Gabriel Akon is angry, but wants to use the fire burning inside him to provide a beacon of hope to the struggling youth of Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
- Gabriel Akon was born in war-torn South Sudan
- He has since become a successful Australian hip hop artist, DyspOra
- He’s inspiring young musicians in Adelaide’s disadvantaged northern suburbs
The hip hop artist known as DyspOra was born in South Sudan amid a civil war and spent years as a child in a refugee camp before settling in Adelaide.
He has been dismayed at how the African community has been portrayed in recent years in Australia, including being blamed for violent crime in Melbourne.
But the years have mellowed him and he’s able to take a step back and take stock, even during the recent global fallout over the death of George Floyd, which prompted Black Lives Matter protests across the US, and in Europe and Australia.
“There’s something I know we need to sort out and deal with and pull our heads in as humanity,” he said.
The 26-year-old is about to release his debut EP and the title of his song ‘Australien’ is telling.
“There’s a generation of, I call them, ‘Australiens’ — they are the ones that want to be Australian, but they get treated like aliens, so they’re somehow on the fringes,” he said.
“I’ve been through a lot of things in my life and at this point I feel like black Superman, and racism is not my kryptonite.”
His career has been on the way up for some time, and includes being nominated for this year’s SA Young Australian of the Year and 2017 Best Male Artist in South Australia.
He also has the 2019 Governor’s Multicultural Youth Award on his growing list of credits and its his work in the community that drives him every day.
The Golden Grove resident has given his time freely for several years to youth in Adelaide’s historically disadvantaged northern suburbs, with up to 70 people being part of his weekly music sessions at Northern Sound System in Elizabeth.
He believes the program is critical to help provide hope for often-disenfranchised teenagers.
With the pandemic shutting down his music base Northern Sound System, Akon had to get creative and went out and helped buy microphones for the singers he works with.
This has allowed them to record their own music at home, while Zoom video chat sessions have become a regular way of keeping in touch.
DyspOra an inspiration for aspiring musicians
Kaye Lou is one of Akon’s emerging talents.
“Dys has just been like a really big inspiration cause you know, he puts his music out and not just his music,” said Kaye.
“He goes out and speaks to people and really encourages them to do what they love.”
Music has helped her through an ongoing major illness and she is determined to build a career in the industry.
“The dream would be to be able to do my own things like have my name out there and people be like, oh my god, I want this girl to perform, oh my god I’m so excited, Kaye Lou,” she said.
It’s a dream also shared by 18-year-old Indigenous singer Phillip Graham, or Phylo, who had a tough upbringing with his mother in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
Discovered by Akon while he was still at school, Phylo skipped plenty of his time in Year 11 to work on his music.
But he still managed to get his work done and graduate.
He is now working to build a hip-hop career and be his own beacon for the next generation.
“A lot of kids come up to me and say yeah I love that, I love what you’re doing and just hearing that is crazy, that like a little kid from like a flat can inspire another kid in Elizabeth.”
His mentor can see a bright future ahead for both Kaye Lou and Phylo.
“The amount of pain and struggle he’s been through, but still choosing to not let that light inside disappear, it’s very easy to give up, to become a victim of your circumstances,” Akon said.
He will continue creating his music and helping to produce the next wave of musicians for South Australia’s music industry.
At the same time he’ll be keeping a watchful eye on what happens when the pandemic is over and if racist violence again rears its ugly head in Australia.
“Are we going to go back to bashing our communities that for the larger part haven’t really done the things we’re bashing them for?”