The irony of this blog post is the fact that I am writing it in my office where I usually instigate projects, apply for grants and write up budget plans for the community. Unfortunately, on this rainy Friday afternoon, I am feeling uninspired and severely disappointed in the community itself and its lack of activism and mobility. I know I go back and forth between feeling extremely enthusiastic and completely burnt out but that is because ultimately, I am fucking sick of laziness. I cannot wrap my head around how folks in my community can turn a blind eye to certain issues that need to be addressed and talked about, and pretend like everything is fine. Because it's not. Violence is still rampant in my community, misogyny is still alive and kicking, every form of discrimination is still on every street corner. And suckers wanna tell me to surround myself with better people. Hell no. These are my people. But this is all my people have been exposed to so they know no better. They have been told all their lives that their suburbs are shit and that they, as people, are disadvantaged, second-class citizens. I will not "stay positive" and act like everything is peachy. I will stay angry and fight for better conditions and I refuse to abandon those who have been thrown to the gutter time and time again. This shit is personal because when the government storms in on my people and tries to impose "income management" on poor families in Bankstown and the Northern Territory, it is belittling and insulting and I feel it. So don't tell me that I over-politicise everything. Everything IS political. When fundraising companies exploit poorer suburbs in the South-West because rich suburbs won't give them money despite their higher income, my blood boils. Class struggle. Identity crises. Racial tension. Gender politics. Disenfranchised young people. Abandoned senior citizens. It is personal and it is political. And I will not be oblivious.
The complacency, the apathy, the complete and utter lack of compassion breaks my heart, injures my soul and tarnishes my bright mind.
Fuck it, man. If nobody comes to your event, it's all good. At least you know you have been driven enough to put these grassroots happenings on in the first place instead of sitting around complaining about how there's nothing to do in Sydney. Know that you have been taking risks for the past six years through a proactive approach in helping to enrich and foster your creative surroundings. Know that instead of bailing to Europe or, even just across the border, Melbourne you've stayed on and built strong relationships with people who are as enthusiastic as you are. You have seen primary and high school students with fierce agility and energy create something beautiful and you have seen mentors selflessly and endlessly support their younger counterparts. You have played a part in breaking down the wall that separates artists and their community. And there is absolutely nothing more special than the connection you witness, that extraordinary glow, between people of all generations and backgrounds partying down on common ground. You can stand up and say "You may have your ignorant preconceptions but this, right here, is South-West Sydney kicking your lazy arse."
The increments of change may seem fine but they are milestones for the community.
As a young girl, I watched my parents fight frequently. Pots and pans flew around the house as I tried really hard to focus all of my attention to Video Hits and drown out the sound of yelling. My older siblings would try and distract me from what was going on but sometimes, they just weren't around so the blunt detestation between my parents was quite apparent. I knew all along what was going on, and the wider perception of these instances is that when you're below a certain age, you don't really understand the big picture. When I was four-years-old, I was well aware that my mother was unhappy with my fathers choices and that my father no longer wanted to be with her. Divorce was imminent, despite my hopes for it not to be.
I was eleven when my family sat down and my parents announced their separation. Thinking that that was a huge call and feeling as though they were neglecting us as their children, we all dealt with the circumstance in various ways. It was not easy for any of us and I can safely say we all shut down emotionally. Not long after this "discussion", my parents filed for a divorce and the thought of it being official and on paper was crippling. My mother moved to Indonesia shortly after and I resented her for a long time, believing that she had abandoned myself and my siblings. My father went on and continued working twelve hour days to support us, seven days a week but I was far too selfish to recognise his efforts.
In hindsight, I cannot think of a better thing to have happened to my family. I know that sounds weird but it's the truth. It took us away from the horrible, conservative Indonesian Muslim community here in Sydney and made us assess their agenda and traditions. It also brought my siblings and I together, in a way that could not have happened if it wasn't for the divorce. Alongside those two important lessons, it also strengthened our bond with both our mother and father by simply making us realise that they had worked hard despite their differences to raise us.
The Indo-Muslim community alienated us when my parents got divorced. They spread rumours about my mother cheating on my father and vice versa. I never want to think of my parents as "cheaters" but whether or not that really happened, I will never know. However, I trust my parents enough to be transparent with their past and I take their word for it when they say they didn't. Why would I take the word of a lying, competitive, superficial community over my hard-working, loving parents? I don't know what it was they were trying to achieve by erupting in gossip and pointing fingers. All I know is that we're better off without them. They tried to use Islam against us, which is hilarious because there are verses in the Qur'an that talk about how yes, divorce is not the greatest thing in the world, but should the circumstance call for it then it should be done in an Islamic way, and that is exactly how my parents did it. So that was my main "Fuck you" to that community. The way I see it is if two people do not love each other any more (or never loved each other in the first place) and spend most of their time fighting then it is absolutely their right to put an end to such misery. But of course, it is far easier for an arrogant community to judge rather than empathise.
I like kicking arse at everything I do and I really enjoy it when my siblings do too. People often think that kids from a "broken home" are at a disadvantage but that is false. My sister is an incredible Graphic Designer and Photographer who has done work for some of the biggest names in hip-hop and fashion in Australia after graduating from the University of Western Sydney. My brother is an Accountant (without even going to university for it), is about to get married, buy a house and raise a family. My other brother is a multi-talented Sportsperson and a qualified Mechanic from Toyota. I am about to start studying at the University of Sydney and I'm working as a Project Coordinator and In-House Audio Engineer at BYDS, as well as a Marketing/Administration Assistant for Powerhouse Youth Theatre's HERO Project. We're doing amazingly and I'm so proud of how well we pulled together during hard times. And through all of this, my parents were both there to support us, every step of the way.
Our family fought a decade-long battle against immigration and as I was the only Australian Citizen in the family, pressure was on me to keep my family in Australia. It almost sounds horrible when I say this but had my parents not divorced, our case would have been weaker. The fact that my father was a single parent reinforced the necessity of his presence in my growing up, as my mother was physically out of the picture. Now the rest of my family are Permanent Residents and my mother is free to enter and exit the country.
Divorce is weighty. It's not breezy, and it certainly is not something I'd wish upon anyones marriages and families. However, it is sometimes necessary to remove yourself from a sticky situation and re-assess your surroundings. I fully understand that divorces are messy and often end sour but I also think that our society is far too quick to judge families that have been through or are going through these struggles. I think that with the rise of quick weddings and quick divorces, we need to be a little bit more delicate and understanding of each others situations. All I really hope is that anyone that needs to go through a divorce is supported by their communities, rather than driven out.
South-West Sydney owns my heart. It's true. From train rides on the Green Line to long walks around the plaza in Bankstown, I'll never forget my roots. But for some reason lately, I've just been feeling kind of exhausted and burnt out. I feel as though I'm working for the community when the community doesn't even care. The community has become severely apathetic and almost oblivious to their surroundings. I'm not sure if it is because everything just keeps getting worse and nobody has hope anymore, or if it is because not giving a shit is simply easier. What saddens me is I don't know how to change it. No new faces show up to the acoustic shows I organise, or take part in the workshops I facilitate. Hardly any of my "friends" actually support what I and the organisation I work for do, let alone engage in our work so what is the point? Nobody comes out to the South-West to support our artists because all the "arty" Inner-West folks are too busy picking out floral dresses and buying records for their non-existent record player. And if someone tells me it's because we're "so far away" from the City, I'll tell them they're just lazy and boring. How can a hundred people show up at a gallery showing in the City/Inner-West and only ten show up in the South-West? It's baffling. Most of the people that go to those showings in the City are from the West anyway. Do they not see how much potential their own hometown holds?! Sorry about the neg vibes. I'm just starting to get really disheartened.
I suppose it has been a while since I wrote a blog post. I'm writing this now because I'm unbelievably excited about a new track that Jack Bruun-Hammond (Corpus) engineered and features on. Well, it's actually an older song but this is a new version of it. There was also a short documentary filmed about this song and my "journey" by some incredibly talented students from Sydney Film School, which will be screened at their biannual film festival at The Factory Theatre, July 13 and 14. Coming up next will be a music video for this song, written and directed by my one and only wife and best friend, Annabelle Z. We anticipate that to be out within the next month or so.
Here's the song, recorded in Jacks weird and wonderful bedroom studio:
In other related news, I'm currently recording more frequently and plan on releasing an EP within the next few months. It will most likely be a five track disc, with some limited editions on cassette too. I'm sure I'll figure out a way to chuck it on the interwebz too for all you lazy bastards. Accompanying this EP will hopefully be an Australian East Coast tour in November. I do hope to also play some shows in New Zealand while I'm over there in December. If you have any connections/suggestions, let me know and I will be forever grateful.
I often feel as though prefacing any piece of text ruins it however before anything gets muddy, I would just like to clarify that I am in no way an expert on socio-political issues nor have I been involved in radical actions in the grand scheme of things. After all, it is an ongoing learning process.
What I do know is that us human beings are ferocious and though we use that ferocity in god-awful ways to pleasure ourselves, we are also highly capable of being compassionate, empathic mammals. Perhaps the coupling of that fierceness and instinctive compassion would allow room for us to grow together. I know this sounds severely romanticised and it is often what many anarchists speak about but I think the reality of it is, we have seen a beautiful relationship between these two instincts evolve into what we now call the Arab Uprising. Though there is bloodshed and copious amounts of death and destruction, there is also a new wave of hope that has taken over. Never in my life had I imagined a revolution of this sort to happen.
A lot of Westerners are under the impression that this uprising is distant but it is not. It is in every place you look. A very brief example of this is when Egypt overthrew their dictator, the Egyptian families in South-West Sydney danced in their victory - Copts and Muslims held hands. Now Syria is under fire and every Syrian man I speak to in Bankstown has deep fear in their eyes.
I choose to stand with the Arabs throughout all of this. The Wests "democratic" structure and form may not work within the Arab world and it's not up to us to make the call. I believe the people know best and the people will make the decision.
This is Indonesia. With all the corruption and poverty, this is Indonesia at its absolute purest. It's hard not to come across as nationalistic - even though as far as "nations" are concerned, technically I am Australian - but this makes me so damn proud it brought a tear to my eye. This is all soul. Listen to the percussion and observe the synchronisation. Feel the history. You don't have to be Indonesian to be ecstatic about living in a world where treasures like this exist.
"The greatest gift of man is universal love – that magnet which renders existence eternal. It attracts realities and diffuses life with infinite joy. If this love penetrate the heart of man, all the forces of the universe will be realized in him, for it is a divine power which transports him to a divine station and he will make no progress until he is illumined thereby. Strive to increase the love-power of reality, to make your hearts greater centers of attraction and to create new ideals and relationships."
Rejection after rejection after rejection. I won't blame galactic realignment for my issues this year and I won't blame shitty people... mainly because I've cut all ties with people who make me feel worthless. So I guess the blame can only lead to one other person and thing: Me and my functionalities as a human being. You know, my inability to let go of everything that I broke and ruined, my ability to ruin everything and uhhh, my obvious self-hate. I just want a good job where I'm guaranteed hours. Sitting idly and watching the clock tick like heartbeats is taking away from everything I ever learned and making me dumber. My muscles hurt from stagnation and my eyes droop. My heart longs and my brain is glitchy. I'm exhausted but I haven't even moved. I feel like I'm just running away from everything again. I have never been this lost before. I was always the one with the stubborn sense of direction and though that crippled me a lot of the time, it also helped me. Now I'm the flake, the indecisive one and I don't see much of a future.
Perhaps I just don't possess the right spirit to play ney. I want to. It's all I want. The simplicity of its natural timbre is like no other and I want my breath to bring those sounds out. But I just can't. After numerous videos and tips, I am still only able to make the tiniest whistle but I'm beginning to think that that's just my imagination.