University is a place to learn, a place to lay the foundation for your future career, and a place to develop ideas. But for most people, social discovery trumps often mediocre degrees that aren’t properly thought out. For Sydney music collective The Posse meeting at the Conservatorium of music was the perfect environment for a creative merger. Despite the fact that they aren’t huge advocates for their degree, after meeting through their Bachelors of Music in Jazz Performance, they have been literally instrumental in developing the afrobeat, ska and jazz scenes locally.
For them, their collective functions as a record label and a place to focus the direction of their music. “The more people you’ve got, the more ideas you have bouncing around, the more discourse you have, the more questions you ask and the more problems that get solved. It’s more fun, and there are more good times when there are more people around,” says Michael Gordon, a relaxed, scruffy kind of guy who plays in three of the bands involved in The Posse. After talking to him and listening to his music, it was obvious that the passion he has for his project resonated in the vibrancy of the collective’s music.
Afrobeat and Ska are genres of music that have merged the sounds of 60s and 70s African pop with western jazz influences. The music is compositionally simple, but as Gordon says, “you need really good musicians to embellish it and create something that brings it to life.” The afrobeat scene in Sydney isn’t very big – it comprises The Liberators, one of the bands in The Posse, and three other notable bands that have either rivaled them or previously played with them. Frank Dassent, a member of The Liberators and two other bands in The Posse, says that it’s because it’s not a very practical genre of music to play, “it takes a lot of people to play in an afrobeat band, it’s usually around 8 to 10 people. And, it’s not easy music to play either, so you need people that are quite decent at their instruments.”
Project Collective Ska, one of the other bands in The Posse, have just won their heat at the Sydney University band competition. As Dassent says, they had the option to have fun with their performance, “Our music was probably the loosest but the tightest, we didn’t fuck anything up. We knew what we were doing, so it meant we had the decision to make it loose.”
The members of this collective have developed impeccable technical skills from their time at the Con, from jazz compositions to alto solos, they have now become masters of their trades. “We played a lot of boring music for a long time,” says Dassent, but that just means they value playing in these bands even more.
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