It's a blustery London evening, but upon stepping into The Borderline in Soho, it could just as likely be a balmy summer evening in the Antipodes. After a seemingly ill-fitting hip hop support act, Blue King Brown, an Australian urban roots outfit, fronted by Natalia Pa'apa'a, took to the stage to rapturous cheers from the crowd, an unpretentious melting pot of straight-from-work types alongside girls and boys in wife-beaters and dreadlocks.
The bands flag, reading 'Positive Movement', flanked the microphone stand, the group filling every corner of the small stage, dressed understatedly with Pa'apa'a's trademark Blade Runner style eye makeup the only notable flourish. What followed was an undeniably captivating blend of reggae, blues and roots fuelled by an outfit equally as passionate for music as they are for social justice.
The anecdotes Pa'apa'a shared in between tracks attested to the groups genuine enthusiasm for the issues that are the backbone of their lyrics. Speaking with the crowd about the groups time spent connecting with indigenous Australian's rural communities and sharing the tribulations faced by traditional land-owners in attaining the right to access their land. Socially conscious and politically driven, Blue King Brown prove able to walk their talk and live their message.
An indisputable highlight of the set came when Pa'apa'a introduced the rest of the crowd and Kiwi bred backing vocalist, Jess, led the women of Blue King Brown in a powerful rendition of MÄori Haka chant.
Pa'apa'a closed the set by thanking the crowd for coming together and "celebrating life and music peacefully", a sentiment wholly encapsulating the seamless blend of social awareness and art that Blue King Brown so ardently deliver.
Originally written for and published in the Australian Times, August 11 2009 edition.