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Public Opinion Afro Orchestra - “We got together to make the grooviest, funkiest, dancing music with a beautiful message behind it.“

By Kimberley Price

And now for something completely different.

When it comes to Riverboats 2019, Public Opinion Afro Orchestra is in a whole field of its own.

The Afro-beat 17-piece band has drawn members from around the world and they will take to the Riverboats stage on Saturday, February 16.

And be prepared to be up and out of your seats and get your groove on to this powerhouse band.

‘‘We are representing Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa and even high-country Victoria,’’ jazz vocalist and violinist Fem Belling said.

‘‘We got together to make the grooviest, funkiest, dancing music with a beautiful message behind it.

‘‘The band was originally started by Tristan Ludowyk, Zvi Belling and DJ Manchild and they got together because they obviously saw this beautiful space for this kind of music in the industry.

‘‘I’ve never been involved in a project like this – where everyone involved is bringing so much of themselves to it. When the band comes together it’s like the best party you’ve ever been to.’’

The entire 17-part orchestra will be trekking up to the twin towns for the festival. With their three African dancers, five piece horn section, a percussion section, two guitarists and a DJ, the Riverboat revellers will be on their feet with their hips a-swaying for the entirety of the set.

‘‘We draw from the traditional Afro-beat which comes out of Nigeria,’’ Fem said.

‘‘I think having the level of joy and energy on stage from the singers and dancers really gets the crowd going.

‘‘It’s really infectious and joyous music that keeps you going.

‘‘I challenge anyone to come to our gigs and not be moved by our rhythms and sound – it really is an incredible thing.’’

But what really sets Public Opinion Afro Orchestra apart from any other musical act on the scene is the messages behind their songs.

Expressing lyrics which have a political message behind them, Public Opinion have become musical activists fighting for change on all fronts.

‘‘I think musical activism is best summed up by a quote from Fela Kuti ‘music is the weapon of the future’,’’ Fem said.

‘‘Spreading political messages is an inherent part of each individual musician and member of the band and therefore it’s only natural that it comes through in our songs. Every member of the band brings a compassion and a way of looking at society through the music and that can only come out through the songs we write.

‘‘I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and spoken about it I think it’s just something we all feel and music can add to the voice of the social conscious or the political protest.

‘‘If we can keep adding and keep performing music that has this message of compassion of change for the better, perhaps we’ll start to make people think a little differently or see a different side of the story.

‘‘Music is a way we can start a conversation without violence. If people are listening to music on a daily basis, why shouldn’t we be bringing up topics that maybe make people think in a different way or look at a situation in a different way or even consider someone else’s point of view.

‘‘I think as musicians, that’s how we express ourselves.

‘‘This is how we contribute to the future.’’

With a sound to get you up and dancing and lyrics to make you stop and think, Public Opinion Afro Orchestra is really an act which cannot be missed.

‘‘It’s music for your heart, your mind and your hips,’’ Fem said.

‘‘For those of you who were planning to just have a little sit down and relax while the Public Opinion is on stage, I have news for you. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to be tapping your feet and getting down.

‘‘We really are a band with an infectious beat.

‘‘It’s going to go off.’’

Audio sources:
The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra – Fight So Hard (Official Audio)
2018
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR0-PRINpy0

Interviewed by: Kimberley Price.

Voice: Vivienne Duck.

Produced by: Kimberley Price and Vivienne Duck. 

A Riverine Herald production.