A response to the turbulent and very real issues 2020 has so strongly highlighted, Matt Hsu's Obscure Orchestra's new song, 'Welcome To The Neighbourhood', offers hope and acknowledgment for those only seeking safety and equality for all.A track that explores the unethical detention of people seeking political refuge, black deaths in custody and systemic racism, Matt (who won the World category at the 2020 Queensland Music Awards) decided to write a protest song, but from a place of warmth and optimism.
"Exploring these themes in music, it was tempting to make something that was ferocious," Matt says. "That's been done really well and is important.
"But I decided to approach it with warmth and optimism, almost as a celebration of a time we are hopefully arriving to, where we succeed in seeing refugees as just people, and we collectively realise the utter ridiculousness of criminalising the act of seeking safety for yourself and your family.
"Where we value every type of person the way we do for our own friends or family – not just those who superficially look or speak like ourselves."
The song features the talents of a number of Meanjin artists and activists: Solchld (aka Aurora Liddle-Christie, a Jamaican/ Indigenous-Australian activist-artist); spoken word by Anisa Nandaula (Ugandan-Australian award-winning poet and author); Naavikaran (Indian-born LGBTIQ+ activist and body-movement artist); rap by Nima Doostkhah (Iranian-Australian hip-hop artist); vocals and instruments by Cieavash Arean (Iranian- Australian refugee and multi-instrumentalist) – plus baby sounds by Mira and her father Amer Thabet (Syrian actor).
Alongside Matt, each of these featured artists appeared in La Boite Theatre Company's 'The Neighbourhood', with which this track shares unofficial DNA.
scenestr is stoked to premiere the accompanying music video for 'Welcome To The Neighbourhood' today. Enjoy.
"I love a light-hearted song about breezy summer fun and partying," Matt adds, "but I do feel like there are moments where if you have the capacity and opportunity to use whatever platform you have and skills you possess, it's important contribute to discussions you think are important and support communities that need it – and not just stand up and speak up when the sweep in that direction is well and truly in motion."
Matt's one-person orchestra project is the brainchild of his offbeat musical sensibilities, shaped by a childhood stint as a Buddhist monk, touring with Japanese artist Kenta Hayashi, co-founding folk-punk band The Mouldy Lovers, immersion into street jazz in New Orleans, and love of cinematic scores.
"I notice a huge irony in the way the media is currently covering the enforced border closures as tragically tearing family members apart and how heart-wrenching it is that they haven't been able to see each other (for a few weeks), when our leaders have been doing that very thing of keeping families apart and being declared illegal for seeking safety.
"But some people can't seem to extend their empathy to realise, 'oh wait, that's the same thing except instead of a few weeks, these people have been kept from their families for seven years'."