Thursday, 3 April 2014

Enliven the beat

Jubilant. Buzzing. Big smiles. Excited.

This is the energy Yaw Mulatto, 19 years, and SK Simeon, 23 years, brought to the table as they sat down across from me at a restaurant in Melbourne’s east.

The conversation began with admiration for everything delectable on the menu but before long, we were talking about that spark; that special something that you’re driven to do time and time again because it feels good. Because it makes you feel alive. Because it’s actually part of you.

Melody, beats, percussion, and vocals strung together with conscious lyrics. This is what lights up Yaw and SK – two musicians from Melbourne’s west who have felt the pull to create song and to share their message through rap and reggae dancehall.

Through their music, they hope to awaken the dormant.

To enliven the beat.

And to ultimately connect with their audience.

SK in the centre and Yaw to the right

Originally hailing from the Buganda Kingdom of Kampala in Uganda, SK - short for Sam Kawuma - came to Australia when he was 14 years old to join his family. His love and admiration of music can be delicately traced back to when he was a toddler and his father played Ugandan gospel. 

“It wasn’t the gospel that had me fascinated but it was the arrangement of the vocals. The pitch and melody placement made a beautiful uplifting sound – a spiritual sound actually – and had me raptured.” Growing up in a country whose roots lie deep in a rich soil of genres like reggae, dancehall and local kadongo kamu, SK was destined to have a love affair with music.
Likewise, Yaw was raised in his family’s home to the sound of percussion. His father (from Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana) a drummer and his mother an avid devotee to all music types and styles, there was always a steady stream of tunes emanating through the walls. 

“As a kid, I would sing at home but I was never too serious about it. Then at age 14, I began to rap. In 2009, I joined a hip hop theatre production and from then on, was inspired to make hip hop.”
Recently gracing the stage at Victoria’s first ever African Festival and at Sydney’s Africultures Festival earlier this year, as well as supporting one of Uganda's biggest musicians - Jose Chameleon - at his Melbourne show, these musos are raising eyebrows.

More than that, they are being seen.
And even more than that, they are being heard.
SK jamming on stage
When it comes to style and production, SK is fuelled by classical elements of reggae, dub and dancehall. “Through these styles, I choose lyrics to get a message across, sometimes incorporating a comedic tone, which is backed up by a strong base and heavy analogue sounds of the 80s. I sing and toast (the word for rap in reggae SK informed me) in English and Luganda, and focus on a style of singing called waterhouse.” Check out SK's video to get a taste.
While Yaw breathes hip hop, he doesn’t classify himself a hip hop artist. “I’m quite versatile using afrobeat, reggae, dancehall, soul and numerous alternative styles to shape and influence my music. I like to keep things interesting and unique; a little left of field. What I’m driven most by are the issues, the situations, the things I see and the people I meet. This is what makes my music. Music is my way of telling a story and educating my audience. The art is doing it in a way so that all can relate, from their different lives and experiences.”
The word message continued to come up. That’s when I asked: So what is your message?
"Our message is a conscious one. One about issues and life experiences, and how we can do better and make a difference. Many of our songs touch on social and political injustices, racism in Australia and environmental problems, and on a lighter front, what it means to dance and have fun," explained SK.
I then asked the duo: What does music mean to you? How does it make you feel?
SK said, “Music sets the mood and creates the space to share my message in a way that is engaging and interesting. Music takes me on a spiritual journey – to a place where I learn more about myself – and this is especially so when I am listening to African 70s sounds and Jamaican dub music from the 80s.”
Yaw followed this response, adding: “Music is a tool to share my feelings, my beliefs and my values in an entertaining way. It takes me away from the stresses of daily life and to a place where I am happy… I’ve learnt that being an artist is ever-evolving and changing – the skill, the content and the mentality.”
Simply put though, Yaw states: “Music makes you feel alive. It connects you to that subsiding wave of emotions inside you. It’s an outlet for expression. It’s a way to be authentic and real.”

Yaw's launch of his EP 'Psyche'
The musicians met last year while working on a theatre production called 'Fate', which was a collaboration between Western Edge, Barkly Arts and Flemington Theatre Group. “We instantly hit it off and had a lot of respect for the other’s talent,” shared SK. The team is now working together on several soon-to-be released tunes uniting their styles and passions with Australian producer Paul Harmon, and Yaw is supporting SK’s band Skaaki at several shows.
Looking ahead, SK talks of his dreams. “I want to travel around the world doing music. It’s also my desire to reach out to poor people in the ghetto and give them a live show of music and fun.”
Yaw added, “I want to develop a bigger name for himself as an artist in the acting and music fields. I want to collaborate with a vast range of artist from various genres and I want to let my true potential shine through my song.”
SK released his album Digidance and Yaw launched his EP Psyche earlier this year. Have a listen and share with the artists your thoughts. What does music mean to you? How does it make YOU feel?
SK, the smiling assasian 


  1. These guys are some of the most talented people that i have ever seen, they have such great stage presence.. Big up!

  2. If you don't check these guys' music out, you're really missing out on some quality stuff. Their content shows obvious musical talent as well as some fresh and meaningful lyrics. To top it all off they're such decent guys!!!

  3. Well said! Two unbelievable nice guys with so much talent and a significant message to share. These guys are creating change through music!

  4. Love the article! Well written. Thanks for the great feedback. New music coming soon

    - Yaw

  5. Thank you Yaw! We all can't wait for your music


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