Music in Exile is a project run by Joe Alexander and Angela Schilling. Its aim is to create ‘space for artists working in culturally or linguistically diverse communities in Australia’. It reveals barriers artists face in producing their work, and attempts to drub them.
Its latest collaborator is South Sudanese musician Gordon Koang. Koang and his cousin fled the second Sudanese civil war, seeking refuge in Australia. Through contact with Music in Exile and Bedroom Suck, they have since released this single. Koang intends to use the proceeds from his music to bring his family to Australia from South Sudan.
The single's A-side, 'Mal Mi Goa', condemns the war and looks forward to a peaceful future. Its lyrics, in Koang's native Nuer, lilt above a modal guitar melody given sense by its repetition. There is an odd, appealing, karaoke-like quality to the song. It in this sense resembles 60s Cambodian superstar Pen Ran. A musician surpassing the limits of their equipment. But it feels exploitative to draw attention to either artist's production techniques given, as they are, to necessity.
The drumming on this release is exceptional, with a loose and jolly syncopation that belies complexity below. In fact, the all-round breeziness these singles have is deceptive in the same way funk was forty years ago. Koang is reportedly a joyful and generous person whose focus is on positivity. Mal Mi Goa / Salaam is as good an expression of this that anyone could hope for.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe