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Platform1 Hip Hop Festival - All Aboard

Author: Jane Stabler
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
The four elements combine in the former train workshop Carriageworks this weekend for the inaugural Platform1 Hip Hop Festival, combining workshops in the hip hop arts with performances from Australia’s leading practitioners of MCing, DJing, breaking and graff-writing. 3D’s Jane Stabler spoke to curator Nick Power.

Hip hop in this country seems to be going from strength to strength. Things have changed a lot from the early beginnings when the general population couldn’t stomach an ocker accent coming from the mouth of lyricists to today’s popularity of, and respect garnered by the likes of the Hilltop Hoods. The hip hop movement Down Under can’t be denied, and it is the commitment and talent of those involved in the scene that has spawned the likes of the Platform 1 Hip Hop Festival, soon to be taking place at Carriageworks.

With its underground and completely unconventional feel, the Carriageworks venue is a snug fit with many of the elements of hip hop, and Artistic Director of the festival Nick Power admits that once he’d seen it, he basically refused to hold Platform 1 anywhere else.

“Absolutely there was not any other venue I wanted after seeing Carriageworks,” Power reveals. “The thing is, I do a few different events, I do a Battle City up in Brisbane with breaks, where we cordoned off the streets and do a big street party, and I walked into Carriageworks and I thought this would be great for a hip hop festival. [Carriageworks were] behind it from the start - they even flew up to Brisbane to see what I was doing up there. I just think it’s such a great space, and it’s got a history of hip hop with all the graffiti writers. The Everleigh yards are well known for graffiti, and there were parties there. Plus [Carriageworks] have been so supportive of my vision they’ve been 100 percent behind me all the way and haven’t tried to change anything. Sometimes it happens with arts companies, when they’re established and they have a reputation to retain, they can try to change things. But when I said I wanted the image for the festival to be a guy in a balaclava spray painting, they were like ‘cool’, and I knew it was going to work!”

Carriageworks aren’t the only ones expressing interest in the festival. So far Power says the response has been incredible and the hip hop community has had nothing but praise for the initiative. The representation of all the elements of the genre is definitely helping, but the inclusion of not so stereotypical elements is also pushing the idea out to the greater population. Plus the involvement of hip hop frontrunners such as Morganics doesn’t hurt, either.

“We’ve had so much positive feedback, and its been one hundred percent positive,” the Artistic Director enthuses. “We’ve had no problem with anyone and we’ve come straight up with a hip hop festival where all the elements are presented. We’ve worked really hard and Carriageworks have supported the vision really well and have done a great job. I’ve enjoyed having the headspace to have such a big workload. We want to create a festival that really involves the Sydney hip hop community and make some really interesting stuff. We’ve tried to mix it up a bit more with things like the photographic exhibition.”

Having spent a lifetime (in hip hop terms) in his chosen industry, Power has rubbed shoulders with the movers and shakers of the scene. This has inevitably set him in good stead to be at the helm of something like Platform 1, and his high profile friends were more than happy to help him out when his idea for this festival started brewing.

“The thing is I’ve been at it for about sixteen or seventeen years,” Power considers. “And the people I’ve worked with like Mystery from Brethren, when I was working in Brisbane, he flew up to work with us - and Morganics and myself have worked together on projects. So you continually work with people who are active in the culture, the people who forget about the bullshit and just get on with it. They’re the kind of people you want involved.”

Looking at the festival line-up, there is no doubting that Power has indeed managed to surround himself with people who are willing to help, and in doing so he has created an event that highlights the plethora of hip hop talent, in all its forms, right here on our doorstep. And although it’s a difficult thing to ask any daddy to pick favourites, Power will admit that he is most excited about the Flexing Skills component of his festival child. But like any doting father he struggles to stop with just praise for one aspect of the event.

“I think Flexing Skills is going to be a really interesting gig because it’s an unknown entity,” he enthuses. “You’ve got sixteen really talented artists and you have four teams of four and they’re picked out of a hat on the night. They’re randomly picked and they have to get up and rock a ten-minute set and make it work. Then the crowd chooses the best two for a final. And the B-boy – B-girl battle is close to my heart because I’m a breaker.”

Even closer to his heart is Power’s personal love of performing, but Platform 1 will see the Artistic Director take a step offstage and remain behind the scenes for the duration, something he has mixed feelings about.

“I was supposed to be in Stiltbreak but I have this ankle injury,” Power reveals, somewhat dismayed. “But when you perform and it’s as nerve-wracking as it is, you have to have your head in the right space, and because I directed [the festival], I can enjoy really watching it without having so much stress and pressure to perform.”

There’s no such pressure release for the freestyling hip hop souls who have agreed to take part in the flexing however. Power admits that while some of them are psyched by the idea, others find the concept a little bit daunting.

“Some of them are like ‘yeah I’m gonna take it out’,” he laughs. “And some of them are a little bit hesitant. The thing is with hip-hop, is that freestyling is an art form and each of the artists are really good freestyling artists, so within it you’ll have these moments of cohesive magic but and there’ll be some moments where it all falls down. And that’s just part of it.”

WHO: Nick Power
WHAT: Directs Platform 1 Hip Hop Festival, CarriageWorks
WHEN: Friday 28 – Saturday 29 March