Live Review: Remi, Sampa The Great, Akouo

7 July 2017 | 12:11 pm | Matt Etherington

"From the first roaring ovation, there was a rare unity from the crowd, who chanted back and swayed about freely."


Where soul meets lyricism, REMI and Sampa The Great served up beat after thumping beat to keep the crowd bouncing late into the night.

Hobartians flocked to The Waratah deep into winter and by the time REMI took the stage the entire crowd was already in full boogie mode. This was thanks in no small part to outstanding local beatmaker Akouo, who delivered wriggling and swaying electronica to the swelling crowd. Akouo's rich fusion of textured future-hip hop and sharp sampling created a buoyant atmosphere. This well-travelled underground DJ is warmly welcomed wherever he plays and he was the perfect choice of warm-up act. 

Truly, Remi Kolawole and producer Sensible J have come a long way since winning Unearthed Artist Of The Year in 2013, with their unique ability to create an intimate space, delivering waves of sound with wild colour and deep soulfulness. This REMI set was steeped in culture, with throwbacks to legends of the genre such as Mos Def, Common and J Dilla throughout.

Music is supposed to mean something, and REMI embrace the opportunity to convey the depth of persecution and racism that exists in modern society, through Kolawole's lyrics: "They said I'm being crazy/'Cause to them, black voice is white noise."

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REMI welcomed the crowd to the tribe, not just to dance about but also to understand. Storytelling is powerful and this is what hip hop, at its best, has always been about. The crowd responded immediately to their open-hearted messages of family and pride. REMI worked this in masterfully with syncopated grooves, stuttering synths and deft delivery. The crowd certainly needed a break to regroup between sets.

Sampa The Great boast a sound that feels beautifully organic despite how layered the murky percussion and instrumentation is. Her magnetic and rumbling voice matched the striking gravity of her lyrics. Laced with personal stories of love and pain, her new material brings a mellow bounce that highlights the words themselves.

Lyrics are the heart of modern rap - it's what distinguishes real hip hop from the plastic materialism that is so common in the mainstream. Sampa The Great (aka Sampa Tembo) implored the crowd to listen deeply to the words, exploring female empowerment and black dignity, which had the crowd swaying and nodding. This translated perfectly to the highlight of the set in Blue Boss, during which Tembo orchestrated a deafening crowd chant of "a-ha!" every second bar.

Coming together for a final set of collaborations and unreleased material, REMI and Sampa The Great brought the crowd to life again. From the first roaring ovation, there was a rare unity from the crowd, who chanted back and swayed about freely. The pair drove their message of pride home.

Without ego or pretence, the Fire Sign tour celebrates black culture in its entirety, from thriving community to sombre history, making it an unmissable experience.