The Elefant In The Room

7 December 2018 | 2:40 pm | Mick Radojkovic

"It’s hard to put into words what a label like Elefant Traks means..."

As part of the 20th-anniversary celebrations of the much-loved label, Elefant Traks (ET), The Elefant In The Room show - which has travelled to Melbourne and Brisbane - wrapped up in Sydney, where it all began. The night, billed as an evening of storytelling and short tales, saw a tight-knit group of fans, friends and fam settle into The Giant Dwarf.

One of the key words of all the talks was ‘family’. The recurrent theme that ET supports their own, provides a safe place and also knows how to have some fun, all came back to that one word.

Dale Harrison (aka Rok Poshtya, bassist from The Herd and ‘that merch guy’) is very conscious of family and what it means. He told tales of ghostly events from around the country, culminating in an emotional tale that helped combine the importance of connecting with the Indigenous land and the spirit that it brings to all of us in this country.

Cole Bennetts (photojournalist, oft seen frantically clicking shots in the pit), shared outstanding and iconic photography of many ET artists and the stories that went along with them. As a member of the extended ET family, it’s impressive to hear first-hand where promo photos and album artwork comes from, along with a bunch of sneaky shots of the shy Nick Bryant-Smith aka Horrorshow's Solo.

Although she’d rather be singing on stage (than talking), Jane Tyrrell’s stories of joining and finding her musical feet in an eight-man hip hop collective were charming and expressive, even when it came down to sharing that ‘someone’ once threw up on her toothbrush on tour. The artist, also known for her outstanding solo album, Echoes In The Aviary, explained why ET is more than just the music.

Not all of the talks were directly about the label. Recently returned from performing at the United Nations, Sydney hip hop artist, L-FRESH The LION, spoke of impact and how lesser-known people in the background have made the difference in his career. Joyride’s talk was about anything but the label. The renowned ‘thought leader’ left us in stitches with his straight-faced speech about the correct pronunciation of Haberfield and Artarmon, how much water is in your brain as opposed to a head of iceberg lettuce and the fact that he is really just a clone with a faulty memory bank. Seriously, this guy should be performing on the comedy festival circuit.

Following a short break, the evening continued with hosts, Erica Mallett and Sally Coleman from Coda Conduct doing an excellent job at keeping the evening flowing and charmingly introducing each speaker.  The next guest was the reason we were there at all. Kenny Sabir (Traksewt from The Herd), started the label back in 1998 with a bunch of musical friends and artists, creating a compilation CD as a farewell to a friend. He reflected on stories of the early days of the label and how, just like a Disney movie, great stories can come out of grief.

It was a pleasure to learn more about Mirrah, an incredible artist with an incredible history. Her stories included her family being held at gunpoint in Bolivia, dancing in Destiny Child’s videos in California and how, even being adopted into a half American-Australia family, she is still becoming just like her mother. Her talk was heartfelt and honest, just like her and her music.

The most articulate and fluent talk of the night belonged to one half of the hip hop duo, Horrorshow. Solo (aka Kid Solo, Nick Bryant-Smith), who is well-known for his eloquent and personal raps was just that in his speech. Sharing thoughts on his extreme tinnitus, the feeling of thousands of eyes being on you and being a conductor in every sense of the word, it was an eye-opening and thoughtful speech, sharing the highs and lows of being a musician, a career that he obviously loves but can, at times, be challenging and uncertain.

In a first in the series of shows, the show ended with Ozi Batla (The Herd), another artist who’d rather be rapping than talking, sharing his tales of being a member of the ground-breaking hip hop collective. In a talk that served as a chance to get some things off his chest, we were treated to surprising secrets, humorous anecdotes and an apology, of sorts, for the way he acted in the old days. His stories of being on the road, analogies with basketball stars and a brutally honest approach suitably wrapped up an eclectic night of stories.

It’s hard to put into words what a label like Elefant Traks means, not only to its members but to the extended family that surround it. As Kenny Sabir mentioned, there aren’t many independent labels that have survived 20 years through the most tumultuous time in music history, but it’s safe to say that with love, persistence and a strong sense of family, the next generation of baby ‘elefants’ will ensure that the label continues for many more to come.