“We represent diversity, we represent peace, we represent love, we represent unity.”
Music In Exile is a not-for-profit record label and artist services organisation aiming to increase access to resources, and to build networks in the music industry for artists from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. With a myriad of dynamic artists on the roster, they aim to reflect the multicultural reality of Australia’s music scene and help artists forge their own ways into the industry.
We were fortunate enough to have Boubacar Gaye, drum master in band Ausecuma Beats, speak to his experience as an African musician in Australia. Ausecuma Beats are a Melbourne based nine-piece and members of the Music In Exile stable. The bands music is a melting pot of sounds featuring a West African rhythm section of doun doun, djembe, balafon and congas alongside sax, guitar, bass and drums, members hail from Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Cuba and Australia.
What inspired you to perform?
“I like performing. I like to share my culture with the community, and to share that culture I have to give 100% when I perform, so for them also they can receive my energy through my performance. Performing is a challenge, but it’s good for me. This tests what I’m capable of. This crowd, not only bigger crowds, even small kids crowds… My work until now is teaching kids – kinder, school, workshops, and what I’ve learned from them is amazing. And it’s very fun. So, I transform, I want to transform that to the bigger community. And to perform that I need skill, I need to see what the crowds need. Read the crowd and be ready to give them the best of me. The life of artists is the need to perform, to challenge yourself in a better way.”
When did you start performing in Australia? Did you get much support?
“No, when I came here I didn’t like the way other people were talking about the culture, where I was born.” Boubacar describes struggling with being told what to do by others, facing judgment and the challenges of being new to English. “You know…English is not my first language. English is my third language that I speak. So that was not easy. [I was ] scared of spelling, talking, people trying to correct me. I was a little bit not sure when I would speak, but again, I come back to being an artist, being a performer, this liberates me of that mentality.” While struggling to find his place, struggling to find a band within his African community here and a place where his skills would be appreciated, he forged his own path. “So I was doing busking, I was doing everything. The journey was not easy…But, I always have my belief in the way I see things.”
How has your heritage influenced your music?
“Yes, well, you know, I’m African. And I’m from the West of Africa, where percussion is a big part of our community. So, we play percussion, we play drums for a lot of occasions, which is happy, parties, babies born, or funerals. All of those activities, drum is always there. Drum used to be how to communicate before telephone.” He describes scenes of families playing drums in the streets of Africa, and how in the past the sound of the drums could act as the local newspaper, the drum beat being a way of communicating local announcements. Now, he is sharing his own drum sound in Ausecuma Beats. “That’s the reason why I represent the culture, I represent that culture, and I wanted to share it with the West, and I think everything I do is, basically, from my background.
Do you have any tips for those who want to get into the Australian music industry but don’t know how?
“Those who want to get to the Australian musical industry, I guess this is all, make sure you have the connection in Australia…The only thing that I can say is make sure you’re in the right team, you know, select good musicians, or be part of a positive band…because musicians, bands have to be family,” he says. “Everybody’s supporting each other from so many angles. Because like I say, English is not our first language. So, when you want to be part of the band, which is, half of the band [Ausecuma Beats] they’re from Australia. The mentality is different. In that case, be patient but also be who you are. Be proud of yourself – young, African, and believing in your knowledge of music. And to represent the culture and try to develop it in a way that the community can benefit more.” Boubacar’s final piece of advice is about finding the harmony of being true to oneself and hitting the right balance. “Express yourself and also receive, but also that it’s more giving than take,” he explains, “we come here with knowledge, but we have to also learn the Western lifestyle to make the balance happen.”
How important is representation in the music industry to you?
“It’s very important to represent our art, like what I say, to represent the culture in the better way, in the positive way,” he says, though he has experienced some of the negatives of being visible “of course there’s a lot of ways people say we are skin color, you know, call us black… but, I think I will be always happy if I’ve been represented, actually, in the true and honest [of] who I am, which is very important.” He explains what true representation means to him – “If somebody says ‘This is Boubacar Gaye from Senegal and he’s a master drummer, he’s been to a lot of places around the globe. And this is what he does for a living. And this is who is listening to that sound’ it just makes me proud because that’s actually who I am.” Adding happily that “also the Ausecuma Beats band, we represent diversity, we represent peace, we represent love, we represent unity. We represent respect.”
What do you think are the main challenges faced by newly-arrived migrants and refugees in Australia?
“The challenge of new migrants and refugees coming to Australia of course, there will be culture shock. Very big shock” he says. “I’m not a refugee… I don’t understand exactly how they will feel so it’s difficult for me to talk on behalf of them… I didn’t use the same way to migrate. I migrate through music, music takes me out from Africa and makes me who I am today.” He believes that it’s different for everybody but that you have to take every opportunity, to find the good in those opportunities and not waste them. “It’s not easy, it’s challenging. It’s challenging…there’s always the negative way but there’s always the positive way.”
What’s next for you? Any gigs we can come along to?
“Well, I think from here, the plan is to fly to Africa to record something amazing, which is the third album, the album with the band. And I’m expecting to come back here with something phenomenal in music,” Boubacar tells us, letting us in on Ausecuma’s next planned release. “The project is not a small project. It’s a big project, and there’s so many good musicians involved in there, and I’m looking forward to meeting them, and to put my mind in there and to show them the plan,” he says about his trip to Africa. “The work starts with love and peace and harmony and then ending with happiness and joy we will remember the good times.” Although there’s no gigs planned due to this trip, he says that people should still listen to their second album, their 2021 release Musso, or search out their EP’s and music already available online while we wait for the next tour, “that’s the only part missing… doing the touring of Australia to show more, show more music, more culture.”
What artists are you listening to right now?
“I listen to a lot of Senegalese music…I listen to Malian music… I listen to Jimmy Cliff. I’m mostly listening to African folk, the African traditional music, because that’s what I love deep inside.” And of course, he says, “I listen to my band Ausecuma beats, because we are an amazing band. I believe we have fantastic representation in the music industry.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“I’d like to share Ausecuma Beats! It’s everywhere around the world. So hopefully we will have a chance to go do a European tour. I think that’s the aim of the band. European tour and Australia tour. And yeah make our music be global so everywhere people can hear us and also can understand our story.” For Boubacar personally, it’s all about the music and the togetherness it brings, “I like to create, I like to make musicians come together. I believe in uniting. I believe all together we are powerful, we can do a lot of things.” Though he knows he faces challenges he is ready to work hard for what he believes in – “You know, I believe it’s not easy, that’s one of the things being a band leader. There’s a lot of challenge, but I accept the challenge.” He says that ultimately, at the end of the day “it’s easy, to just direct the road in the positive way because we all want to work, enjoy the music and look after family.”
Ausecuma Beats are an ensemble band with members from many different corners of the world, built on a philosophy of ‘transplanting cultural heritage to contemporary cities’. You can find their music on Bandcamp and Spotify or in your local record store. Follow them on Instagram for updates.