm just inspired to be a part of it because — look, there's four brown people here! And that doesn't normally happen a lot. A lot of festivals that I play, I don't really get to play with people of cultural diversity... I tend to forget being the only brown person in the room a lot of the time, and where I come from and how my culture informs me."

"One thing that we need to move beyond in terms of a national consciousness is the idea that different cultures are to be tolerated and in some way included, because that's what we're supposed to do, but [they should be] moreso celebrated and understood, in that our strength is in our diversity," explains L-FRESH. "A healthy community is one that embraces that and appreciates that there are people from all different experiences, different walks of life, that have something to contribute to what makes our communities special."

The venue that The Plot's promoters have chosen is also on the non-traditional side — Parramatta Park, home to Australia's oldest public building, the Old Government House, built in 1799. 

"I was saying in my last interview that that was a mistake because we're gonna tear that building up! [laughs] Naw, I'm just playing. Look, this country has a very, very, very long history and that's something we need to recognise beyond just the 1700s. Of course, it's cool that we're in Western Sydney and we have a building of that significance there and it is part of our history, and it's cool that young people get to be in a space where that's present, but again, to reinforce, Australia's history is very diverse and lengthy," opines L-FRESH.

With artists like SAFIA, Urthboy, The Griswolds, Crooked Colours and Tkay Maidza on the line-up, surely the acts sitting here today are excited to see some old and new friends perform?

"Good times, good food, good people — you can't beat that."

With a goofy grin on his face, L-FRESH says cheekily, "To be honest... Ngaiire!" Ngaiire blushes while the rest burst out laughing, but L-FRESH straightens up and continues. "Also I'm gonna be on the stage again with Urthboy, that's record label family."

Ngaiire giggles and says, "Now I have to say L-FRESH! I've never seen any of you — oh, except Sampa, I've seen you play and you were fucking incredible. I'd love to see Tkay as well, obviously everyone's raving about her." B Wise namedrops Spit Syndicate, "Urthy" and tour buddy Tuka and says he's "got a really good set ready", while Sampa's voice rises like a child as she says, "Man, everybody! I'm a newbie, I haven't seen ANYBODY! It'll be good to see everybody up there doing what they do, especially these guys sitting next to me."

Given that The Plot puts the experiences and stories of individuals at the centre of their ethos, we ask our small congregation what their fondest moments are.

"Man, some of my most favourite memories are at home, in the backyard with family, all my cousins and aunties and uncles, and we've just had a typical Punjabi BBQ," remembers L-FRESH. "There's music playing and just remembering what that was like as a kid with all the cousins, running around, causing trouble. Good times, good food, good people — you can't beat that."

Ngaiire mentions her time as a child back in Papua New Guinea, having moved to Australia at 16. "I really do miss being back in Papua New Guinea, it's quite expensive to get back there all the time. It's the simplest things — it's watching my grandmother bake bread, or just sitting under a tree with my uncles, just telling stories."

Sampa's memory is incredibly specific and something we can envision for ourselves from the way she glows as she's describing it. "One of my fondest memories, we were driving from Botswana to Zambia and it was my parents and my little sister. There was an elephant on the left side of the road — this is my best memory, man — and my dad starts driving slowly because my mum hates all that, and my dad drives slowly and starts moving the car towards the elephant. You can see her slowly like, having this heart attack, and he was just smiling through the whole thing. It's that one smile he had, like, made me light up, you could see the child in him. It was awesome."

B Wise remembers something from just last weekend during Tuka's set. "It's been stuck in my head all week. This guy brought his lady up on stage and he proposed to her on stage, it was freaking amazing... he dropped down on one knee and the whole place, a sold out crowd, just went amazingly crazy."