DESIA AFROSOUL The sounds of Africa

Desia AfroSoul is a new Fringe World show that describes the African diaspora, telling the untold stories of many through fusion jazz combined with genuine African sounds. The show is something of a dream realised for Perth’s own R&B, gospel, pop singer and rapper Drea, who is joined by a band who share similar experiences for an evening of highs, lows, and everything in between, at Cinema at Camelot on Wednesday, February 9. KWANWOO HAN caught up with Drea to learn how music remains a central part of African culture and community.

Congrats on bringing Desia AfroSoul to fringe 2022! How does it feel to present the show?

Thank you! It feels great to be able to be a part of this festival. For a while it’s been one of my goals in my music career so to see it come to fruition is such a win for me and my friends.

The name, Desia AfroSoul, is a rather unique sounding name. What does it mean?

I actually didn’t come up with the name. The musical director Alfred Bangezhano has been sitting on this project for a while. We spoke about it this time last year and we are finally presenting it.

Desia Afrosoul was the working title for what had been loosely known as “the AfroSoul Project.” It’s a play on the word aphrodisiac, referring to the smooth, sexy nature of the sound.

The African community in Australia is scattered, but still present. How would you describe the community?

Honestly, it can be described in a few words; connected but confused. I can only speak as a young adult whose parents have migrated to Australia and spent more than half my life here. I feel a connection with other Africans around me because I know we have left countries that are full of strife and worry but I also feel like I don’t connect with other Africans because we all come from various walks of life.

Desia AfroSoul will feature genuine African sounds combined with jazz. How would you describe ‘African sounds’?

African sounds are percussive, with distinct melodies. The thing that I find most with Afro styles is it’s extremely hard for me to stand still! There are a lot of changing rhythms which can be hard to follow but make it all part of the fun.

Music is a pretty big part of culture, no matter where you go. What got you started in music?

My family. For those who don’t know, my nuclear family are all extremely talented musicians. We all started our music careers in church. My dad is a sound engineer but also plays the keyboard, bass and drums. My mum sings, my sister sings and now DJs and my brother is a drummer and bassist. We played in a church band together for years and still do sometimes now. It’s such a big part of our lives that there is either someone practicing, singing or listening to music in our house at every hour of the day. It is how we connect with each other and how we connect with God. I honestly wouldn’t know what my life would look like without my family and our music!

Desia AfroSoul will also be telling the untold stories of many. What is a common trait among the African diaspora?

I think at some point there is a loss of identity. We all know we look different from most people, speak differently and sometimes can act differently to. I know for a fact that sometimes we don’t know who we truly are because we are disconnected from our homeland and struggle to connect to the lands we live on today.

The show will be presenting powerful stories and music of a scattered community. What should the audience expect or take from the performance?

The audience should expect storylines, highs, lows and the reality of what it’s like to be in a place that really is not your own. There is so much more to someone’s story than what they present to most.

The main take is that people need to understand that all our experiences will be different but there is value in that. We take these experiences, build on them and try our best to live at peace with one another.

It’s also to enjoy a different style of music that I personally haven’t seen a lot of in Perth!

When you close your eyes and someone says “Africa,” what do you imagine?

I think of my great-grandmother’s house. She has recently gone to be with the Lord but my most authentic experience of Africa was when I went back to celebrate her 90th birthday. She knew we were coming to visit her so she grew a turkey for us so we could see it, catch it and then have a meal.

She was also huge on community and that is something I believe that Africans do very well. She allowed anyone and everyone into her house, fed them and gave them something to drink. She allowed people to come in and just sit down and chat. That is what I think of – a place where family and community is the most important. We celebrate each other and we carry on traditions as much as we can.

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