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Cultural diversity in music is very much at the forefront of a nationwide conversation. With artists like REMI, Sampa The Great, Sensible J, HAU, A.B Original and Dan Sultan all doing their part to deliver key messages through their music and their platform, we really can see the impact it is making.

As part of this year’s Melbourne Festival, TZU’s Joelistics and ARIA-nominated producer James Mangohig have created an hour-long work titled, “In Between Two”. In a nutshell, we learn about their family histories and what it was like growing up in 90s Australia when the White Australia Policy was in full swing.

Each have a family heritage that stems from China and the Philippines, and this work explored the migration of their grandparents and how they related to their family members outside of Australia. Sadly, this show missed the mark for me. If it was supposed to stir even greater conversation about racism in music, it didn’t. It felt like a dinner party where the two just shared stories about their families.

If anything, the last 10 minutes of the show should have formed the basis of the work, and elaborated on how racism in the Australian music scene has perhaps grown (or not). No new ideas were brought to the table and the few moments where their original music played part of the narrative, well it just felt clunky and disjointed.

There is value in their stories, I just suggest finding a stronger angle.

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author: Kara Bertoncini
photo by: William Yang

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