Exploring Melbourne Museum’s Summer Plaza Series: three weekends of music adventure

Exploring Melbourne Museum’s Summer Plaza Series: three weekends of music adventure

Jordan Dennis
Words by August Billy

Across three weekends in January, Melbourne Museum will come to life with parties and live music.

The new year is here, but Melbourne Music Week – Extended is far from over. Thankfully, the event program largely comprises artists from or based in Melbourne and surrounds, meaning it’s full steam ahead with the final two months of gigs.

As is typical of Melbourne Music Week, the events are taking place in many of the city’s most revered locations. This includes the Melbourne Museum, which will play host to six nights of outdoor performances across the month of January. Here are three shows not to miss.

The Delorean Project

Local tastemaking agency The Operatives recently celebrated its sweet 16th with a mega party of local hip hop, soul and R&B acts that helped kick off Melbourne Music Week. A few vets from that lineup, including MC Jordan Dennis and latinx soul and R&B singer Khiarra, will also appear as part of The Delorean Project, which goes down at the Museum on Saturday January 9.

The Operatives have dubbed it “a ride into the future of hip hop and R&B” from Naarm/Melbourne and they’ve enlisted more than enough talent to back up this claim. Dennis will be slipping into character as Flyboy Jack, his new alter ego conceived alongside producer Jujo.

Dennis’ past collaborator Denzel M is also on board, flaunting his wit-powered lyrics and influences from rap’s golden age to the present day. Sophiya will bring plenty more hip hop power, tearing a page out of the books of artists like Missy Elliott and Princess Nokia. A number of other rising MCs round out the bill including ThatKidMaz, C000KIE and Caleb.TheRapper.

It’s happening on Saturday January 9 from 6pm. Tickets are $20.

The Tony Allen Experience

Among the many devastating losses of 2020 was Nigerian drummer and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen. Allen is best known for his long-time partnership with Fela Kuti, who he worked with from 1968 to 1979. Allen’s effervescent rhythms underpin many of Fela’s powerful songs of protest and political exigency.

Allen worked with a number of other African mavericks after parting with Fela, including Manu Dibango and King Sunny Adé. In 2007, he was tapped by Gorillaz’ Damon Albarn to play on his The Good, the Bad & the Queen LP. Albarn’s affection for Allen was no secret, given he’d repeated the phrase “Tony Allen got me dancing” several times at the conclusion of Blur’s 2000 single ‘Music Is My Radar’.

Some other collaborators from Allen’s late-career include artists as varied as techno DJ Jeff Mills, French pop eccentric Sebastien Tellier and big beat exemplars Groove Armada.

Melbourne percussionist and producer Zhonu ‘Nui’ Moon has put together a massive lineup to celebrate Allen’s life and career, featuring members of the Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, Ethiopian bass player Yoosa Haile, pianist John McCall and guest vocalists Thando, Bobby Alu, N’fa Jones and Cazeaux O.S.L.O.

It’s happening on Friday January 22 from 6pm. Tickets are $20.

Space Echo Plaza

Space Echo Plaza comes courtesy of two of Australia’s most innovative talent stables and events promoters, Crown Ruler (creators of the Sun Cycle festival) and Wondercore Island (who released Sampa The Great’s debut mixtape back in 2015). More specifically, Space Echo Plaza is a standalone improvisational performance featuring Found Heads Collective, Maria Moles and Aarti Jadu, as well as DJ Shio Otani holding it down between sets.

Found Heads Collective includes drummer Perrin Moss of Hiatus Kaiyote fame, who’s recently been moonlighting under the Clever Austin moniker. Moss goes head-to-head with Chilean-born, Cuban-trained percussionist Javier Fredes, while bigwig jazz pianist Barney McAll and tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson let rip over the top.

Maria Moles (of Jaala and On Diamond) will deliver a solo drum kit set, expanding on the sounds heard on her 2020 LP, Opening, which saw her receive a Music Victoria Award nomination, and Jadu is kicking things off with a blend of minimal classical, distorted folk beats and processed wordless melodies.

The show goes down on Saturday January 23. Tickets are $20.


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Melbourne Museum’s Summer Plaza Series goes down from Friday January 8 until Saturday January 23 as part of Melbourne Music Week – Extended. Tickets are on sale now via the MMW or Melbourne Museum website.

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