Global Beat Australia: Desert reggae, obscure orchestras, and funked up jazz

By Andrew Khedoori and Raul Campos

This week’s Aussie artist spotlights on far-flung sounds from Jazzparty, Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra, and Kakadu Collective. Photos by Le Tans, Rod Pilbeam and Natalie Carey.

KCRW’s Global Beat is a new series highlighting emerging artists from around the world. We’re kicking the series off with our friends in Australia by partnering with The Australian Music Alliance and the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (Amrap), a uniquely Australian organization designed to support Australian music on public radio.

KCRW DJ Raul Campos hosts along with Amrap Manager Andrew Khedoori for this week’s Aussie artist spotlights on far-flung sounds from Jazzparty, Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra, and Kakadu Collective. Catch up on all the artists from the series (plus bonus tracks!) with our Global Beat: Australia playlist

Jazzparty - “ Higher With My Love ” 

Melbourne’s Jazzparty hits like a cheap shot of whiskey that goes down just as well as the slick stuff. Photo by Le Tans. 

Jazzparty is a collective of Melbourne musicians who like to say they're a dirty beatnik rock and roll band who happen to play jazz and soul music. And so with that, expect a pretty heavy brew. You’ve got all those elements, but worked up within that sweaty pub environment that’s a signature of much Australian music. It’s a lot more on the raggedy side as well. 

I liken this to a cheap shot of whiskey that still goes down just as well as the slick stuff. Jazzparty are very typical of the cross fertilizing going on in the Melbourne funk, soul, and jazz scene, with a lot of musicians moving around from band to band. It's a little similar to the stable of artists on the Daptone label. There's a really shared fun vibe that comes out in the music, and probably a good reason why they called Jazzparty. The band's got a new album out called “Nobody Gets Away,” and this song is both a breather and a bruiser.

Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra - “Welcome to the Neighbourhood

Matt Hsu leads an orchestra with the vision to give voice to marginalized communities. Photo by Rod Pilbeam.

Out of Brisbane, Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra is a massive undertaking in the amount of people taking part. But it's also got this big vision to match. Matt Hsu is a Taiwanese Australian, who has had a stretch as a Buddhist monk and has also been a street musician in New Orleans. And along the way of his colorful life, he found a calling to be as inclusive of marginal communities as possible for those voices to be heard loud and clear in his music. So while he directs and coordinates this orchestra, he essentially gets rid of any composer tags to have those voices create what you hear. So we're talking First Nations artists, pop artists, non binary artists, trans and LGBTQ+ artists. They're all lending equal weight to what I think is an incredible vision from this guy. 

This new single from the Orchestra only skates along the depth of that vision, but also gets a little closer to home for Matt. “Welcome to the Neighbourhood” brings together some great Taiwanese artists up front of this soulful track. It’s all about Taiwanese life and living both at home and abroad and never forgetting your roots. It’s a great example of what multiculturalism in Australia can produce, and uniquely so.

Kakadu Collective - “ MAYALI (feat. Victor Rostron)

Kakadu Collective features students from the community of Jabiru, Northern Territory in Australia. Photo by Natalie Carey.

Kakadu Collective is a really beautiful coming together of Northern Territory students who represent various clans in the Kakadu and Arnhem Lands and the community of Jabiru, a mining and services town in the center of the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, which is a stunning part of the world. So this is real heartland music. In areas like the Northern Territory of Australia, you can find a strand of reggae called desert reggae, which is a much more laid back and spacious sound where you can practically feel the warmth of the sun running through it. 

One of the organizations key to disseminating music from this part of Australia is Desert Pea Media. And they've partnered up with Aboriginal health service Red Lily to produce “MAYALI,” which is a song about country, culture, and changes that have redefined these young students’ futures, such as the mine closing down there and a changing governance. “MAYALI” addresses those questions and voices that young First Nations people need to stay connected to their culture. It's a great start for a great project with a lot of spirit and ingenuity.”





Raul Campos, Adam Burke