TWO REFUGEES TREKKED A WORLDLY PATH FROM THE LAND OF ZION AND SEAS OFF THE MOZAMBIQUE CHANNEL TO BRING US MELBOURNE HIP HOP DUO DIAFRIX, AS MC MOMO EXPLAINS.
MOMO interviewed @ 14.45 AEST – Thursday 24th July, 2009
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
Azmarino and Momo’s long walk from their African homelands to the southern capital of Melbourne has their every step felt through their debut offering Concrete Jungle – swinging vines of intangible beats of reggae through ragga-rants from deep-rooted African tradition entangled to strengthen what has become arguably 2009’s most lingually-woven serving of down under hip hop.
Sitting in his studio surrounded by shelves heaving soul records having just polished off the final product of Concrete Jungle – an album that follows in the success earned from their EP in 2006 – Momo is in session as one part of the country’s most engaging and eclectic live act to discuss the colourful spectrum of musical influence that threads their latest work. Stand-out track ‘Crazy’ is as Mo puts it “kinda like a party track, a let loose kinda track” featuring N’fa biting into a dusty Cotton Club sound under vocals akin to a sun-kissed Caribbean yard party toast.
“We have a lot of reggae in our music collection, it’s a big part of our influence. Bob Marley is a big part of that, everybody knows Bob Marley. Growing up I was listening to Chaka Demus and Pliers – that’s what got me into the dancehall craze.” The tone swings back to the roots of the motherland on ‘African Affair’, with French rap lyrically très bien, to again characterise Diafrix’s story.
The Diafrix saga began here, but both Momo and Azmarino migrated from separate starting points in seek of new freedoms. Momo had arrived on these shores at a very young age from The Comoros – islands off the eastern coast of Africa independent of France since 1975. The small Euro and Arabic-tinged colony afforded the MC with a strong taste in all-world music and a fluent tongue in French. Azmarino comes from Eritrea – a coastal edge of Ethiopia off the Red Sea. After hunting a homeland across Jordan, Italy and Switzerland, seven years ago he sought refuge on this southern soil. Mo fills in the last leg of their fated footsteps, from their adopted hometown of Footscray in Melbourne City.
“Seven years ago we took part in a workshop in the west of Melbourne which was run by Joelistix from TZU. We got involved in the workshop as a past-time thing after school trying to keep ourselves out of trouble,” Mo remembers of those who supported their dreams and guided them on the right path. “Ever since that day we’ve done our thing, learning the business thanks to mentors we had around us from day one.”
The pair joined with Ptero Stylus, a young producer who came down from the mighty Blue Mountain ranges to co-sign a new sound for our local dialect. And the chemistry within Diafrix works perfectly.
“We’re all actually producers. Ptero Styles and myself actually write beats and produce music. We could be in rehearsal and Ptero will drop a beat and we’ll start jamming over it. Azmarino and myself will bounce ideas off each other and then we’ll take it upstairs and get in the booth and start laying down some rough guide. It’s a very organic process.”
Weaving the creative process into a rich tapestry transcendent of many genres, Diafrix interlace souled-out reggae threads and African rhythm over Australian hip hop beats. The soundscape sprawls into new pastures. Where a lot of hip hop practitioners can be reliant upon sampling their music, Diafrix’s is more hands on, as Mo explains.
“We’re the type of band that likes the everyday hustle. We like writing our music and pushing it out. We’re very instrumental, and try to stay away from records as much as possible. We’ve got a horn section, guitars and a DJ. With Illusive helping, we keep finding new ground, innovative and moving up.”