Live Review: Dobby, Tasman Keith

20 September 2018 | 10:18 am | Mick Radojkovic

"A triumph for local hip hop, knowledge and positivity and a great way to kick-off the First Nations series."


Surrounded by opera- and symphony-goers, the Sydney Opera House was a busy place on a Wednesday night. But off to the side, in the ambient Utzon Room, was the first in a series of intimate First Nations contemporary music concerts celebrating the culture and story-telling of Australia’s first peoples.

Expertly introduced to the land, the culture and the concert series by triple j’s Hau Latukefu, we were welcomed to Bowraville’s favourite son (as well as the actual son of Wire MC), Tasman Keith, along with Carolina De La Piedra on the decks. The gathered crowd stood back early, taking in the vibe of the opening track. The Utzon Room may not have borne witness to the seething and brutal lyrics that Keith is becoming famous for, but these raw stories from Gumbaynggirr country are sometimes hard to hear.

The talent of the lyricism comes through, along with the emotion in the delivery. Following the recent decision not to pursue charges for the Bowraville murders from 28 years ago, Divided was a particularly poignant track. Keith was joined on stage by another exciting up-and-coming Indigenous hip hop talent in Kobie Dee, with their collaborative track amping the crowd up and bringing them closer to the stage and the cause.

If Keith was more a contemplative artist, DOBBY was the polar opposite, striving to get people dancing. The multi-talented artist started out with a small drumming freestyle rap, before jumping into Welcome, a suitable introduction to anyone unaware of Rhyan Clapham’s talents.

Clapham is an artist on the rise; be it drumming for his band, Jackie Brown Jr, or rapping about his culture, there's an air of positivity surrounding the young Sydneysider. Similar to the previous act, he sings about culture and action, but brings it back to a joyful hip hop feel. The front of the room was now full of people as hands were thrown up and waved around in a certain juxtaposition to the symphony being performed next door.

Supported by Krystel Diola on the decks, Clapham bounced around the stage, drawing on the reactions from the crowd, asking them to repeat the mantra, "I can feel your energy, I know it's important." My Mind and Peregrine built the experience to a climax with the crowd chanting back the lyrics in the final track, 'Energy', completing a dynamic and powerful set.

In true hip hop fashion, the crowd crowed for more and we were treated to a surprise cypher from not only the artists we’d seen, but also Latukefu and audience members, Izzy and Zeadala. The show, in the most hallowed of locations, was a triumph for local hip hop, knowledge and positivity and a great way to kick-off the First Nations series.