I have so much to share with you and so few spaces left to write… at least in this particular format, but I will do my best. I am extremely excited as usual because I am in Sydney and I am finding so many venues that allow hip-hop artist who have a social conscious message to speak… yet at the same time, a bit of a paradox exist, because while people are interested in their message, they have a hard time getting main stream attention.
One place I have visited several times during my stay in Sydney is Krosswerdz. Krosswerds is a Christian based hip-hop church based in Sydney, which has been in existence for 5 years. It meets once per month on the last Saturday of each month (except December). Krosswerdz enacts the four main elements of hip-hop (emceeing, DJing, graffiti and breaking), into their monthly church services. I found out about Krosswerdz from several sources. I believe MC Trey was the first person to suggest I attend a service. The first session I was able to attend was held in October, 2010. I was immediately impressed with several components of the church.
The first theme that I noticed technology was integrated throughout the service. When we were asked to reference our Bible, the church leaders as well as most of the congregation pulled out iPods or other hand-held devices. Marcelo Encina, one of the leaders of Krosswerds explained, using an iPod allows one to reference multiple versions of the Bible at the click of a button. There were two large HDTVs mounted to the walls that were used for several purposes. They played Youtube clips that showed what sister churches around the world were doing, as well as movie clips that were related to sermons. The HDTVs were also used to display the words of the songs performed during the sermons. Integrated into each sermon was a digitized turntable set which different DJs were invited to man at each service.
In addition to the technology, from a pedagogical standpoint, I was interested in how they were able to keep such a young population actively engaged through service. While the service moves along quite quickly, it didn’t seem rushed. This is purposeful. There are several activities that attendees are invited to participate in throughout the service. At the conclusion of service, members and guest are invited to freestyle their rhymes and testimonies (as long as they keep things non-secular). Further, I was incredibly impressed with how diverse the population was and how the church was making an effort to incorporate the exploration of nationalities and ethnicities from around the world.
I spoke with two of the founding members of Krosswerdz, (Marcelo and Matthew Mistery), about Krosswerdz as well as to find out why they chose 2011 to incorporate global cultures into their ministry. Krosswerdz was formed as means of encouraging Christians involved in the Hip-Hop culture and supporting those who felt ostracized by the mainstream Church. There are branches of hip-hop throughout Australia that boast a rapidly growing membership. To view an interactive timeline of Krosswerdz’s history, click here: http://www.dipity.com/krosswerdz/personal/ .
Since Christianity and hip-hop have a global presence, I asked Marcelo if he saw any natural parallels between the two entities. Marcelo noted that most people think of hip-hop and Christianity as natural opposites based on what they perceive hip-hop to be about. However, he observes that both allow a message to be delivered, as well as providing a vehicle to authentically expressing yourself. Marcelo expressed an idea that has resonated throughout most of the interviews that I have conducted with Australian artist; specifically Australian hip-hop, that in order to earn respect on the Australian hip-hop scene, artist are expected to “keep things real”, or to downplay sensationalism [which seems to be prevalent in American hip-hop] in favor of providing a realistic representation of who you are.
In January 2011, they kicked off the theme of celebrating global cultures into the ministry with a celebration of Australian hip-hop. Each month that followed examined hip-hop in a different culture, and made ties to Christianity by inviting artist and guest to speak about their own background and experiences as part of the church service. Monthly themes included inviting a host of people each month from different national or ethnic backgrounds to perform hip-hop, as well as speak about their background. For example, June celebrated hip-hop Latin style. May celebrated Indigenous hip-hop. April featured hip-hop Africana, while March featured American hip-hop artist (I was a guest speaker). February showcased Pacific Islander hip-hop. Marcelo explained that when the leadership was trying to come up with its yearly theme, it seemed a natural fit to celebrate the diversity that is represented among the Krosswerdz congregation.
On November 11, 2011, (11.11.11), Krosswerds will host the 5-day long global Christian hip-hop summit, Uprock. Christian churches from around the world that incorporate hip-hop in their ministries will be in traveling down under to celebrate Krosswerdz style. There will be 16 sessions participants can choose to participate that fall under four different themes:
1. Practical skills in the four elements of hip hop
2. Music industry
3. Christian teaching and
4. Community and cultural development.
On top of the sessions, attendees will be able to attend live performances by local and international artists.
I was recently informed that there is another non-secular hip-hop event coming up that sound amazing. There is one other non-secular multi-faith, multicultural, multilingual, event coming up with a strong hip-hop influence. http:// http://www.sydneysacredmusicfestival.org
• Christian Gospel-inspired Hip-Hop in English and Akan featuring Indigenous and wooden instruments, chants, bells and traditional Ghanaian music;
• Muslim Afghan-Australian and Muslim Lebanese-Australian vocal expressions of Islamic hymns, supplications, Qur’an recitations and Poetry, Spoken Word and Hip-Hop in English, Arabic, Farsi, Dari and Urdu;
• Introspective and eloquent Sikh Australian-Indian infusions of lyrical wisdom through Spoken Word and Hip-Hop;
• Soul-swirling Sufi poetry, music and prayer chants (thikr);
• Polynesian-Australian sacred musings through acoustic Hip-Hop, guitar and vocals;
• Fijian-Australian lyrical devotional insights through alluring and spirit-mesmerising Hip-Hop, rhyme and song;
• Acoustic Guitar and Darbouka Hip-Hop fusion;
• Christian African-Arab soul-captivating vocals;
I am looking forward to attending this event, and will let you know how it turns out.
There is always much more to discuss…. I haven’t forgotten… I have several artists to give you a more formal introduction to, such as Maya Jupiter, MC Trey, MC Peril, Matt Mistery, Mind of Matter, and more… Musicians Making A Difference, TedXSydney and hip-hip, as well as Oxfams 3Things Hip-Hop Event …and more… so stay tuned, let me know what you think… as well as what YOU want to know more about.