Bouba from AUSECUMA BEATS: “Music is everything. It educates me, it gave me the opportunity to leave Africa and to experience different cultures and different worlds.”

Original band photo by: Nick MkK. Textile Work by Anne Harkin. Handmade collage by B.

Ausecuma Beats are a Naarm/Melbourne-based ensemble that have come together from all parts of the globe – Gambia, Guinea, Mali, India, Senegal and Cuba – to explore the idea of transplanting cultural heritage into a contemporary city through the universal language of music and community. Ausecuma Beats is a melting pot of their rich experiences, languages, craft, heritage and cultures. Their mission is to learn from one another and uplift people with their art. Gimmie caught up with bandleader and master djembe player, Boubacar Gaye to find out more about debut self-titled album, out now on Music in Exile (home of another Gimmie fav Gordon Koang).

Hi Bouba! I understand that you are from Senegal in West Africa; what was it like growing up there?

BOUBACAR GAYE: Senegal is a rich country in the west of Africa and there is a strong French and Arabic influence. I was born in Senegal and grew up there as well, so I had the chance to learn Arabic music and culture and also a chance to speak French too. It is a rich culture because there are so many different tribes there. Each region has their own instrument and I had the chance to learn different instruments of each tribe. 

What is one of your favourite things about Senegalese culture? 

BG: Food! My favourite is a fish and rice dish. 

I know that both your father and uncle influenced you with the music they listened to; what would you listen to together?

BG: My uncle liked jazz music like Miles Davis and my father liked old music called tango, so I listened to those styles.  I get the jazz and afro flavour from what they used to listen to. My uncle used to go to parties and he would wear a suit, he would dress well, and I would watch how he would dress. You have to dress up good to go to the nightclub and listen to good music! His influence on me was in clothes as well as music!

What instrument do you like to play the most? What do you love about it?

BG: I like to play a bass drum called a Dum Dum. I’m a djembe player professionally though, but I like both high and low pitch so I can’t just pick one! They both have energy! 

Why is music important to you?

BG: Music is everything. It educates me, it gave me the opportunity to leave Africa and to experience different cultures and different worlds.  I think if I was not a musician, I don’t know what I would be. My family says that I was born for music and I believe so. Good music takes me out of the street and makes me not take the wrong way in life. When I was young, not everyone takes the right track. Thanks to music, I have found my path. Music is my life. 

Photo by: Nick MkK

How did you first feel when you came to Australia? Why did you decide to come to Australia?

BG: I was in Japan for 8 years living there. I came to Melbourne for 10 days visiting a friend who said that Melbourne was a beautiful city and I should come. Japan was already far from home but Australia is also very far! I came to Australia for music and because of curiosity. My friend introduced me to an African drumming company; the boss was very welcoming to me and he introduced a big community to me. There is a strong drumming community here which made me feel that this is a place I can adopt. I was scared to make the move to come here, I already moved to Japan! My visiting holiday was fun but thinking about living here was not easy. There was stress! Was I making the right choice and decision to do this? There is always something I trust – don’t worry, you have the music! The music will lead you to make your own community! Go for it and don’t look behind. Let it go and move forward. Making a move can be a big decision, but be patient and have your goals. It will not be easy but as long as you keep working on it it will be ok. 

I visited and did the tour things, I like the design of Melbourne, you can see the sky. It’s great! In Japan it is very hard to see the blue sky because there are so many buildings. In the winter it feels like there is no day time because there isn’t too much light, so much shadow from the buildings. 

Throughout your debut self-titled album there flows messages of love and respect; what inspired this?

BG: I think respect is an important thing for us as Ausecuma Beats members because we are all different – sometimes language is difficult as the tone can be interpreted in the wrong way for members of the group who are not fluent in English. We need to be careful – the respect needs to be there. We always need to respect each other even if we have different ways of speaking English. We don’t always agree on everything, but we all have to share music and music is love. 

Your latest single ‘Cherie’ speaks about the importance of equality in relationships, especially in marriage; what inspired you to write about that?

BG: Cherie is a French word – you can use ‘cherie’ to make the relationship very nice, “oh my cherie, oh my love, my darling.”  This word,  ‘cherie’ is for caring and loving someone who is your daughter, wife, or husband. 

The track is based on a traditional song which is a true story from an older storyteller. The storyteller donated his music to the world and many musicians reinterpret his songs. He was singing about his wife; “you carry my children, you make me proud as a man, I don’t know how I can thank you, if i go first i will wait for you, if you go first wait for me,  my cherie we are together for everything.” This story is quite old, not from my Mum’s generation but from my Grandma’s generation!

Each track on the album displays the different talents of each musician; what do you feel are your talents?

BG: The groove! I always make sure we are tight. My role is always to control the volume when we are recording or performing. We all have a role and we have to give the same energy, but there needs to be space to solo. There are so many members, we also need to control all of the instruments and make space. I think in Ausecuma Beats, there is no leader in our music because all instruments have space and are equal. My role is to make sure that there is an equal role in the music. 

Why is improvisation an important part of Ausecuma Beats’ creativity? Can you tell us a bit about your song-writing process?

BG: We want to do something beautiful and unique and to do that you have to let there be space for that, space for creativity and composing music. When you’re improvising, sometimes it can be good, but sometimes it can be good and then crash! When we’re improvising, we’re cooking and everyone brings their own ingredients! 

Auseucma Beats music always starts from the engine – the percussion. After this, we compose the melody, sometimes with the belafon, kora, or sometimes from the percussion. The voice always comes on after we have built the road; when the road is smooth the voice comes in. 

What is something important you’ve learnt from your journey as a creative person that you’d like to share with us?

BG: What I have learnt is that it is beautiful to build a community. You feel you’re all on the same page, it’s great! The best things I’ve achieved in my musical career is to build community. Not only with Auseucma Beats but also drumming. We’re sharing the same passion. If you listen and you want to come and dance, you’re part of our community!

Ausecuma Beats’ debut LP out now through Music In Exile.

Please check out AUSECUMA BEATS via this link.

‘The King Of Music’ Gordon Koang: Love, Peace and Unity.

Image courtesy of Music In Exile. Handmade collage by B.

Gordon Koang is a musician that grew up in the Upper Nile region which is now South Sudan. He plays music to make people happy and spread a message of peace and unity! A blend of traditional Neur rhythms and original compositions in English, Arabic, and his mother tongue, Neur; his music infectious as is his million-watt smile that lights up a room. Despite his challenges in life, being born blind and having to flee his home country due to unrest and civil war, Gordon is one of the most positive people we’ve ever met.

GORDON KOANG: Let me tell you this, forgive me for my English because at times it’s not good because I learned it six years ago when I came to Australia from Africa. I didn’t know how to speak English but, the conversation that I have and the discussion with musicians in Victoria, I learned English.

That’s absolutely fine. How about you do your best and I’ll do my best!

GK: Yes! Thank you very much [laughs].

I saw in your Instagram stories that you have been making a gospel record.

GK: That’s true. We started last week. Yesterday I did two songs and now I record already three songs and there remain only seven and it will be a full album.

Why did you want to make a gospel record?

GK: Because my history is very long when I start the music. I have a very long background from when I was born to when I start the music, I started in church.

I know that you’ve been playing music for 31 years; why do you love to play music?

GK: It’s a very long story, if I come there to tell you this, it’s really very good. I’ll do it properly. I start my music exactly as you say, 31 years. In 1989 I was a boy at the time that I start the music. Let me go from my beginning time from when I was born from my mother, I was born blind—I never see this world. When I become eight-years-old I get a teaching from my cousin, the man, his name is Luka – he is not still alive, God has taken his life – he teach me to learn my instrument; the traditional one, its name thom. He teach me and then when I know how to play the thom, I decide to go to church to play the choir songs. When we play the songs together with the choir it was 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995.

I become sixteen years, I decided to pray and ask God; what I can do? ‘Cause I understand all world has so many Gods, but I choose Jesus to be my God when I was a young boy. I pray to God because I know myself that I will not be able to do work because I was born blind. All my brothers and sisters, they are seeing and I’m not seeing. I say, I can pray to this God, the God I choose; this God can help me with a way for what work I can do in the world. I ask him and he get me to do the music, gospel alone, and then I decide to do my own song. When I start to learn the thom 1988 to 1996, then I compose my own song.

Wow! That is such a beautiful story, thank you for sharing that with me Gordon. When you started writing your own music back then; what kinds of things were you writing about?

GK: When I pray, dreams would come to me. In 1996 a dream come to me that somebody like angel come to me like a person, that’s how it look like, it said: do your music and talk about love, peace and unity among the people, then they will understand you. When you talk to people and you are blind and you tell them to love yourself, have unity and have peace among you, they will understand what you are saying. Love is not broken, somebody cannot see it but it’s in your heart of people. Unity, nobody will see it because it’s in your heart of people. Also the peace, nobody can see the peace, it’s in the heart of people. The angel told me like that and I decide to compose my songs talking about love, talking about unity and talking about peace.

Have you always loved yourself?

GK: Yes, for sure. Exactly! I start loving myself first and then I go to other people. I reckon when people love when I’m playing it’s because I am singing and playing thom at same time. When you love yourself this is the way you will love other people. You talk to me and I see you love me and now my heart went to you and I love you so much!

Aww that is so lovely. Love is the best thing.

GK: Yes, for sure. Love. Unity. Peace.

Your new record that will be coming out soon [August 14] is called Unity, right?

GK: Yes, that’s true.

In these times we are in now I think we need more love, peace and unity. Your album is very timely.

GK: Yes. Now I also to do another album, it will come up when this album went to the people… we record it for the Coronavirus, the songs, it will be an album for it.

You’ve also just released a remix for your song ‘Mal Mi Goa’ by Ginoli (James Ireland); what did you think of the remix when you first heard it?

GK: He’s a very good man. I play my thom and then the brother did the remix. What I think about is to make people happy, to give them a smile and then I also need them to think about me when they listen to my song, even if they don’t understand the language they can still feel the music.

I love that music can transcend language. Even though I don’t know the language that you sing in, I still feel the sentiment, the feelings behind it, the intention.

GK: Exactly! I am singing in Arabic and Neur, my mother tongue, and the little English that I have—I compose some songs like this. “Stand Up (And Clap Your Hands)” and another one say “My dear Asylum Seeker, we know you are waiting for your permanent protection visa” sometimes it’s hard, but be patient I tell them.

What does your song ‘Stand Up (And Clap Your Hands)’ mean to you?

GK: Song ‘Clap Your Hands’ mean to show people my love because you see sister, when you are a blind person you are in a different world ‘cause even when I love them when they love my songs they don’t know when I love them because… people tell me they love hearing from the higher person. I show them my love and say “Clap Your Hands” don’t keep quiet, move your body and come up here on stage with your partner and you can dance; show us your style! That’s what we say with my band. I feel them and they feel me.

I’ve been listening to your new song that will be released [today] on June 19 ‘Tiel E Nei Nywal Ke Ran (We Don’t Have a Problem with Anyone)’; what is the feeling behind this song?

GK: Yeah, that one I compose and Neur my mother tongue! I show the people that will listen to my song that we don’t have a problem with anyone. When I show my band how to play the lines and I play the solo with my thom, we need only people to become happy, we don’t care what they think about… what we need to change their minds to be happy always because if you are happy you decided to do all the beautiful things, all the good things. This world sister, we are coming into it for a short time, when we were in our mother’s stomach for nine months and then this world for ninety years if you are lucky, and if you are very lucky 120 years. We need to do our best and to do things that will remain with our coming generations.

On your new album Unity; is there a part you think stands out as being very interesting?

GK: A lot of things interesting. ‘Asylum Seeker’ song. Also, I love ‘Stand Up’. There is the song in Neur ‘We Don’t Have A Problem With Anyone’. There is another one that says that the world is corrupted, change from the climate, all the diseases coming into the world—we need to keep to do the right thing. I did it like that because I want people to think, not relax too much. When you relax there is a lot of things coming up and you don’t feel them. Think morning, afternoon and night-time.

From the beginning I start my music to now with my eleventh album I compose them in different ways. At the time I will compose my twelfth album there will be a lot of things I compose in English because I need my music to be international [laughs]. Even if English not good, God will translate them to people.

I understand you’re a big fan of Rihanna’s music?

GK: Yeah, for sure. She is very nice. You see in this world if there is no woman, no man can come to the world. It’s what I’ve been thinking about because, I love my mother so much. Now she is not alive but I know when the time comes I will see her again. I’ll get a good high from Heaven and I will see my mother. I love woman so much. Woman is important.

Despite all the challenges that you’ve had in your life you still seem to be so optimistic and hopeful and happy and loving; what helps you be this way?

GK: I decided to do this because in the beginning, when I “see” the thom I start to know it’s a thom, I was 7-years-old. When I tried with my body I feel it, the change with how I feel and when I’m happy I feel the change and know it’s good. It’s why I choose to love people and do the right thing. I will be longer good life if I am happy. I understand that I have got enough.

What is next for you?

GK: I have a future plan that this music I did, I get it from my cousin like I tell you before, I don’t need it to go with me when I leave this world to go to another world—I need to leave it to all the people and coming generations. They will sing about me and say that long ago there is a man named Gordon Koang that teach people with his thom and it make people happy. We need people to have love, peace and unity among them. We need to sing like him. I need to do something for when I go. I have to do something good in this world. If I do a centre I can teach people. This is my future plan if God give it to me [laughs].

Anything else to tell me?

GK: I want to tell you this sister, love your work. Don’t say I am tired, do it because it will remain when you are gone and help generations.

Please check out: GORDON KOANG. Music In Exile.