A small town in rural eastern Australia is located along a flowing river. It has a rich history and a vibrant hip-hop scene. Bowraville, an "mission" aEUR is an indigenous community that was deliberately segregated from whites in the 19th Century.
Tasman Keith was born in Bowraville. Like his father, he is a rapper who uses his music and history to understand his community and home.
Keith tells All Things Considered that after colonization, the government and churches used missions to segregate and whitewash our history. "The mission has become a source of pride over time. We've claimed it as like our entire family is here, so let's have fun with that."
Ari Shapiro, co-host of All Things Considered, met Keith to learn about his journey to create A Colour Undone, Keith's new album.
This conversation has been edited.
Ari Shapiro, All Things Considered - What role does hip hop play in making a place of oppression & division a place that is inclusive and proud?
Tasman Keith says that it has given us a voice after being virtually voiceless for a long time. That's why many of us turned to hip hop, or music in general. It was our way to express our opinions and change what needs to be done through music.
A track called "Proud" is on this album. Does that relate to what we are talking about?
Yes. It also talks about how sometimes being born as a person aEUR", and an indigenous aEUR", there is a pressure on your to do so for many reasons. You kind of get thrown in. It's important to know that it is okay to do this before you do anything else. It's about making sure I'm happy and in a place where I understand my stuff, my community and my world. Then, I can look at the outside world with that perspective.
This is your inheritance aEUR", and I don't mean just the history that you're inheriting. You are the son of a rapper.
Yeah. Yes, it is. It's wild aEUR," it's something I grew to believe was normal. [Laughs] My father was on stage with me when I was 8, 9, and 10. He and my mom split up for a while so we would have him every weekend. Sometimes he'd have two shows at once and sometimes he'd be like "Okay, I have to have my sons on the stage with me."
How did that role play in your life? Did you think later that this could be the same for you?
It was freedom to speak your mind and do what you love. My dad did it at a time when Australia was not ready for some of his ideas. I saw him as being very poor and in poverty at the time. After a few weeks it would turn out to be the exact opposite because he had a paycheck from a show. He did it because he loved music and creativity.
Are you sure Australia is ready to take on the challenges you are pointing out now?
It is my belief. I believe what my father taught me. I don't like to point fingers. I come from a place where [I] understand [that], at end of the day everyone is human and has a lack knowledge that we can grow on.
You can listen to the remainder of the conversation by using the audio player at top of page.