Live Review: OKA, Leonard Sumner

2 May 2017 | 6:31 pm | Luke Saunders

"Their vocal wailings were reminiscent of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and were mesmerising to witness."

Leonard Sumner brought together a dispersed crowd at Metro Theatre's The Lair last night and really made them think. Half acoustic guitar serenade, half truth-attack rap, Sumner made every word count in his political pleas on the hardships of Indigenous people. Julian Bel-Bachir helped out by tapping along on the Cajon before stepping up to the kit when OKA hit the stage.

Two men in traditional Indigenous white paint and red cloth took to the stage, with boomerang tapping sticks and a didgeridoo. Their vocal wailings were reminiscent of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and were mesmerising to witness. The crowd was packed shoulder to shoulder, wall-to-wall when OKA took over, hitting them with their trademark reggae, Indigenous hybrid. Each track consists more or less of an experimental jam that crystallises as each instrument is layered in. A new track featured heavy deep house influences and a flourishing flute hook that sent dancers into a trance. When Stu Boga Fergie was young, his Yakin Andu elders named him DidgeriStu due to his prodigious talents on the wooden instrument, and it's not hard to see why. Along with multi-instrumentalist Chris Lang on flute, sax and harmonica, it's quite a wonderful concoction. However, it's drummer Bel-Bachir that is the real eye trap. Even for those with little or no knowledge of instruments, his swiftness and dexterity are a joy to watch (even when it looks like he's thinking about something a thousand miles away).

A cover of Blackstreet's '90s hit No Diggity melted into groovy crowd favourite Gets Ya High, and each member of the audience found the space to really cut loose in the small, intimate venue. After a solid two-hour set, the OKA boys ended with and extended version of Music Makes Me Happy, leaving the audience satisfied but always wanting more.