kites can't jive (June 2020)

June needs to be a month of change. The Black Lives Matter movement reverberated around the world and reminded everyone, again, that the USA, Australia, and elsewhere have systematically destroyed the lives of black people. And that needs to change. And that change involves the structures that govern every day life and it involves us, as individuals.

kites can’t jive is a music column. It’s narrow in its focus. But part of June’s changes, for me, was to listen to more black musicians. Sometimes it was rediscovering an old favourite, sometimes it was looking for new voices. It was always about listening to the stories of talented artists.

This isn’t activism. It’s not a replacement for the work we all need to do to tear down systemic racism or address the history of injustice our societies have perpetuated. Education is important, yeah, and listening to and supporting the work of black artists can be part of that.

But you don’t get to listen to a few tracks and read a book or two and say “I’m done”. This is step one. This is a soundtrack. There’s a lot more work to do.

Listen to this

Nyaaringu by Miiesha

Mieesha’s Nyaaringu is incredible. Just take a moment to go listen to album opener “Caged bird”. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the album: the moving spoken word, provided by Miiesha’s late grandmother, Miiesha’s voice, and an exploration of her experience as a young Indigenous woman.

The second song on the album, “Black privilege“ continues the theme:

Funny, when I lose, you keep on complaining Then write the new rules, just to be bent on breaking Told me that I choose the noose that you’ve been making Then I need to prove I’m worthy of saving

Nyaaringu would be great if it was just the songs. But the spoken word interludes from Miiesha’s grandmother are peppered throughout the album. Her story, her advice, and recollections mirror, extend, and contextualise Miiesha’s lyrics.

It’s a reminder of an important truth: the struggles Miiesha’s singing about have been here for a long time. And, as she says on “Black privilege“ they’re a result of deliberate choices by white Australia.

Other highlights

Black thoughts by Ziggy Ramo. A stunning debut album that explores Australia’s history of racism, colonialism, and trauma.

Rosetta - EP by Dua Salah. Soulful, hypnotic hip-hop about everything from race, to gender, to identity, and more.

Dead like me by Danny Denial. Heartfelt, raw, catchy rock that mixes bits of indie and grunge. “Suck my Jesus” has a perfectly infectious hook you’ll feel weird about singing around the house.

Pleasure venom – EP by Pleasure Venom. Everything you want in a banger of a post-punk record.

ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADASS by Joey Badass. Badass takes his golden-age-of-hip-hop sound, pushes it forward, and uses it tell listeners what it’s like to live in the US as a young black man.

The return by Sampa The Great. Fantastic storytelling, tight flows, and a real statement of intent in Sampa The Great’s fantastic debut album.

RTJ4 by Run The Jewels. If there was ever a time for RTJ to come out swinging, it’s now.

Abandoned language by dälek. “Turn that page muthafucka cause our story’s all scripted. 600 years, ain’t a fuckin’ thing different. Don’t speak to us about strength and upliftment. The closest thing to paradise is mad distant.”