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QUT alumnus addresses #BLM and refugee rights with new single

Freshly minted 2020 Queensland Music Awards winner Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra addresses refugee rights, black lives and racial injustice in new single, Welcome To The Neighbourhood.

The collaboration includes diverse artists of First Nations, refugee, immigrant and gender diverse backgrounds.

Once again, playing nearly all instruments heard in his music, Matt’s soul-inspired piece provides a lush backdrop for five diverse artists of colour to excavate their personal experiences, set against the real-time developments of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Kangaroo Point blockade in solidarity with refugees.

Welcome To The Neighbourhood is a response to ongoing Australian issues of unethical detention of people seeking political refuge, black deaths in custody and systemic racism. 

“I love a lighthearted song about breezy summer fun and partying, but I do feel like there are moments where if you have the capacity and opportunity to use your whatever platform you have and skills you possess,” Matt said. 

“It’s important to 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. 

“It is a message of welcome and acknowledgement to those denied safe harbour and fair treatment, and a celebration of people in our community speaking, blockading and standing in solidarity against these injustices.”

This song features some of Meanjin’s best loved artist and activists, with vocals by Solchld (aka Aurora Liddle-Christie, a Jamaican/Indigenous-Australian activist-artist), spoken word by Anisa Nandaula (Ugandan-Australian award-winning poet and author) and 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), and 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.

Matt said he was first involved with the La Boite show through his friend and The Neighbourhood co-director Aleea Monsour.

“She’s the type of person who raises people up with her, which is exactly what she did for me. She’d seen my one-person orchestra live show and suggested me for creating a live soundtrack during the show and being part of the cast,” Matt said.  

“People were so warm and receptive, there were tears and laughter, and I think audiences were really enriched with hearing real stories from people of refugee, First Nations, immigrant and queer backgrounds, exploring where they fit into this notion of ‘Australia’.

“As much as any audience member, I was hugely affected by it even as a part of the show. Hearing my peers’ stories, and sharing moments of ‘that happened to me too’ or ‘I never realised that happened to you’. I carried those experiences with me, through the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the ongoing imprisonment of refugees, giving me deeper and nuanced ways of looking at these happenings.”

Mixed and mastered by Matt Hsu and Peet Gardner of So Soap Studios (Laneous & The Family Yah, MKO). This single is accompanied by a music video directed by Matt Hsu with the support of La Boite Theatre Company and Aleea Monsour.