Anderson Paak Living His Greatness Down Under

If Anderson Paak “spent years…living under his greatness” like he tells us in ‘The Season/Carry Me’, then he’s definitely made up for it tenfold in recent times. New testament to that is the fact that he & The Free Nationals just achieved something I’ve rarely seen done by any performing artists in Australia.

Without even really trying they had the usually laid back, hard to motivate Aussie crowds at their Laneway Festival and sold-out sideshows singing the lyrics to every song, even down to Paak’s characteristic “uhs” between lines in ‘The Bird’. At the end of the opening song ‘Come Down’, and all others that followed in the set, the Sydney Metro Theatre crowd clapped and screamed almost endlessly, like they usually might do only at the very end of a killer show when desperately wanting an encore.

That wild, welcoming, appreciative response by Australian audiences on the bands first visit was undoubtedly well deserved. But it still surprised me. And seemed to also spin out Anderson Paak with him shaking his head, smiling widely and promising “we’ll be back soon”.

Anderson Paak live concert - Sydney 2018

Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals live at the Sydney Metro Theatre

Before these Laneway shows I had no doubt that Anderson Paak has delivered three of this decades greatest, most innovative and unique albums in Venice, Malibu and Yes Lawd!. Not to mention the long list of songs on which he’s collaborated with equally-incredible artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Kendrick Lamar, Kaytranada, Dr. Dre and ScHoolboy Q (to name just a few).

Paak has an astonishing level of musicality; songwriting, production and drumming skills beyond reproach; a vocal style like no other; lyrical honesty and wit, and the ability to seamlessly fuse the sublime sounds of funk, R&B and hip hop. Those things and more make him pretty damn special amongst even the world’s dopest contemporary artists. It’s no wonder so many of them have jumped at the chance to collaborate with him or seem to be lining up to do so in the future.

After experiencing Anderson Paak and The Free Nationals (Jose Rios, Ron Tnava Avant, Kelsey Gonzales & Callum Connor) deliver flawless live performances and bring his songs to life in full, magnificent force (with more swagger than any one man should be allowed to have btw), my faith in and gratitude to Anderson Paak are even stronger. And my hopes are higher for the future of music too (they were pretty low, and getting lower). Paak turned only 32 while in Australia and it’s exciting that he has so many years ahead to keep creating and sharing music – including this year when we can expect the release of another solo album plus one with The Free Nationals.

Surely by now everyone out there is onto the greatness of Anderson Paak and his music, right? Seems that Australians are. If not, do yourself a big favour and check out these sample tracks (mp3 versions only) from Venice, Malibu and Yes Lawd! (available on sweet vinyl) as well as the video snippets below from his Sydney Metro Theatre and Brisbane Laneway Festival shows.

Anderson Paak - Venice (2014)

Miss Right by Anderson Paak – Venice


Anderson Paak - Malibu (2016)

The Waters by Anderson Paak – Malibu


NxWorries - Yes Lawd! (2016)

Suede by NxWorries – Yes Lawd!



Here’s hoping Anderson Paak continues on his path of musical greatness for a very long time to come. And that his music inspires new artists to achieve the same on their own path. Thanks be to Paak and The Free Nationals for their first crazy-amazing Australian performances and to St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2018 for making them happen.

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Thanks Be To Keyon Harrold & All The Mugicians of the World

Since the tick-over of the calendar year is when people stop to reflect on the year gone and the one ahead, it seems like a good time to talk about Keyon Harrold’s album The Mugician: undoubtedly one of the greatest music offerings of 2017 with timely, important messages to take forward into 2018 and beyond.

Keyon Harrold - The Mugician

The Mugician (2017)

The album’s 12 eclectic tracks are the fruits of years of labour by the trumpeter, vocalist, composer and producer who’s spent decades creating music with the creme de la creme of contemporary jazz, hip hop and soul artists, touring with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour and more recently playing trumpet for the Miles Davis character in the Don Cheadle film Miles Ahead.

The Mugician is but one of Keyon Harrold’s countless musical accomplishments. But this one he himself has sown, nurtured and led to its fruition – with contributions from a long list of equally-superb contemporary musicians and vocalists who delivered, in their own respective projects, some of the other great music offerings of 2017 – and probably will this coming year too. Georgia Anne Muldrow, Robert Glasper, Gary Clark Jr, Pharoahe Monch, Bilal, Josh David Barrett, Terrace Martin, Marcus Strickland, Chris “Daddy” Dave, Pino Palladino, Jermaine Holmes, Andrea Pizziconi, Brandon Owens and Big K.R.I.T. are amongst them.


On The Mugician Keyon Harrold and those artists deliver musical and lyrical themes that are a necessary reflection on,  and questioning of, the unjust and seemingly-insane times in which we live. Songs like ‘Broken News’ and ‘Circus Show’ highlight last year’s U.S. news headlines about the plight of refugees, climate change, inadequate health care, police violence and poverty – and ask the question everyone around the world is or should be asking: “What the hell’s goin’ on?”. ‘When Will It Stop?’ is another fundamental question asked in reference to “sexism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, homelessness, classism and the granddaddy of them all: racism”. ‘MB Lament’ also, is a beautiful instrumental ode to Michael Brown, one of the many African-American victims of unjustified police shootings in recent years.

Thankfully there are artists like Keyon Harrold and his collaborators bringing attention to these issues through music’s wide reach; and doing so in a way that conveys the necessary feeling of urgency.

Keyon Harrold - The Mugician

Thankfully also and equally important, is that the rest of the songs on The Mugician deliver strong messages of love and hope. And when reflecting on both the past and future years, it’s clear that we all need lots more love and hope. Just like we all desperately need the healing power of music and the “mugicians” making it – something the album’s title track is a beautiful reminder of.

Reflecting on matters beyond the album’s themes, on music more generally, this Keyon Harrold creation is a refreshing reminder of other things: that there are still musicians in the world today continuously working hard at their craft no matter how long they’ve been doing it for; that fresh, innovative, original sounding music can still be created; that it’s a beautiful thing to hold and hear a body of art in the form of an album; that artists don’t need to fit their music inside any one genre box. It’s ok to incorporate elements of jazz, hip hop, classical, R&B, reggae and Afro Beat like Keyon Harrold has on The Mugician, as long as it’s composed well, played well and makes the listener feel; and, that it’s a rare and delightful thing to see a trumpeter take the lead in directing, composing and producing music projects with the voice of the trumpet as an integral focus of the music.

Finally and fundamentally, this album reminds us that in spite of and because of the challenging, unjust world humans have created, music (and love too) are the greatest and most-needed healing forces.

Listen here to 2 tracks from the The Mugician, remembering these are mere super-compressed mp3 versions. If you like what you hear you know what to do: support Keyon Harrold and his collaborators working their healing magic on us, by buying  the album on sweet vinyl, cd, or digitally if you must.Keyon Harrold - The Mugician

Wayfaring Traveler by Keyon Harrold featuring Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jermaine Holmes and Robert Glasper – The Mugician


Circus Show by Keyon Harrold featuring Gary Clark Jr – The Mugician


Catch Keyon Harrold performing live wherever you can. The experience of hearing him play the trumpet and where he’s guaranteed to surround himself on stage with the highest calibre of musicians, is truly sublime.  You can check out videos of Keyon Harrold performing live in New York and Melbourne, and an interview with him here.

Keyon Harrold live concert 2016

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Water Seed Got That Funk

In their song ‘Arithmetic’ Water Seed proclaim they “got that funk”. And they most definitely do. That delightful, glorious funk, created with killer musicianship, so rare to find in new music being made around the world these days.

We Are Stars, Water Seed’s most recent studio album, is a body of work made up of 14 sublime tracks which somehow simultaneously sound like they’re from musical eras long gone and eras yet to come. Their sound is incredibly unique in 2017. And each song has been composed and performed by its creators into a living, breathing thing bursting with personality, energy and emotion – all of which has a consistent feel-good effect on the listener.

Water Seed - We Are Stars

We Are Stars (2017)

So too does the fact that this album is full of positive, inspiring lyrical messages for all to hear and heed about the life and world we can create for ourselves and others on the planet, if we just choose to do so. In the words of founding band member Lou Reed:

We Are Stars is much bigger than us. It’s about that dreamer that believing they can make a difference. It’s about that artist that needs encouragement. It’s about that person that goes to work everyday and needs a life line to feel needed and important again. It’s about a new generation of people that understand that we are more alike than different. We are all connected. We are all important to the human experience. We are greater than what the world may tell us we are. We are intergalactic and eternal. We are stardust. We are stars.

It seems a travesty we don’t hear Water Seed songs blasting from all radios and music listening devices around the world. I’m sure we’d live in happier times if we did.

Go ahead and let Water Seed’s music move you. Let it groove you, inspire you and heal you – like good music medicine does.  Remember these versions here are just lowly mp3s.

“Open Sesame” by Water Seed – We Are Stars


“Arithmetic” by Water Seed – We Are Stars


You can support the future of funk and the fruits of Water Seed’s labours by buying We Are Stars in its uncompressed hard-copy glory to add to your Forever-After Music Collection. Also check out previous Water Seed releases here.

The next step is to find yourself what I’m sure is the ultimate Water Seed experience: a live show. Check out concert dates in their home town of New Orleans or elsewhere around the world here.

Water Seed’s core members are Lou Hill, J. Sharp, Cinese Love, Shaleyah and Berkley the Artist with additional contributions by musicians Willie Martin, Harry Morter Jr, Grant Hudson and Jean-Paul Brion.

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic Live at Caloundra Music Festival 2017

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic or Xavier Rudd: whose show would you have chosen at Caloundra Music Festival 2017? It’s a no-brainer right? We want the funk! Gotta have that funk.

Unfortunately for most festival goers they didn’t choose the funk. Why, is beyond my comprehension. But it made for a special, intimate and mind-blowing experience for those of us who wisely joined George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic for the 50th anniversary show of their first hit single “(I Wanna) Testify”.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert 2017

George Clinton live at Caloundra Music Festival 2017

Those two precious hours spent listening to George Clinton and three generations of P Funk family members passed in a glorious flash. Even after their long haul flight to Australia with two preceding shows in different cities and despite a very average sound mix at the stage, the group still performed an extraordinary show which brilliantly showcased five decades of music created by and profoundly influenced by Parliament Funkadelic in its many incarnations.

This was a refreshingly different set to Parliament Funkadelic shows I’ve seen in recent years. Yes we got the always awe-inspiring experience of hearing Blackbyrd McKnight’s wailing guitar in “Maggot Brain” and saw the usual acrobatic dance appearance from Mr Nose (aka Carlos McMurray) in “Flashlight”. And we most definitely got the funk and more funk with other classics like “Atomic Dog”, “One Nation Under a Groove”, “Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” and “Not Just Knee Deep”. But some songs were changed up with slower tempos than the original versions. Plus we got an unexpected heavy metal hard-on when Trafel Lewis (God’s Weapon) led the group in “Dirty Queen”.

Dirty Queen by Funkadelic featuring God’s Weapon – first ya gotta Shake the Gate



We also “jumped our hip hop-happy asses” ’round more than usual as they performed over a sample of Kendrick Lamar’s “Wesley’s Theory” (which features George Clinton) and while Tra’zae Lewis-Clinton spat vocals on “Baby Like Fonkin’ It Up”. And we heard other songs from Funkadelic’s latest release first ya gotta Shake The Gate in longer, chunkier forms than more condensed medleys of them – including “Meow Meow” led by the delightful and super-talented kitty cat Brandi Scott.


We also admirably witnessed George Clinton still jumping up and down on stage in his intergalactic get-up at the youthful age of 76. And heard him sing on the mic more so than in recent shows, including for a performance of the autobiographical tune “Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?”.

Xavier Rudd punters and others in this world may not truly appreciate it yet. But all of us on this earth are so much richer now and forever after, to have, hear and get down to all of the music created by George Clinton, Parliament, Funkadelic and P Funk in its various incarnations during the past 50 years. Blessed beyond measure is anyone who gets to experience hearing that music it in its most sublime form, live.

Thanks be to George Clinton and the Australian touring members of Parliament Funkadelic for another unforgettable performance at Caloundra Music Festival 2017: Blackbyrd McKnight (guitar), Danny Bedrosian (keys), Benjamin “Benzel” Cowan (drums) Lige Curry (bass), Greg Thomas (saxophone/vocals), Garrett Shider (guitar/vocals), Trafel Lewis (guitar/vocals), Thurteen, Brandi Scott, Patavian Lewis, Tonysha Nelson (vocals) and Carlos McMurray (Mr Nose).George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert 2017

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Miles Mosley Uprising

When L.A. artist Miles Mosley sings “mediocrity is everywhere, but not here” on his album Uprising, I have to agree. In 2017 jazz and funk music lovers will be hard-pressed trying to find the type and quality of sounds offered up on this album.

Miles Mosley - Uprising (2017)

Uprising (2017)

Its 11 tracks were among 190 recorded by a collective of some of today’s most innovative artists and killer musicians during the one-month long West Coast Get Down sessions in L.A. Both Uprising and Kamasi Washington’s double album The Epic were amongst the fruits of those studio labours.

Miles Mosley is responsible for playing bass, composing, producing and arranging on most of Uprising‘s tracks. And as well as Kamasi Washington contributional credits go to West Coast Get Down members Zane Musa (tenor saxophone) – Christopher Gray, James Ford and Dontae Winslow (trumpet) – Tony Austin (drums/production/engineering), Brandon Coleman (keys) – Patrice Quinn (vocals/production) – Ryan Porter (trombone) – Cameron Graves (piano) – Barbara Sealy (production/lyrics) – Leah Zener and Ray Suen (violin) – Tom Lea and Mike Whitson (viola) – Peter Jacobson and Chris Votek (cello) and Allakoi Pete (percussion).


Uprising’s song lyrics and their delivery by Miles Mosley exude strength, determination, confidence and passion. And when you hear them you can’t help but feel the contagiousness of those qualities.

Hear the absence of mediocrity for yourself in these two sample tracks from Uprising. The usual ‘mp3-only’ warning applies.  So does the recommendation to support Miles Mosley and his collaborators by buying a hard copy of the full album in its uncompressed sonic glory.

Young Lion – Miles Mosley


Fire – Miles Mosley


Also check out this video snippet of Miles Mosley performing the album’s first single “Abraham” with Kamasi Washington & The Next Step live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016.

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New York City Music Delights

How do people living in New York City find the time to work when the music and dance experiences on offer seem endless? That’s what I asked myself daily as I struggled to fit in the bare necessities of sleeping and eating while fulfilling my one and only New York commitment: soaking up as much live music and dance as possible. 

I rose to the challenge, managing to fit 50 music and dance events into four happy weeks. Some I wouldn’t choose again if I had my time over. But any disappointments at the time didn’t matter. Knowing that the next day in New York and every one after would bring many more, is a blessed thing and a heavenly feeling for any beaver on the beats.


Choices Choices Choices

Getting on top of the live gigs and parties on offer and selectively choosing between them is key to finding yourself the most sublime of musical experiences in whatever time you have there. Of course if you’re actually living in New York City it’s a different story. Missing out on one act because you’ve chosen another on the same night, or because you have to work, isn’t a big deal ‘cause the one that got away this time will play another show soon enough.

In The Summer Time

If you are music-holidaying then it’s best to pick a Summer-time visit. Festivals, concerts, parties, dance comps and other music events happen all year round in New York City. But like most places in the world the warmer months bring a whole lot more. And lots are free. Checking out the programs for Summerstage, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, Northside Festival and Blue Note Jazz Festival is a great start.

Kamasi Washington live concert - Northside Festival 2017

Kamasi Washington & The Next Step at Northside Festival 2017


Plan To Be Gluttonous

So many shows you want to get to, some of them the same night and only 24 hours in a day. Yep, it’s tough. But you can fit more into one day than you think. Lots of venues have early and late shows to choose from in a night. The same artist is often playing both. Short and long term artist residencies are common so you might have multiple nights to catch them. Parties and dance comps happen at all different times of the afternoon and evening. 

Know what’s on when, be organised and you can move from one event to the next with gluttonous ease.

Cross Its Boroughs

Geographically speaking New York City isn’t actually that big. But the cultural diversity found between and within its different neighbourhoods is incredibly rich and beautiful. Getting a feel for its many flavours and discovering your favourites by checking out music events all over the city is super-rewarding.

Higher end clubs might be your thing. You’ll find plenty in hoods like the Meatpacking District. Jazz heads will find lots of choices in West Village and Greenwich Village. You can place yourself in a more uptight environment at venues like Blue Note or the Village Vanguard; or go for a friendlier, freer, less pretentious vibe at venues like Smalls or its nearly sister club Mezzrow.

Happier in outdoor music spaces? Then head to a joyous weekend party on Coney Island Boardwalk. Or hang out in Central Park and wander between African drummers and dancers, Summerstage concerts, a men’s doo wop group and dance skaters.

Robert Glasper Experiment - SummerStage 2017

Robert Glasper Experiment at SummerStage 2017

To check out hip hop’s birth place get to The Bronx for a dance competition. Party an afternoon away with Puerto Ricans in a Spanish Harlem park. And get your skanking fix at a reggae gig in Jamaica, Queens. Dress up and cross city lines for a concert at New Jersey Performing Arts Centre. Or maybe you’re brave enough to make your way through the freaky of Times Square for a live show at BB King.

If you’re comfortable amongst a privileged, hipster crowd then choose gigs in the super-gentrified Williamsburg. To experience a broader reflection of Brooklyn’s diversity get to a family friendly, good vibes concert at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival.

Bilal live concert - New York 2017

Bilal at Celebrate Brooklyn 2017

Venues Matter

Consider venues when you make your event choices. A venue and the people it brings, no matter what the band sounds like, can make the difference between a good and a bad music experience.

If you don’t want to be in a crowd of people talking so much it’s hard to hear the performance; or trying to dance on a sticky floor with alcohol spilled across it, you’ll need to give some venues a miss. I went to three frustrating gigs like that at Brooklyn Bowl before I reluctantly had to cross it off my options list despite its great program of acts.

Son Little live concert - New York 2017

Son Little with Soulive at Brooklyn Bowl

If you’d rather be in a space where people around you are there to actually listen and appreciate the music; where it’s simply understood or you’re expressly asked not to use your phone, you’ll find joy at venues like Smalls, the Village Vanguard and Blue Note.  For a totally unique experience of that kind, check out regular open mic nights like All That Hip Hop Poetry & Jazz at Nuyorican Poets Cafe.


The Seasoned and The Fresh

Long-beloved artists who’ve been making and performing music for many decades won’t be around to do so much longer. You might want to prioritise their shows over those of younger acts while you still can. Sometimes those choices will pay off. Sometimes not.

Making the mission to Only In Queens Summer Festival to be amongst all corners of the world hearing George Clinton and the all-ages members of Parliament Funkadelic kill it on stage again, was the perfect choice.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert

Paying dearly to sit through the tackiness and cheese of tassled, sparkly, bikini-clad dancers fawning over Ronald and Ernie Isley as they performed at The Isley Brothers concert was not.

The Isley Brothers live concert New York 

It’s Your Thing by The Isley Brothers


Turns out after all that my most rewarding New York event choices were to check out the fresh sounds, many of them improvised, being created by more contemporary acts – especially the ones playing in more informal, laid-back venues. Kris BowersJoel Ross Good VibesKeyon Harrold, Robert Glasper Experiment, Taylor McFerrin with Marcus Gilmore and revered Tiny Desk winners Tank and the Bangas were amongst them.


4 Am by Taylor McFerrinEarly Riser


Tank and the Bangas live concert - New York

Tank and the Bangas at Blue Note

Party Picks

Parties put on in bars and clubs. Neighbourhood block parties. Rooftop parties. Parties on Coney Island Boardwalk. Parties in city parks. Vinyl Parties amongst the neon lights of Times Square. New York City is a music and dance lovers’ delight for its choices of dope parties. One of your best chances for finding them is to regularly check events posted on DanceDeets. And of course when you find a DJ you’re into, follow him or her to their next gig.

Visual arts lovers could wisely choose to start their Tuesday night at the Delancey for Collage NYC. There you can dance to killer DJs as New York City artists create musically-themed artworks before your eyes.

Collage NYC Live Art Tribute to 2Pac 2017

Inbox Full

Discover all your choices by keeping a check on social media sites for upcoming shows by your beloved artists; and subscribing to venue and event mailing lists until your inbox can’t take no more. 

These here sites will give music-holidayers a heap of choices to start filling their New York City Summer days and nights: Governors Ball FestivalNorthside FestivalSummerStageBlue Note Jazz FestivalBRIC Celebrate BrooklynHot 97 Summer JamBrooklyn Academy of MusicAfroPunkBrooklyn BasedNew York Live ArtsBrooklyn Bazaar –  Do NYCThe Joyce TheatreJazz at Lincoln Centre92yLe Poisson RougeSmoke Jazz ClubSmalls LiveMezzrowRed RoosterZinc BarThe McKittrick Hotel –  Fat Cat – 55 BarArlene’s GroceryBowery ElectricNuyorican Poets CafeThe KitchenBB King BluesMinton’sNational SawdustBirdland Jazz ClubSymphony Space –  Brooklyn Bowl Blue Note Jazz ClubHighline BallroomCielo – DanceDeets.

“The Music Capital of the World”

One time in Colombia a musicologist told me that Bogota is the music capital of the world. Now for sure Bogota has a rich and thriving music scene. But I had to doubt his statement in light of what New York City is famous for offering.

I’ve now been music-holidaying in both cities and am sure he was wrong. Even if there is such a thing as “the music capital of the world” New York City must trump Bogota and most, if not all world cities as being It, surely? Every scene, every music genres and every type of event is available for the taking in New York – seven days and nights. So I’ll never figure out how its music loving residents find the time to work. But I know it’s a heavenly-sublime city for any beaver on the beats to live in or visit.  

Breakdance battles - Brooklyn, New York 2017


Get your glimpse here of a tiny handful of the countless New York City music events that went down in Summer 2017.

Check out more videos by clicking on the artist/event name:

George Clinton & Parliament FunkadelicThe WhispersKamasi Washington – Keyon HarroldBen Williams bass soloTalib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch & The Soul Rebels  – Alice SmithBilalKris BowersSon Little with SouliveGriz with SouliveCover Story Doo WopThe Isley Brothers  – Taylor McFerrin & Marcus GilmoreRobert Glasper ExperimentKarl Denson with SouliveTank and the Bangas  – Joel Ross Good Vibes – Lesedi Ntsane  – Break 4 Justice Dance BattlesFinal Dance Battle – LGNDS: The Return


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Thundercat Drunk, Dark And Hypnotically Good

You might think hearing Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) sing about drunkenness, madness, the discriminatory police state, heartbreak, rejection, death and so on, would make you feel blue. But you’re probably wrong.

Despite its dark lyrical themes Thundercat’s third album Drunk in its whole sonic journey, somehow turns out to be a hypnotic, feel-good experience.

Thundercat - Drunk

Drunk (2017)

For starters any lyrical downers on the album are expressed by Thundercat straight up and honestly with refreshing kookiness and humour. There’s also a saving light to be found in the darkness as well as crazy space rides to be had, the joy of letting loose on anime and fish in Tokyo and the nine pleasurable lives of a cat hanging out in the sunshine. And more importantly, hearing Thundercat’s smooth falsetto voice singing those lyrics consistently over 23 tracks has the effect of lulling you into a hypnotic place of serenity, simple as that.


Drunk is full of so many diversely weird and wonderful programmed beats care of Steven Ellison (Flying Lotus), Sounwave and Thundercat himself that you can’t help but feel you’re winning your way through a super-fun computer game. Add to that the living instrumental sounds of Thundercat on electric bass, Dennis Hamm on piano and saxophone by Kamasi Washington; plus vocal contributions by both likely and seemingly unlikely artists like Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald – and there you have your complete hypnotic, feel-good sonic experience.

Check out two sample tracks from Drunk below – with the usual ‘compressed-mp3-version’ warning. Get the real deal in hard copy from your local music store or direct from Brainfeeder so you don’t miss out on the pleasure of hearing all the many subtle sounds this album has to offer.

Show You The Way – Thundercat featuring Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins


Walk On By – Thundercat featuring Kendrick Lamar


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Bluesfest 2017 – An Awe Inspiring Wealth of Musical Experience

Byron Bay Bluesfest is all about the music. It’s not a festival you go to find a patch of luscious green grass to chill out on and catch up with friends. For starters you’re not likely to find such grass or any other festival spaces to chill out comfortably (unless you pay hundreds extra to sit on a couch in the VIP bar). And besides that there’s just so many incredible artists playing on its five stages throughout the five-day Easter festival to keep you on the move and happily engrossed in music.

Mary J Blige live concert 2017

Mary J Blige at Bluesfest 2017

Over its 28 year history Bluesfest has continued to diversify its line-up extending beyond “blues and roots” music to include more hip hop, funk, soul, jazz and reggae acts so there’s something to satisfy the broadest range of tastes.

Nas live concert 2017

Nas at Bluesfest 2017

No matter your musical taste and even where an act mightn’t be your cup of tea, what you’re sure to find on just about any Bluesfest stage are musicians and vocalists who are highly skilled, accomplished masters and mistresses of their craft; and who each have a wealth of experience in playing and performing. Thinking about the collective skills and experience of all Bluesfest 2017 artists combined, is both mind-boggling and awe-inspiring.


Those gold standard levels of musicianship make for plenty of special music moments to be found during the festival. You know the ones I mean: those completely-present, thoughtless, blissful moments that make life feel so much better than however it might actually be at the time.

This year I found most of my special moments with Michael Kiwanuka, Miles Electric Band, Nas and The Soul Rebels, Roy Ayers, Laura Mvula, Snarky Puppy, Mavis Staples, Mary J Blige and Booker T.  Check out glimpses of those shows below- and look elsewhere for the low-down on shows by other 2017 artists including Santana, Gregory Porter, Patti Smith, Buddy Guy, Beth Hart, Nikki Hill, Busby Marou, Courtney Barnett, The Doobie Brothers and Neil Finn.

Miles Electric Band

First up there was that absolute sublime found in hearing and seeing the stunning chops of the multi-generational members of Miles Electric Band paying contemporary homage to Miles Davis’ electronic era.

Christian Scott - trumpet

Christian Scott with Miles Electric Band

The group’s second festival show, where the band seemed way more relaxed and wasn’t plagued by the sound issues of the first , fell on Blackbyrd McKnight’s birthday with the band acknowledging that in the most subtle and beautiful of musical ways.

Blackbyrd McKnight - Miles Electric Band concert 2017

Blackbyrd McKnight

Check out a track below from an album you mightn’t yet have discovered- Blackbyrd McKnight’s solo project ’bout Funkin’ Time – as well as video snippets from Miles Electric Band’s Bluesfest shows.

Blackbyrd McKnight - 'bout funkin' time

“Funkin Where You Belong” by Blackbyrd McKnight


Nas & The Soul Rebels

Then came the delightful experience of hearing Nas perfectly spitting poetic rhymes with positive, inspiring messages accompanied by the sounds of a DJ and live instrumentation by New Orleans band The Soul Rebels (a perfect combo yes?). Nas threw the crowd back into the golden sounds of hip hop days gone, to cassette tapes and the forever-lasting influence of Michael Jackson’s music.

Nas live concert 2017



Michael Kiwanuka

A spiritual experience of the highest order was also found in hearing the unique, old-soul voice of Michael Kiwanuka live-  especially when accompanied by his supporting female vocalist for some songs like ‘Rule the World’. He and his band opened both Bluesfest shows with the slow instrumental build-up of ‘Cold Little Heart’ before performing most other tracks from the latest album Love & Hate, ‘Home Again’ and a timely Prince cover, introduced with a bold statement to the effect that “without Prince, there would be no music”.

Michael Kiwanuka live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka’s Australian shows kicked off a long list of tour dates you can get along to over coming months in the U.K, U.S.A and Europe. In the meantime treat your ears to the song below from Love & Hate, check out video footage from his Bluesfest shows and hear more Michael Kiwanuka music here. Any good local music store should have both albums to buy and keep in your beloved-forever-after collection 🙂 .

Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

“Place I Belong” by Michael Kiwanuka 




Roy Ayers

Both of Roy Ayers’ festival shows were nothing short of instrumental sublime. It was a joy to see this funk-soul-jazz legend in his late 70s, still creating magic on the vibraphone and visibly taking great pleasure in creating live music with his band.

Roy Ayers live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Roy Ayers



Mavis Staples

At one of her earlier festival shows Mavis Staples told the crowd in no uncertain terms: “You know, my sisters are The Staple Sisters. We’ve been taking you all down for 60 years. And. I. ain’t. tired.”. Now although she (justifiably) looked a little worn by the end of her final show, the overwhelming feeling in the crowd seemed to be that Ms. Mavis Staples just gets better and better with age.

Mavis Staples live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Mavis Staples

Snarky Puppy

There were also all those good vibes brought to Australian stages again by contemporary instrumental jazz maestros Snarky Puppy – this time around with the personal added bonus for me of Bobby Sparks II being amongst them on organ/keys next to Shaun Martin.

Snarky Puppy live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Snarky Puppy

Bobby Sparks - Snarky Puppy concert 2017

Bobby Sparks II

Snarky Puppy live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Shaun Martin


Mary J Blige

Watching the ever-strong and sassy Mary J Blige completely fill and command the largest stage space any one performer gave themselves at the festival (with her band and support vocalists positioned around the outer stage edge) brought more musical and visual delight.

Mary J Blige live concert 2017

Mary J Blige



Booker T

Booker T inspired ear-to-ear smiles as he effortlessly bust it out on the organ alongside his son Ted Jones on guitar and other band members, performing a bunch of beloved Stax Records label classics like ‘Green Onions’.

Booker T Jones concert - Bluesfest 2017

Booker T Jones & Ted Jones



Laura Mvula

Hearing and feeling the power of Laura Mvula’s vocal abilities live as she sang emotively about those places of darkness in which light can be found; and in her own words “making music that helps people”, was a blessed festival experience too.

Laura Mvula live concert 2017

Laura Mvula



One of the greatest pleasures in being at all those shows was witnessing how each artist on stage clearly respects, encourages and appreciates the others’ musicianship and skills; and takes great pleasure in making music together. From Booker T joining his band on stage, walking to and acknowledging the members one-by-one before sitting down at his organ to play; to seeing Roy Ayers listen intently and smile at music made by his younger band members; to hearing the spokesperson or leader of each group take the time in their set to introduce all individual band members for the crowd to show their appreciation to.

Roy Ayers concert - Bluesfest 2017Roy Ayers live concert - Bluesfest 2017






I’m certainly grateful to all the stunning musicians and vocalists who I heard perform at Bluesfest 2017; who created those special moments of music bliss. I wish I could tell you every one of their names. Blessed and enriched are all festival folk for their individual experiences- and for the existence of Byron Bay Bluesfest.

Michael Kiwanuka live concert - Bluesfest 2017

You can check out more Bluesfest 2017 photos on Facebook and additional live video footage on YouTube or Vimeo.

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A Tribe Called Quest – Thank You 4 Your Service

Let’s not focus on what might be wrong with hip hop today. Instead let’s talk about what’s right with it; and how A Tribe Called Quest and their newest (and final 🙁 ) album We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service exemplifies those things.

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)

First and foremost there’s the fact that this album saw A Tribe Called Quest’s four original members, each of whom spent the most part of hip hop’s history truly pioneering and mastering its fine art, reunited and creating magic in the studio again. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White: a long-time brotherhood, a family, with their individual talents and combined strengths effortlessly spitting out stunning beats and rhymes with a rare and sublime chemistry that’s simply undeniable.

Then there’s that cast of musical contributors and guest MCs, all of whom along with A Tribe Called Quest’s core members, are themselves masters of hip hop and further exemplify what’s right with it today. They include Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli and Kanye West as well as hip hop veterans and long-time Tribe collaborators Busta Rhymes and Consequence. On We Got It From Here… those featured artists contribute to the tracks in a humble way, their parts subtly integrated into the collective whole without unnecessarily becoming the main focus.

Those MCs spit intelligent, clever lyrical rhymes of substance – speaking out about the things that need to be talked about, and heard by the masses. You know, all those seemingly persistent, cyclical wrongs of this world of prejudice and discrimination in which we still, unfortunately live; and fundamentally, the importance of critical thinking, unity and action in the face of those wrongs. Throughout the album due homage is also paid to the life, artistry, friendship and ultimate death of Phife Dawg (during the album’s making). And despite the heavy weight of its lyrical subject matter, in true and beloved Tribe-Style, the messages are delivered with plenty of humour and fun in the mix.

We Got It From Here… also had a recording process not seen often these days whereby all but two of its contributors (Elton John and Kanye West) recorded their parts in Q-Tip’s home studio-  bouncing creative energies and ideas off each other, inspiring one another, to create all the many parts that eventually made up the final intricate whole after Q-Tip and Blair Wells had meticulously slaved over its production for months after recording finished.

This hip hop album feels and sounds alive – largely because of its perfect blend of live instrumentation with programmed beats. Amongst the contributing musicians adding their creative touches are Jack White on guitar, Elton John and Chris Bower on piano, Q-Tip on drums, bass and keys, Masayuki “BIGYUKI” Hirano on piano, keys and synth, Chris Sholar, Chris Parks and Blair Wells on guitar, Louis Cato on bass and guitar, Casey Benjamin on keys, organ, fender rhodes and piano, Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass, Mark Colenburg on drums, with scratches by George “DJ Scratch” Spivey.

And not surprisingly the group stayed away from the more obvious and most heavily-sampled songs – instead choosing lefter-field tracks from a diverse range of artists including Black Sabbath, Elton John, Can, Nairobi Sisters and Musical Youth.

Finally, We Got It From Here… exemplifies what’s right about hip hop music today because it undoubtedly moves the bodies of us folk in this world who love to dance.

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your ServiceSince the release of their 1990 debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, A Tribe Called Quest have made our lives much much richer with their music. We Got It From Here… is yet another blessed musical gift from these proven masters of hip hop today and for all eternity. We can and should be thankful to the Tribe family for all of those musical gifts.

Check out 2 of the albums 16 tracks here, remembering these versions are inferior, compressed mp3s. Of course Tribe released We Got It From Here… on cd and in its most superior format, sweet vinyl. Get the hard copy from your local independent record store and add it to your Beloved-Forever-After Music Collection.

“Solid Wall of Sound” – A Tribe Called Quest


“Ego” – A Tribe Called Quest


Despite Phife Dawg’s tragic passing during the making of We Got It From Here… there’s been talk of a world tour of the album. Here’s hoping that’s true and we get the blessed opportunity for the ultimate of A Tribe Called Quest experiences: to hear and see the remaining members spitting beats and rhymes live on stage.

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H Is For Hip Hop And Its Queens

H in the A to Z of fusion goes to Hip Hop music – leaving aside here the other core elements that make up hip hop culture.

Hip Hop earns its place because its creation definitely involves the refined art of fusion. From DJs mixing records they spin to studio producers/beat makers sampling, chopping, looping, sequencing, recording and mixing-  the beats, sounds and grooves that make up hip hop music are found and blended together from a broad range of worldwide music sources including funk, soul, rhythm and blues, disco, jazz, rock, heavy metal, reggae, salsa, cumbia, soca, pop and well, any other genre you choose really.

The evolution of hip hop music is long and involved. Its characters and contributors are many. Its history fills pages you can find elsewhere. Sufficed to say here its original roots are found in Africa and since its formation in New York in the 70’s the hip hop phenomena has spread far and wide throughout the world. Erykah Badu perfectly describes its contemporary influence in ‘The Healer’ when she sings “It’s bigger than religion, hip hop. It’s bigger than my nigga, hip hop. It’s bigger than the government”.  And thankfully so.

“The Healer” by Erykah Badu – New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)


It’s the hip hop Kings of the world who’ve generally been the most heard and celebrated. Check out “essential hip hop” albums to find most are compilations of tracks by male artists. But of course there are female artists all over the world creating hip hop music whether they be DJ’s, MCs, beat makers or producers. Sampled below are songs featuring just a handful of those many hip hop Queens – some widely known and celebrated, others less so.

The usual warning applies: versions you find here are just dirty, compressed mp3s. Get the real deal on hard copy from your local music store, in their sweetest of forms on vinyl.

Erykah Badu (U.S.A)

Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground

“Love Of My Life Worldwide” featuring Queen Latifah, Angie Stone & Bahamadia – Worldwide Underground


Fugees (inc. Ms Lauryn Hill) (U.S.A)

Fugees - Blunted On Reality

“Some Seek Stardom” – Blunted on Reality


ChocQuibTown (Colombia)

ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico

“Somos Pacifico” – Somos Pacifico


Georgia Anne Muldrow (U.S.A)

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

“Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred


Ladi6 (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Ladi6 - Time Is Not Much

“Give Me The Light” – Time Is Not Much


Nneka (Nigeria/Germany)

Nneka - No Longer At Ease

“Halfcast” – No Longer At Ease 


Telmary (Cuba)

Telmary - A Diario

“Ando” – A Diario


Yep, blessed are we for the birth of hip hop music and its ongoing fusionary evolution since by artists all over the world.  Thankful are we for both its Queens and its Kings.

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