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Blue King Brown Rize Up

The Australian outfit comes to Whistler with new songs and a strong message
big sound Blue King Brown bring their activism and urban reggae groves back to Whistler. Photo submitted

Blame it on the weather.

Australian urban-reggae band Blue King Brown are on a schedule that runs in the opposite direction of most musicians. Rather than embarking on a worldwide tour after they release a new album, the group is smack in the middle of a massive cross-Canada trek with brand new songs waiting to be recorded upon their return home.

"We want to be able to come back," says frontwoman Natalie Pa'apa'a from the side of the road somewhere in Saskatchewan. "It's a timing thing. Obviously, the world works on different time zones. Your summer festivals are happening now."

Still, the group has offered a taste of their yet-to-be-recorded release in the form of a single. "Rize Up" sticks to their signature brand of uplifting activist music, though Pa'apa'a says they've also got some love songs up their sleeves. "The new single is the first lead single for our new album," she says. "We haven't got an exact release date yet. I can say we're going to be releasing another single and the momentum building up to the album release has already begun."

The track itself was inspired by a "cross section of the last five years," she says. "Everything from the first Arab Spring to the Occupy movement around the world. The student movements in Chile and Montreal. Idle No More in Canada. The song is also about reaching out to our international community that has yet to engage with activism and changing our world for the better."

Blue King Brown formed around 2004 when Pa'apa'a met bassist Carlo Santone in Byron Bay. After they both moved to Melbourne they began to hunt for other musicians looking for a band. "We always had a goal to tour internationally, so we got out as soon as we could," she says, adding they recently played gigs everywhere from Japan to London and the Netherlands. "(In Australia) we were in the back of a van driving most places because airfare is too expensive, staying on friends' couches and couch surfing... We built a good fanbase doing festivals and we had a single that was played on radio nationally. That really helped."

Drawing on political causes for inspiration, the band's music strikes a chord with the politically conscious music-lover, but also plain ol' reggae fans. "Music, by its nature, has always been an instrument for storytelling since the beginning of music making," Pa'apa'a says. "Artists need to be true to their own inspiration. Some musicians like ourselves are very outspoken about what we chose to engage in, on and off stage."

Currently, their main focus is to highlight the plight of the people in West Papua, a province in Indonesia and the home country of two of their back-up singers. "It's close to Australia and it's been oppressed and occupied for the last 50 years," Pa'apa'a says. "We're raising our voices very loud and just about every person that comes up to us says, 'I've never even heard about West Paupau' and they speak to the girls because that's where they're from. They have heart-wrenching stories. It's a country that's crying out for its voice to be heard. That's something we're passionate about for this tour."

Despite the serious subjects, their live show is an upbeat affair. "We're a band that really prides itself on our live show," she says. "There are nine of us all together. We have a tour van that's become like a second home. It can be a crazy time, but we have a good crew."

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