Naomi Keyte Interview – Symbiosis OzAsia

There’s some stellar shows at this years OzAsia Festival and one intriguing collaboration is between folk pop singer Naomi Keyte and hip hop artist Dobby with their show Symbiosis. This is a show where at the time of this interview still hasn’t been written and will be before the show debuts at OzAsia. A show that will be written in a week and described as Hip Hop meets Folk Pop. Naomi chatted with the Hi Fi Way about the show’s concept and what audiences can expect to see once its created.

As part of the OZAsia Festival you’ve teamed up with DOBBY for the Symbiosis show. Are you excited to be playing at the festival?
I’m so excited to be playing OzAsia. It’s a huge honour to be programmed into such a diverse line up and I’m also really excited to collaborate with DOBBY.

Did you know each other before this collaboration?
I knew of his work and we’ve met once about a year ago when we first got permission to produce this new work. So, we’ve met but we’ve never collaborated before. 

How did this collaboration happen?
Emily Tulloch who is the Artistic Director at Nexus Arts contacted us both if we would like to work together. So, this piece is completely unwritten as of yet. We have a week long development before the performance on the 2nd November. So, we’ve got pretty much a week to write and arrange with a band as well a whole set of forty five minutes of music.

So, you’re saying that the show will be written in one week?
Yes! That’s exactly right. We’ve been commissioned to write a whole bunch of new work in one week before the performance and then to perform that work!

Wow! Does that put a lot of pressure on you?
(laughs) Definitely one way to look at it (laughs) I’m mildly terrified because I’m quite a slow writer so for me to produce a whole set of forty-five to sixty minutes of music in a week, that’s like crazy (laughs). But I think that working with DOBBY I think he’s pretty prolific and he’s also got a band to help brush out the songs. I’ve been preparing so I’ve got some voice demos and lyrics ready to go. I think it’s going to be OK.

It must be terrifying but exciting at the same time because even though the pressures on its going to be amazing artistically to do something like this.
Absolutely! I think that classic thing of deadlines kind of work. They make you work harder than you think you can or be more productive than you think you can. I’m excited to just go into full music mode for a whole week. I’ve cleared my entire schedule. I’m not doing anything else but just writing.

Your show has been described as Hip Hop Meets Folk Pop can you tell us how that’s going to work?
Yeah, DOBBY is a full hip hop rapper and my music that I perform is contemporary folk. I think what’s going to end up happening is we’ll go more into an RnB/Electronic kind of space. I’ve got a producer and syth, bass and drum players on board as well. We’re just going to shift into a different genre. A bit of a middle ground. So, we can will still rap and we’ll have that beat element then there will be that Hip Hop melody and harmonies as well.

Are you into Hip Hop or is it something totally new for you?
I’m pretty open minded about music. I like to listen to Hip Hop sometimes but not loads and I will be out of my comfort zone for sure.

Is that something you’re ready to embrace being out of your comfort zone?
Yeah! One hundred percent! I think entire project is going to put me out of my comfort zone. I knew that when Emily approached me. I was like “Woah! This can’t be further from what I’m doing!” But that’s the fun part, I think.

Do you like to be challenged artistically?
Yeah, I think at this point in my career I’ve released a couple of albums and I’m comfortable in this Folk/Contemporary genre and a I’m definitely as an artist looking to be pushed. And also co-writing is a totally different kettle of fish to writing alone. I usually write alone so genre-wise I’m going to be challenged and also in the context of co-writing as well. And I’m up for it!

Is there a theme for the show that you will be creating?
DOBBY and I had a phone conversation and we decided we wanted to write about Climate Change and the climate crisis as our theme. That is what the work will be about which I think is really topical at the moment. I think it will be a good way to get people thinking and for us to get across some important information. I also feel like we have a voice. I feel that this climate change crisis issue can make us feel um-empowered because it doesn’t seem like there’s much that we can do as individuals. The change really is relying on government and policy and technology. So, I think it would be great to feel like we can use our music in a positive way to affect even some kind of mindset change for our audience.

So, you’re used to playing festivals, you’ve played at last years Womadelaide, how was that experience?
Oh that was incredible! It was amazing. It definitely was a dream come true to play Womad for sure. I think just as I was getting more experience as a performer like I’ve played hundreds of gigs now and as I’m getting older, I’m getting more confident performing. The performing side of things I’m comfortable with and I’m really excited to be a part of OzAsia as I said earlier.

Interview by Anastasia Lambis

Tickets from OzAsia

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