Knowledge is power, and Senegal-born musician Lamine Sonko is harnessing the ancient knowledge of his people to promote cultural diversity through his band The African Intelligence.
For Lamine, one of Australia’s most celebrated African artists, his work in handing down the ancestral wisdom of West Africa provides a vital service in cultivating greater understanding between migrants and communities in Australia’s multicultural society.
“I come from a family of culture-keepers in Senegal,” Lamine explains.
“They’re known as the eyes and the ears of the community; they tell the ancient story through music and dance, and since I migrated to Australia 13 years ago I’ve been doing a lot of work in schools and I thought I’d have my own band to take that work to festivals and different venues.”
Starting in February, Lamine Sonko & The African Intelligence will embark on their national ‘Afro Frequency’ tour with Sudanese songwoman Ajak Kwai. “What we hope to do with the 'Afro Frequency' tour with Ajak is to go around and share our music, first of all, and also share with the Australian audience about our deep history of Africa in this music.”
The 'Afro Frequency' tour comes at an opportune time for Lamine and his cause, with mainstream media awash with debate over whether or not Victoria is within the grip of an African gang crisis.
“All over the news there has been some youth violence happening in the community and it’s out there in the media,” he says.
“So this tour comes at the right time. We want to go out there and promote the peaceful approach from our culture, and also promote multiculturality [sic] and also promote cultural awareness.
“This tour, for us, is to share our music first of all and second to tell our stories coming from Africa. We can be very different to what people will hear or read in the media; this is more us using music as a platform to share a commonality.”
As a cultural leader and a prominent voice in his community, Lamine says that although there is a problem with violence among African youths, it’s a complex issue rooted in the socio-economic challenges faced by migrants as they adjust to a new way of life.
“Violence is there but this is not just a violence problem,” he says.
“It has to do with lack of jobs and lack of inclusiveness within the community for lots of the African community. They feel very vulnerable, they feel pushed away where finding a job can be a problem, being an active part of society and being accepted into society can be a problem.
"So it’s layers of issues in there and I hate when people call it violence in one go and call it a gang.
“What we are trying to do is pull those children out of the shadow of darkness and bring them into the light, and the only way we can do that is to go back to the resources our ancestors left behind, which is to work as a community.”
Lamine Sonko & The African Intelligence Tour DatesSat 17 Feb - BEMAC (Brisbane)
Sat 3 Mar - Jive Bar (Adelaide)
Sat 24 Mar - The Lair @ Metro Theatre (Sydney)
Sat 7 Apr - The Evelyn Hotel (Melbourne)