Image source: Facebook
About a week ago, I came across this song Welcome To The Neighbourhood as I was making my way through my social media. Drawn to the stage name of the artist, I looked up Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra - and found what I believe to be one of the most interesting and important songs released this year. At first, I thought this was simply just a great song, but the more I listened and the more I looked into this song, the more incredible the song grew for me. So much so that I really want to share it with you all.
To begin with, Matt Hsu is a Brisbane-based multi-instrumentalist who is behind most of what you hear on this song. You can throw a stone in any direction and hit an instrument that Matt knows how to play. And not only that - Matt’s creativity is beyond the 30 instruments he’s mastered - making sound poetry through found objects and soundscapes too (such as 2019’s Found Sound Japan). It was truly wonderful going through his discography and hearing so many unique and experimental sounds come together for a hip hop / r&b / folk / experimental sound, something quite reminiscent of what you might hear on any given record from The Herd.
Next you begin to dive into the vocal performance of this song, where you’ll find an array of diversity - not only through the performers themselves and their artistic backgrounds, but also through the delivery of their message. You have Anisa Nandaula - a Ugandan-Australian spoken word poet and author who introduces the song through spoken word, Solchild - a Jamaican / Indigenous-Australian activist-artist on vocals, Nima Doostkhah - an Iranian-Australian hip-hop artist on vocals, Cieavash Arean - an Iranian-Australian refugee and multi-instrumentalist on the Oud, and Naavikaran - an Indian-born LGBTIQ+ activist and body-movement artist who closes the song through spoken word.
To touch on the themes and messages of Welcome To The Neighbourhood, I’m going to show you what Matt Hsu had to say about the song (as found on Bandcamp):
‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’ is a response to the very real, ongoing Australian issues of unethical detention of people seeking political refuge, black deaths in custody and systemic racism. It is a message of welcome and acknowledgement to those denied safe harbour and fair treatment, and a celebration of people in our community speaking, blockading and standing in solidarity against these injustices.
The creativity and chemistry between the sounds, message, and performance make for a wonderful but important piece of music to listen to in 2020. The balance between art and activism is one that I love to see in our musical and creative spaces, and it’s something that takes form in so many different ways - but this here is a truly amazing and unique piece that I encourage everyone to listen to with your best headphones and undivided attention.
I'm so thankful for finding Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra. I've greatly enjoyed listening to his work, and I'm eager to hear more from the multi-instrumentalist.