‘I DJ’ed for J Milla at the Giiyong Festival in front of 4,000 people! I’m seventeen, two years ago I had no idea what I was going to do. Music and a bit of help has changed my life.’ That’s the story of Mali Nakalevu, a young producer and DJ from the inner-west of Sydney.

Mali started her musical journey at Glebe Youth Service (GYS), a place where local kids often gather after school and in the early evenings. It’s a not-for-profit charity that provides a safe space and creative opportunities for teens and one of those opportunities is in the music studio that TAG Cares helped equip.

Back in 2021 I’d encouraged Technical Audio Group (TAG) to assist GYS with equipment for the new music studio.’ Explained Chris Hamer-Smith. ‘So, when I joined TAG and formed the Nakama Arts programs GYS was one of my top priorities.’

Chris was able to spend time formulating programs that would engage the teens, introducing a weekly one on one music production workshop called ‘The Platform’ facilitated by Utility, a prominent Hip-Hop producer and the founder of Sydney-based record label Trackwork.

In collaboration with Heaps Decent, Chris also began a regular Wednesday afternoon ‘Open Studio’ session with mentors Lorenz Prichard and Tom Elliott, aimed more as a drop-in for anyone interested to get in the studio and have a go at music-making.

It was at ‘The Platform’ where Mali initially created her first beats and what started as an after-school hobby swiftly evolved into a fervent passion, propelling her to become a regular attendee at the Wednesday studio sessions also. Her commitment didn’t go unnoticed with Chris and Utility recognising her potential, both helping her develop production skills in the studio and providing mentoring support.

Around the same time Chris had been asked by Deadly Connections, a First Nations community organisation, to provide DJ equipment and a sound system for their monthly community events. Seeing an opportunity for upcoming DJ’s to perform at these events, and also commercial functions, he started a program of DJ workshops on Friday afternoons at TAG’s Stanmore office.

Known as ‘The Blend’, local headline DJ Krystel Diola jumped on board as tutor/mentor and quickly made it her own with Mali being one of her top students. ‘Despite having limited access to equipment outside the workshops, Mali’s commitment is really impressive. She continually refines her technical skills and embodies the dedication of a true producer and lover of music’. Enthused Krystel.

In October 2023 Mali DJ’ed for First Nations rapper Kootsie Don at Parramatta Lanes Festival. The success of that performance led to the invitation from J Milla, a venerable First Nations rapper from Darwin, to support him at the Giiyong Festival.

It makes me feel so good, seeing people enjoy my work, knowing I’ve created the same feeling in them that I feel.’ Commented Mali. ‘I’ve got a long way to go but I’ve realised that this is what I want to do, it’s given me real direction and helped me find a constructive and creative pathway. I’m really happy progressing every day and it’s something I can help others with.’

Recognising the importance of passing on her love for music and how it has given her purpose, Mali is now dedicating time to mentoring the next generation of talents at the GYS music studio. Her mentees, aged ten to fifteen, benefit from her knowledge in beat-making, recording and songwriting. ‘Mali has shown a great sense of community leadership and purpose and her desire to give back is truly humbling.’ Observed Utility. ‘We can’t wait to see what the future holds. She’s super talented and determined – we’re learning from her now!’

Mali’s story was officially recognised when she was awarded the City of Sydney’s Betty Makin Community Youth Award for her outstanding commitment to community enrichment through music mentorship. ‘Chris, Krystel and Utility have been a constant support and help in my musical journey.’ Said Mali. ‘I’m an example of what can happen when there are community spaces with creative opportunities and the right people around to help.’

Photograph: LADSTREET

While we’ve been waiting for council approval on the construction of our music studio in Bourke, we’ve been working away at a small barbershop space within the same building. Where locals can get a fresh cut and also have opportunity to skill up and train to cut hair themselves.

More details soon, cannot wait!

We are honoured to have played a small part in putting this powerful piece of music together, helping assist with the mix and master at our NKA Studio in Sydney.
We love Kobie and everything he stands for!

Artwork by Oumoula Mckenzie

| STREAM NOW |

Earlier this year, Buddy Hippi came up with a plan to transform an empty shipping container into a self-contained music studio to serve as an extension of the cultural education and healing services he provides for the youth of Boggabilla.

Creative Director/owner of Winangali Infusion, Buddy spent his teenage years in Boggabilla and has a transformative vision for the youth of the town, especially the First Nations youth.

‘We heard about the great work Winangali Infusion was doing via our mutual friend Sydney rapper and Gomeroi man Kobie Dee.’ Said Chris Hamer-Smith, head of Nakama Arts. ‘Buddy needed some assistance to develop a music program that shares the basics of songwriting, music production and Rap, similar to the Art of Rap program that we have undertaken with Kobie’s assistance in Bourke NSW.’   

The brief matched Nakama Arts’ charter perfectly. Wholly owned and funded by TAG, Nakama Arts exists to ‘assist artists who otherwise might not have opportunity.’  

The request to Nakama Arts was to fund the purchase and renovation of the container and provide the necessary studio equipment including midi keyboards, A&H mixer, QSC speakers, Audio-Technica headphones and microphones, computers, cabling and – don’t sweat it – an aircon! 

The town of Boggabilla lies in the far north of inland New South Wales and has a population of around 1000 with over 50% identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders. Like many other remote Australian towns, this close-knit community bears the weight of isolation and absence of many urban amenities.  

Four years ago, TAG Cares was able to offer support in Boggabilla by supplying and installing an audio system in the community centre. During the process the team became acutely aware of the town’s needs, depletion of services and dearth of activities for the youth which in turn created a sense of boredom leading to destructive behaviour and high crime rates in the town. 

Having once trod his own challenging path, Buddy’s experiences shaped his commitment to steering the youth towards something more positive. His journey is more than a personal one; it is a testament to the redemptive power of cultural wisdom and resilience. 

As a Gomeroi Songman, he embodies the cultural heritage to pass down songs to the next generation, and it is this heritage that he channels as the glue binding the growth of Boggabilla’s youth. 

‘It’s my cultural obligation as a Gomeroi person.’ He says. ‘Our people have been denied the opportunity to heal, learn and understand themselves. We work to actively collaborate and increase awareness and education so we can live alongside a system that is accountable and inclusive. Our mission is to use these ‘edu-cultural’ healing practices to enable self-empowerment and growth.’ 

With Buddy and Kobie both coming from similar communities and with cultural kinship connections to the area there was a clear understanding of how the music program would meet the needs of the youth. Not just as a physical space but a beacon of purpose, offering the youth a canvas to express, learn, and grow through art, music, song, dance, and language.  

Its convenient location means kids can walk to the studio after school and it has already become a vibrant hub for the younger ones to have fun and introduce themselves to the new music equipment and empower from within. 

In addition, a tight knit group of teens has also discovered the studio and found a new sense of purpose. The space has become a creative haven for them and given them a sense of belonging especially after graduating school.  

‘The lads have said that music is now a part of their future and they’re set on what they want to do.’ Said Buddy. ‘Having contributed on their journeys we have a compelling responsibility to support and assist them for as long and as far as their talent and passion takes them. Some of them are at a fork in the road and making hard choices between very different pathways. We need to guide them in a positive direction. That’s really what this is all about, then it’s up to them.’

The emerging Boggabilla rappers are already on the bill of the launch event, scheduled for January 26th, and will be performing Hip-Hop tracks they’ve written for the occasion. There’s a lot of effort and work going on in the studio in preparation, which indicates that one of the studio’s founding concepts is already beginning to bear fruit.  

‘There’s no shortage of skills, passion and capability amongst this community.’ Said Hamer-Smith. ‘Buddy and his team are incredibly positive and talented and their commitment to the next generation as role models, mentors and guides is truly humbling. To have played a small part in helping this vision become a reality is a huge privilege for us.’  

| WINANGALI INFUSION WEBSITE |

We’re stoked to announce that we have Kobie Dee and P.Smurf heading out to Bourke these school holidays to run our Art of Rap Workshop!

When: Tuesday, 3rd of October from 2pm
Where: Men’s Hub on Meek St

Don’t miss this chance to write and record with two of Australia’s most talented rappers.
If you have any questions you can get in touch via info@nakama-arts.com.au.

Happy newest release to Stephen Wilson & Minty (Caleb Sutherland)!

Their new collaboration ‘Gone’ is out today on all digital platforms through Darkwood Studio RLS.
We were fortunate enough to be involved with the release, assisting with mixing and mastering the single at NKA Studio.

| STREAM SONG |

Building is now well underway at our new space in Bourke! This will include a permanent music studio, small barbershop and cafe. The dream is for the space to be community led, run by the community for the community, with everyone welcome.

We’ll be running music workshops with guest mentors and weekly studio sessions for anyone to drop in and get creative – making music and skilling up on music production and recording.
And the barbershop will also provide a space for anyone interested to learn the art of barbering and get a fresh cut themselves.

We’re so excited to see things moving forward! If you have any feedback or ideas don’t hesitate to get in touch via info@nakama-arts.com.au.