MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY, LIFE IS BUT A DREAM
"EVEN THOUGH WE'RE OLDER, WE STILL WANT TO BE KIDS"
The energy at a Curse Ov Dialect gig is volatile. Before they come on, people start to dart about, squeeze in their round from the bar, take off their jumpers, they're relentless, an industry, like ants before the rain. Then there's some movement from the back of the crowd. Someone stealthily slips onto stage; they look like a gimp that's been furrowing in someone else's rubbish. One, two, three, four of them amass. Together they resemble refugees from the intergalactic Conference for Dispossessed and Marginalized Cultures 2373. Hiding behind the decks, giving no indication of what he is about to do is Pasobionic. He stands very still and rarely looks up, which is just as well cause you get the feeling if he did, the rest of them might just float away. You are excited already and they haven't even made a sound. I don't think they make bands like this yet. This is hip hop for the moon.
"It's like walking into a room that's completely dark and you don't know if you're going to find a light switch, but I'm confident that it's going to happen." We're talking to Raceless, MC and founding member of the band. He is talking about their deal with Mush. a big international label, and cradle of experimental hip hop worldwide. "With our stage show as well as and all the different elements that make up Curse OV Dialect, we'll work to make it a cohesive thing." After waiting 18 months it looks like all systems go for a June release, which, all going to plan will lead to the fulfillment of a long-term goal. "I want to travel with my friends. It'd be really fun to go and sleep in the gutter in another country. Doing our crazy music with crazy friends and having crazy fun."
Crazy music doesn't say the half of it. There is something in Curse Ov Dialect that appeals to the inner weirdo in you. All your dormant feelings get stirred up, all those times you never danced, never sang along, never participated in what you wanted to say. Served up on a hip hop beat and let loose in a frenzy of uninhibited performance.
"The girl from Chicks on Speed said that watching Curse was like watching four different movies at once. The DJ is pretty much just holding it together but the four vocalists, we're all on our own different little trips, we don't have any choreography or whatever." Raceless usually gets his gear off. "There is no answer to that except I don't know what I'm doing. When I get off stage I go why the fuck did I do that. It's just like you see your friends going nuts and it's just like whatever, whatever comes to mind and that always comes to mind. Its not like it's purposeful or there is any meaning behind it. If anything, it's just a repercussion of being free."
It's a freedom that is evident not only in their stage show but also in their music, any perceived rules or popular methods for creating a hip hop beat go out the window, and listening to their music can give the feeling of traveling through time and cultures. It's a trip they go to great lengths to take you on. "We'd go to the extent of finding out where ethnic people live in Melbourne and then going to those suburbs and the shops where they buy their music and looking for their folk music." The dominant culture e gets the same and equal treatment. "When it comes to Anglo Saxon Culture we try to focus more on the pagan side, pre Christian. We'd go out and look for pre Christian music and throw it in." The intention becomes clear. "Curse Ov Dialect brings all these cultures together to sort of create an aesthetic of open mindedness. I guess Curse Ov Dialect is like the new folk music, with hip hop vocals." I tell Raceless that by digging out the traditional music of ancient and diverse cultures and fusing them with a message of peace, Curse Ov Dialect seem to be creating a soundtrack for a united global culture of the future. He's an intense kind of guy, with an explosive energy that he seems to temper with humor and an earnest humility. On hearing this something flickers, as though that's it, that's exactly what they are trying to do.
"It's a sociological way of looking at the world. Pride without prejudice. Everyone sees patriotism as a negative thing, and I used to too when I was younger cause it creates conflict. If you're being patriotic but hanging out with someone else doing the same thing them it's kind of respectful. Anglo is still ethnic, it's just that Western Culture as a general theme has washed away all the culture, be it Anglo, be it ethnic, whatever. We need to source it in order to recreate our future. And also it's mad interesting." There's a line in one of their songs, sung kind of like a chant. 'All Cultures All Together". It's one of those lines that stay in your head and surfaces every time you think of their music. Their message of unity is a powerful one, perhaps because it is respectful of differences and reconfigures identity as a perspective rather than a lineage. "Curse Ov Dialect can be an identity, because it's not just who you are it's what you see. And when you walk down the street in Footscray and you see all of these different people around you and they're walking towards you and if you embrace them then you're going to get heaps of information about all of these people. We've just become like a memory bank of all of our experiences and cultures."
It's a tolerance and respect that goes hand in hand with their musical foundation of hip hop. The band is attuned to the potency of a message married to a street sensibility. "People like Aesop Rock, he's this MC in New York, his lyrics are like stuff that art students would understand, like intellectuals would understand but he still begins with a 'Yo'. I think that's brilliant; he's still showing street credentials to get through the door with these kids. I understand the aesthetics of where people say 'yo yo yo' before they go intellectual cause kids that are less educated will look up these words and think 'what is he saying?' It's a good way of educating the so-called working class to think middle class, and get them up with activists and get them up with speech. That way they can create they're own intellectual speech through hip hop."
"A couple of weeks ago I was in Sunshine, waiting at a train station and bunch of Maori kids came up to me and they were like Bro got a smoke on you bro' or whatever and I go oh, yeah and gave them a smoke. They looked like really menacing dudes and they were like 'so what are ya doin' and I said 'I'm actually going to a studio to record some hip hop and they started cracking up and saying like whatever bro. Then they started messing around and were beat-boxing, they said 'All right then, let's see ya' and I said 'Rap?' and I just fucking went off. After that they were like, 'Bro, if anyone fucks with you in the area, man send them to us.' And whenever I see them now they're like 'Bro!' So I think hip hop can be white, black or Asian, if you're into that style of music, people know already that you're open- minded. You listen to good music so you must be a good person. Unless you're a complete arsehole and that's general of every culture. There's dickheads everywhere."
There's even dickheads in their own stage show. Half way through sets MCs Sunny Son and Shannon Smith appear as the alter egos of Raceless and Vulk. (Shannon Smith was actually Vulks best friend growing up - thankfully he's never come to a show) They battle it out in a style parodying what they perceive to be the weaknesses of the Aussie hip hop scene. Raps about the other's mother, faggots, whores and drinking beer. "A lot of it we see as focusing on Colonialism, glorifying Colonialisms, especially the really negative stuff. I expect to hear some racist remark after it, I can see why ethnic kids in Australia wouldn't get into that stuff cause they associate that brand of hip hop with racism. I own a lot of Australian hip hop, cause I love it and I relate to it, but at the same time, there are other artists that I don't like, the ones that are homophobic and sexist and racist. I left that whole hip hop aesthetic behind; I don't think it's supposed to be or should be part of it, anymore. It should be reinvented positively. Aside from that, be what you are, talk about your Mum, going to have a counter meal, that's real. So long as you don't be negative in that stereotypical way, that's what's killing hip hop, and that's what's stopping it from getting to a greater audience."
There's another line from a Curse Ov Dialect song that goes "What's a smile upside-down? It's a frown, it's a frown". It's REALLY catchy. It's the kind of thing you find yourself singing when you have left the house in a hurry and feel happy but aren't sure why. It has a childlike quality, like much of their music that appeals to the part of you that can forgive and love without worrying about its return. Ultimately, the best thing about Curse Ov Dialect is that underneath all of the social and cultural and spiritual statements they are making, listening to them makes you happy. Stand outside one of their gigs and watch the people leaving, smiling from ear to ear.