First published on 23 Sep 2012. Updated on 25 Feb 2014.
The MASSIVE Hip Hop Choir is the collaborative effort of a group of 18 to 26-year-olds from Melbourne’s western suburbs, based out of Footscray's Barkly Arts Centre. Often from marginalised communities, they’ve come together with a grab-bag of influences – the name of their album, Neology, means making something new out of existing language.
You’ll hear elements of gospel, soul, urban pop, hip hop and protest songs drawing on not only their shared record collections, but their diverse backgrounds: the group’s members identify as Tongan/Fijian, Cook Islander, Niuean, Samoan, Lebanese/Tongan, Caribbean/North African, Filipino, Comoros islander, Tanzanian, English/Spanish and Indonesian between them. Most tracks provide a sociological overview of the lives of the group's members, with strong messages that don't pull any punches.
Choir coordinator and producer Mary Quinsacara (who works alongside Liss Gabb) tells Time Out, “We knew there was a whole bunch of material kind of being developed in people’s bedrooms, home studios, that might not see the light of day. The project started as a youth arts project, but we didn’t realise how powerful our group was going to become. We tapped into something. There was such a demand within the community for these guys to do shows. So we sought more funding through Barkly Arts Centre and it's evolved into a band, which is such a different kettle of fish. So these guys are in transition now to fully take over the management of their own group."
As well as recording and putting on shows, the group host workshops everywhere from schools to jails. "We teach them some of our songs," says singer Akimera Burckhardt-Bedeau, "or we brainstorm with them what they want to write about. We teach them to match their lyrics to the melody, to rap, use body percussion and harmonise."
MASSIVE have backed up Diafrix and Blue King Brown, as well as inspiring Emmanuel Jai to appear on Neology, which they've put out this September without a label – funding it themselves via crowdsourcing website Pozible.
We predict that as individuals and as a group (they're appearing at the Art Centre's Raising the Roof and performing with the MSO on Romeo and Juliet), they're ones to watch. Check them out early and be at the beginning of something massive.