For the last ten years, Strawberry Fields has put on a celebration of art, music and creativity in the wildlands of NSW.
For an event that’s big on diversity, community and expression, it’s fitting that Gordon Koang will join the lineup in 2019.
Koang is from the Upper Nile region of South Sudan and fuses traditional Neur rhythms from the area with English and Arabic influences. As he tells us, Koang plays the thom, a wooden banjo-like instrument, alongside his cousin, Paul Biel, who plays the tabla.
“They go together with piano, guitar and bass and a lot of drums”. Here, Koang is referring to the six-person band he currently performs with in Australia.
He’s not shy to show his admiration for those he plays alongside either, telling us, “We’ve got a very great band here in Melbourne. We really bring the band together to the same voice.”
Koang will have a lot of tracks to draw from for his set at Strawberry Fields, having released ten albums all up, as well as his new single ‘Asylum Seeker’. Having performed all across the world, Tocumwal is the next stop for Koang alongside some of Australia and the world’s biggest producers and artists.
The likes of Gerd Janson, Bob Moses, Derrick May, Mildlife, and a raft of others will be taking to Strawberry Fields. For this, he says he is, “very grateful to be coming and performing.
“It’s very exciting”, he admits, declaring that, “The music is my life. I love it so much”.
Already steeped in a dancefloor sensibility, the addition of bass and keyboard players in Koang’s band has done wonders to the songwriter’s ability to set the floor and create groove. “Come up and party,” he says. “Move your body – you can dance now.”
But his music is more than just a means for dance, it’s a way for Koang to forge cultural bridges and further diversify Australia’s music consciousness. “My music means love, unity and that we walk together as a team among the communities.”
“This is the way we do music,” he explains. “Talking about love, peace and unity.”
Strawberry Fields punters will also be privy to some of Koang’s latest music, including ‘Asylum Seeker’ and its B-side, ‘South Sudan’. He’s also currently working on his 11th album, which reflects his move to Melbourne, adjustment to life in Australia and his take on the world around him.
‘Asylum Seeker’, as Koang explains, is for, “People who are waiting for their permanent residency – including me. So the song goes, ‘My dear asylum seekers/We know you are waiting for your permanent visa/And we know you’ve been waiting for a long time.’
“Some people have been waiting seven years, ten years; me, I’ve been five years waiting for it. It’s really difficult.”
Contrasting this, Koang wrote his unreleased track ‘To You My People’ after spending time in Tasmania, where the message is, “To you my people/To you my audience/We are singing the song for you with love always.”
It’s clear that Koang has a love for Melbourne and Australia and wants to continue to give the people here his gift of music. He humbly admits, “People in Melbourne are family. They love me. They love my music. And also, I love them. When I’m performing, they shout, ‘Gordon, do one more!’, which makes me very happy.”
Get up and dance with Koang and his band by heading to Strawberry Fields in November. It’ll be a good one.
Gordon Koang comes to Strawberry Fields when the festival hits Tocumwal from Friday November 29 to Sunday December 1. The festival is sold out but join the waitlist via the festival website.