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Saturday
Dec102016

Post Malone: Stoney - debut album drop.


Written by Bree Stewart

It’s been at least 170 coffees and several red wines since my last contribution to SYS. Across 2016, various streaming services have been churning out a few decent hooks within the urban music community. Unfortunately, from where these vans are standing, the last twelve months have not graced my ear holes with as many hip hop pioneers, as did previous years.

Lying on my back balcony I kicked off the tedious scroll of Apple Music’s recommended (usually a flat-liner) and there it stood; Post Malone’s latest record - Stoney. With its bold orange cover and alluring co-creators (Kehlani, Bieber & Quavo to name a few), my ears were graced with their first hip hop pioneer of 2016, scraping in at a November drop - better late than never right?

 

Post Malone, Img via publicist.


The New York born, Texas raised singer/rapper/guitarist kicks off his album with the Americanised opening record Broken Whiskey Glass (enjoy a sneak peek of Post’s love of country music in the framework of this track). Track no. 2 however currently holds favour in my heart, No Lie – the utmost chill beat, subtle vocal effects and Friday night synth takes listener’s back to a sound similar to Cudi’s 2013 experimental tones.

The whole experience is 50 minutes from start to finish, a great teaser for the artist’s European tour kicking off in the coming week. Overall the album is a journey suitable for road trips, one night stands and the Sunday afternoon balcony beers. 100/10 – thanks to the upcoming hip hop pioneer.



Thursday
Nov242016

BYRON MARK’S ‘AMALGAMATION’ ALBUM LAUNCH

@ Venue 505 on Thursday 6th October 2016

Walking into a sold out 505, I felt the anticipation in the room for what was to be an epic night celebrating the launch of Byron Mark’s debut album – ‘Amalgamation’. With more than 30 artists set to hit the stage, a stellar line up including nationally acclaimed musicians and dancers, we were in for a treat both aurally and visually, with a set list that consisted of everything from Flamenco, Indian and African; to funk, jazz and pop.

We were not disappointed. Kicking off the first set, a showcase of Byron’s world music pieces, was his latest composition – ‘Piano Dance’, a stunning flamenco inspired piano piece, accompanied by cello, flute, cajon and dancers. From here, Byron took us to India, Spain, and Africa, bringing out a huge variety of instruments, musicians, dancers and even a string quartet, to perform ‘Yia Yia’, a very special room-silencing tribute to Byron’s Greek grandmother.  Also performed in this set was ‘Fuego Nocturno’, a beautiful piece that was nominated in the top 5 of the instrumental category at the 2016 Australian Independent Music Awards. His best friend and fellow musician Luke Koteras, co-wrote the piece, and it was a wonderful moment to see them perform it together; showcasing Byron’s flair on both the piano and the cajon, along with Luke’s guitar wizardry. Byron’s brother, Nicholas Mark, surprised us all with his spectacular performance on the didgeridoo halfway through this piece too.

Just when we thought we’d seen the extent of Byron’s repertoire, the second set delved into his world of Jazz, Pop and Funk collaborations. The song ‘Lion Heart’ was a strong standout for me. This big and bold piece was written with long-time friend and music colleague, singer Rosie Henshaw, and reflected their passion and determination for making music. ‘First Date’ was another favourite, particularly listening to the smooth soulful voice, and immaculately dressed Michael Duchesne. Wrapping up the night was ‘Happy Africa’; a joyful, celebratory song that perfectly summed up the night, which not only featured Byron in traditional costume on the djembe, but also an appearance from Master African dancer Lucky Lartey to inject a final burst of energy into the packed out night. I lost count of the instruments I saw throughout the night, but along with a smiling joyful audience, I walked out of that room feeling energised and thrilled at what I just saw.

The idea to create Amalgamation came about 10 years ago, when Byron started collaborating with most of the artists we saw on the night. The audience also witnessed the friendship and respect that Byron had earned as a musician and music director since embarking on this path. I think much to Byron’s surprise, a lot of the 32 artists that performed on the night began their piece/s with a few words about Byron – telling us a musical moment, or notable gig they’d shared with him over the last decade, creating a tapestry of stories and music which added so much more depth to the event and the album. Having so many artists coming together on the one night for this launch alone was a testament to Byron’s work and talent as a respected multi-instrumentalist. I went home with not just one, but two CD’s in hand, knowing I’d bump into someone who missed out on the event that just had to hear this fine album.

Words by Anna Griffiths.

Check-out more of Byron Mark here.

 

Friday
Oct072016

DMC World DJ Championship Finals 2016 Review


The DMC World DJ Championship Finals is an annual event showcasing the most talented DJ's in the game. Although there are no real restrictions to genre, the event has become something of a holy land for fans of hip hop, including myself. In the months leading up to the event I kept a close eye on the announcements and was excited to find that the Invisibl Skratch Piklz (feat. DJ's Q-Bert, Shortkut and D-Styles) would be headlining in 2016!

I recall watching a documentary about scratching and turntablism in my youth and seeing a guy called Q-Bert interviewed. He had a turntable fitted to the middle console of his car so he could scratch records wherever he went. Although a little concerning that he spoke of channelling conversations with aliens when he put the needle to the vinyl, the documentary intrigued me and I've followed turntablism ever since. Q-Bert is a past winner of the DMC World DJ Championship and a true legend of the art, I couldn't wait to see him live with the Piklz. 

But first, I had a whole day of competition, guest performances and workshops!

WORKSHOPS

Having studied the program ahead of time, I arrived at the Forum in Kentish Town around 4pm and joined the workshops taking place upstairs. Popmaster Fabel of the Rock Steady Crew was back for another year, trying his best to turn some young (and not so young) hopefuls into fully fledged B-Boys and B-Girls with the popping and locking workshop. The workshops are definitely an integral part of the day, and watching the crowd get involved I felt that they are an important part of the whole hip hop scene. Handing down knowledge and skills to the next generation so that they can build on it and progress the genre.

My attempt at beatboxing probably didn't do the genre any favours however! Yep, the beatbox workshop was next, hosted by the beatbox collective. It was great to see these guys up close and they intertwined lessons and tips with full-blown performance. After teaching the whole room some basics, individuals from the crowd were invited up to take a mic and try out beatboxing solo. My partner pushed me up as an unwilling volunteer and I was given some simple instructions which helped form a basic beat. The rest of the collective then joined in to make me sound good! Highlight of the day number one.

 

BATTLE FOR SUPREMACY

After a brief stop at the bar and I made our way into the main auditorium for the first 'final' of the day. Erick Jay was one of my favourites from last years competition, so I was happy to see him back competing in the Battle for Supremacy. This competition is a bit like a rap battle for DJ's, with three rounds of 90 seconds for each DJ to outdo the other. Two DJ's compete in each round and the winners progress through semi finals and into the final. 

This years final saw DJ Fummy from Japan up against DJ Erick Jay from Brazil. The battle is as much about song selection and sample selection as it is about skill. The DJ's mime the words being uttered from the samples they choose, and getting the crowd on your side to go 'woah' at the right moment must feel like the battle DJ equivalent of a slam dunk. 

The final was tight, and I couldn't pick a winner after the rounds were complete but fingers were crossed for Erick Jay. The judges raised their score cards, and….

Runner Up - DJ Fummy (Japan)

Battle for Supremacy World Champion - Erick Jay (Brazil)

Being a near full day event, I took a quick break to grab some food from the local Kebab spot, as you do.

THE BEATBOX COLLECTIVE

The Beatbox Collective in full effect
When we returned to the Forum there was a definite heightened buzz from the additional punters who came along just for the main event. But, as I discovered, the DMC World DJ Championships are more than just a DJ competition. The crowd were treated to so much entertainment for their hard earned ticket, and the standard is high!

Having attempted to beatbox with them earlier, I was keen to get a good view of the Beatbox Collective as they brought their full crew together for a showcase performance. We took a seat in the balcony section and watched in awe. These guys are current world beatboxing champs for a reason. Covering everything from hip hop to dub to drum and bass, it was an amazing set. I've still got a long way to go but I'll keep practicing!

WORLD DJ CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Nine of the best DJ's from around the globe had made it through to the final. A little different to the supremacy competition earlier, this competition is anything goes, for 6 minutes. DJ's can use laptops, Serato, queued up samples along with stage presence and trick moves to impress the judges. This makes for straight up entertainment for those of us watching on.

Starting the show was DJ Ruse from New Zealand. His set was blistering and he got myself and the rest of the crowd on side scratching up a hip hop version of classic rock song 'War Pigs' by Black Sabbath. You've really got to hand it to these guys, so much has been done before them yet somehow they find a new and interesting way to get your head nodding.

DJ Traps of the USA was another highlight, with a more familiar hip hop classics set.  He got extra points from me when he dropped a perfect look-away beat-juggle. Flawless.

The runner up from 2015, DJ Spell was back. It must be something about New Zealand because he too opted to select some absolute classics and scratch them down to hip hop beats - Led Zepplin and Michael Jackson getting some airtime during his set.

Frenchman Dj Skillz took things in a different direction, using an almost haunted sounding sample to build up a trip hop beat. Reading the growing enthusiasm in the room well, his set sped up to be one of the most party-like so far, culminating in big bass drops that you might expect to hear in a different venue about 6 hours from now, but the crowd were up for it.

Brief disruption to address some technical issues didn't stop local lad Ritchie Ruftone from amping the crowd even further. Producing a mix of funk, dub and hip hop to bring the bar that little bit higher.

DJ Yuto of Japan was up next and his set was just next level! Man, it had everything and the precision was there to match. There was all types of music, technical skill, stage presence and tricks. There was even a scratched together version of the massive swedish house mafia club hit 'One' from a few years back. This guy has to win I think to myself as mini-dancefloors erupt around the room. I'm in awe!

DJ Yuto of Japan

SHOWCASES

As the all important decision is being made by the judges, I was entertained with back to back performances from DJ Fly and DJ Netik, King Kella and the Spitkingdom Soundsystem, and of course, Q-Bert and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz - just as good as I had hoped!

One more trip to the bar was denied when we got told the bar was no closed - no! I was so disappointed the day was drawing to a close. Do we really have to wait another year to do this again?

THE SHOWDOWN

Tony Prince, founder of the competition, loves this event. You can just tell he is immensely proud of what it has become, and no doubt he has been at every single one. It seems fitting then, that he should award multiple-time world champ DJ Q-Bert with a 'Legend' jacket at the pointy end of the proceedings. Once the obligatory photographs are out of the way, Mr Prince returns to the microphone to announce the final results!

Third Place - DJ Traps (USA)

Runner Up - DJ Brace (Canada)

World Champion for 2016 - DJ Yuto (Japan)

Hopes for an encore set were dashed when the big lights came on and we headed for the exit. Another World Finals had ended, but this year I was truly happy with the outcome.

Hats off to the people that make this competition happen, and if you haven't already, make sure you get along to the local heats and finals in your city! Real DJ's are so much more talented than 'look ma, no hands' super-celebs may have you think.

Words by Harry Upton.

Thursday
Sep082016

Festival No. 6, Wales 2016 Review

Taking place in the stunning coastal village of Portmeirion, Wales is Festival No. 6, actually named after a character from the cult 1960's television show The Prisoner, filmed in the same location. My first time attending was in 2016. Uh oh, the sixes are aligning - 666!

While we can't really call mother nature the devil, she did wreak some unexpected havoc over the weekend and those in attendance managed to feel the full force of typical Welsh weather. Have you decoded it yet? It rained, it poured and it almost blew our tent right out of the campground! This years instalment of Festival No. 6 was a very muddy one.

But hey, we were there for the music and with the assistance of some wellington boots and cheap ass ponchos we were prepped and ready to see all that was on offer.

FRIDAY

It was a decent London morning when we picked up the hire car and started the long drive to North West Wales - after a couple of highway side pitstops we found ourselves on narrow yet picturesque roads of the Welsh countryside. For a couple of hours it was bumper to bumper traffic and now rolling hills and the odd sheep grazing next to the roadside. About 6 or so hours after setting off (someone's got to do something about that traffic) we arrived. 

Taking pride of place in what would become the 'Park & Swim' we gathered up almost too much camping equipment for two nights and took the shuttle to the main festival site. Thanks to the magic of a pop-up tent we were set up in no time, however the longer than expected drive did mean I only heard Roots Manuva from a distance.

Making our way into the main arena around 9pm, food was pretty high on the agenda so a quick stop by Yaku Mama was first - pork belly and brown rice, chicken tacos, sweet potato and chorizo chips - that was us sorted! With minimal pre-planning we actually didn't know who was coming on next, let alone where all the stages were, so a few bars were visited as we familiarised ourselves with the site. As we wandered we found cool themed bars such as the Real Ale tent and the Kiwi Camp (Old Mout Cider), definitely some effort had gone into the decor of this place! 

We caught the tail end of the Torch Light Parade and got swallowed up in a jelly fish art installation before arriving at the Village Hall. My Stimulate Your Soul radar must have been working as the act who had just taken to the stage was none-other than the Queen of Brazilian Dancehall Lei Di Dai. A short but energetic set. 

Torch Light Parade - Image courtesy of Festival No. 6

All of our wandering so far had been in the 'open field' part of the festival, however I knew from the little pre-search I had done that there were stages in the town itself, by the water and even in the woods. We tried to make our way into these areas but left our run a little late and were directed away. All was not lost when the tent we decided to enter instead contained a large video screen and hip hop video DJ Yoda on the decks. The tent was hot and sweaty, a complete contrast to the forecast for the rest of the weekend.

SATURDAY

This morning it hit me, I'm officially too old for 'general' festival camping - my body was tired and sore which was not helped by the multiple parties taking place throughout the campgrounds overnight. Hopefully the kids next to us went a bit too hard too early and can't back it up again tonight.

Just as the weatherman promised, the rain had already set in and mud was starting to replace the green grass of the festival site and campground. After a much needed bacon roll and coffee stop we decided to check out the Castell (Castle) and use some of the Wi-Fi to obtain the festival app with timetable. At the Castle we met some fellow festival goers who were raving about how cool the woods are! There is even a floating bar. Unfortunately when we went to visit, the woods had been closed due to poor weather. This, sadly was the story for a few of the stages throughout the day. 

The town itself is beautiful, an amazing setting for the event, with colourful houses, gardens and fountains set into a cliff face. We spent a lot of Saturday around the Central Piazza stage. It is a unique stage in a unique setting, with large pillars that artists can hide behind or burst in front of, and kind of a reverse amphitheatre for the crowd with everyone looking up the hill at the stage. It works well though and you had a pretty good vantage point wherever you stood. 

The Mudflappers are a swing dance troupe who specialise in getting the crowd dancing. They quickly won over the township of Portmeirion, getting us all to copy their dance moves to classics like Rappers Delight. 

Next up was the immensely talented Bellatrix. The female beat boxing champion and double bassist showed off her skills in an impressive one-woman show. Using multiple mics and a loop machine to build tracks, she was mesmerising in this incredible venue and definitely an artist to watch for the future.

Bellatrix performing at Festival No. 6, Portmeirion, Wales

An unlikely highlight for me came just after sunset on the Central Piazza stage, with the 60-strong Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir. Something about the lighting, the rain, the historic setting and the power of 60-voices. I haven't seen anything like it before!

Now came a moment that I had actually planned for, the Voices of the Revolution on the Village Hall stage. This all-female line up of musicians and MC's from Ghana, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Venezuela, Egypt and the UK promised to be something special. The small stage was absolutely full with talent and the women on stage loved the vibe they were creating. It was a big jam on stage as the artists collaborated on a range of musical styles from afrobeat to dancehall to hip hop and everything in between.

At the end of the session, the host of the stage very proudly announced the young Zimbabwean MC A.W.A (African Women Arise) would be performing a full set. The 23-year-old had broken through in a predominantly male MC scene in her home country and was thrilled to be performing in the UK. Making the most of the other talent surrounding her, A.W.A invited different guests up for each song, and although only one track contained English lyrics, the rhythm and rhyme delivery captured those present for her set. After 30 minutes she left the stage triumphant.

A.W.A. performing at Festival No.6, Portmeirion, Wales

After such a varied day of music from artists I wouldn't expect, the main act of the evening - Hot Chip were just a tick in a box and after an exhausting day trekking through the mud it was a relief to return to a dry-ish tent. 

SUNDAY

Taking into consideration the lengthy drive home, the fact Monday in the office was looming and a brief dry spell this morning we decided to pack up camp and begin the journey home. Carefully balancing all of our equipment on the now-very-difficult walk through the mud we eventually made it onto a bus and back to the park and ride. As we had feared, the car park had also turned to mud so it was up to a local in a land rover to save the day and pull us through to proper road surfaces before we started the drive back to London.

On the way we couldn't resist stopping at a pub in Bala for a traditional Sunday roast. Although we hadn't yet showered and were caked in mud, this little slice of civilisation was a fitting end to a challenging but unique festival weekend.

Written by Harry Upton.

Monday
Aug222016

L-Fresh The Lion and Sampa The Great @ Darwin Festival 2016

When two powerhouse Aussie hip hop artists’ a dropped on a bill together, I instantly knew that the night was going to be a killer. 

The Darwin Festival has been getting bigger and bigger, encouraging and showcasing local talent. A festival that clearly believes in supporting its own musicians which is why I was so excited to be a part of it.  

The festival itself is spread out throughout the whole city, it’s where Darwin really comes to light. People around are happy and cheerful, the decor and stunning lights definitely create a beautiful atmosphere. As I walked throughout he gates of the Lighthouse, I was so eager to see what Darwin thought of hip hop. 


The crowd was eagerly awaiting for the Sampa the Great, whilst known to many Sydney-siders it was clear that Darwin was not familiar with this little pocket rocket. With her energy and flawless raps, it didn’t take long for the crowd to get up on their feet and start nodding their heads to the great. It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Sampa perform, but she has definitely kicked up her game with her lyrical skills and stage performance. Her style demands attention, and the crowd is more then willing to give it to her. It wasn’t long until the crowd started getting involved and for the Queens to stand up and support her. 

When Sampa steps off the stage it is clear that the crowd were there for L-Fresh The Lion. His hype-woman Mirrah jumps on stage and quickly gets us in the mood. Her bouncing energy and happiness shines through and it isn’t long until L-Fresh himself pops out. 

L-Fresh comes out rapping and taking over the stage like he owns it. He’s just like reading a book, each song he plays is like reading a chapter in a book. Both revealing, entertaining and making you want more. His heritage and multiculturalism is what brings out the best in L-Fresh, watching the crowd follow his moves and statements with such understanding and respect. Uniting his fans and family together. 

Darwin Festival really stood up, it’s a city that is so culturally diverse and understanding it’s not long until people from all over Australia will be coming to the town to just see the festival come to life.