Updated: Sep 6, 2022
Starting this week, we’ll be running a weekly series spotlighting event organisers and venues that have kept the scene rich and vibrant. So post-lockdown you'll know exactly where to go!
I hate to say it, but here we are in lockdown again. By now, you’ve probably seen the fresh memes that have been circulating the interwebs. The last one I saw featured a man - labelled “Sydney construction workers” - lamenting how the lockdown had been extended to tradies, losing them two weeks of pay. Sitting by his side, listening and completely covered in blood, was a recently crucified Jesus, labelled as the “live music industry”.
The (albeit less literal) crucifixion of the live music scene is why we at JAMs are determined that the movers and shakers of Sydney’s indie music scene aren’t forgotten. Starting this week, we’ll be running a weekly series spotlighting event organisers and venues that have kept the scene rich and vibrant. Even if we can’t be there in real life, picturing or remembering it can be powerful too!
This week, we’re starting with the queens of colour and femme expression who run a series of collective improv jam nights called Frequency Live Jam.
Marginalised no longer
Frequency Live Jam is a series of collective improv jam nights, with a focus on giving a voice to historically underrepresented musicians including women, people of colour and the non-binary, trans and queer community. The jam series, which began in January 2021 and, in a non-lockdown world runs fortnightly, is run by an all-woman trio: event producer Nicolle Lane, alongside independent hip-hop/pop artists ALPHAMAMA and Nardean.
“It’s no secret that the music industry is rife with mistreatment, erasure and ignorance,” Nicolle tells us when asked how Frequency came about.
“One of the things that makes Frequency so special is that it’s run by a team that has lived experience of the marginalisation that can be invisible to those who haven’t been on the receiving end of it. There’s already a long tradition of wonderful and successful jam nights here in Sydney but they can tend to rely on participants having access to a certain kind of musical experience and education. What if you grew up singing in church rather than going to music school? Or didn’t have access to formal music training? Or have never felt safe in a cishet space?”
As women of colour, ALPHAMAMA and Nardean saw the need to create a safe space for musicians of diverse backgrounds. After bringing Nicolle’s events skills into the mix, and with support from Create NSW’s Play the City initiative, Frequency Live Jam was born, and to date has enabled many musicians to land their first live performance.
Experience a night at Frequency
Usually held within the well-loved walls and boozy nooks of the Civic Underground, Frequency always opens with an acknowledgement of country presented by Nardean.
The house band, comprised of regular players - which, depending on the night, may include Chelsea Warner, Dom Carbrera, Curly Hendo and Tina Harris among many others - warms up the crowd by jamming to ALPHAMAMA’s songs, or tunes that have come out of past jam nights. At some point a guest artist (a past guest is Hamilton’s Jimmie Jeter) steps up to take the energy up even higher.
But while all this is happening, you, the audience member, can sign up to jump onstage yourself and take part in a jam, supported by ALPHAMAMA, Nardean, the house band and let’s not forget Jimmy, their sound engineer!
“It’s a truly collaborative process!” says Nicolle who works the crowd by explaining how the jam sessions work and encouraging sign-ups. “We now have a repertoire of Frequency originals to work with too - and that’s where the magic really happens.”
And once you’re on stage, who knows what might happen?
For singer-songwriter Malaika Mfalme, Frequency presented a safe opportunity to come out onstage as non-binary.
“There isn’t anything else like Frequency in Sydney,” says Mfalme. “People of colour are rarely given the opportunity to play with their peers let alone womxn and non binary people. In a field dominated by cis white men I cannot stress the importance of this space enough. It allows us to grow, change, connect but most importantly heal with our community. The continuation of Frequency will only allow these communities to thrive.”
Life in lockdown
Now that they’re in lockdown, the team has hunkered down with a plan to go virtual. Their first online session will take place on the 6th of August, a combination of a listening party for Frequency’s very own EP which is launching in September, as well as a chance to share spoken word, poetry, riffs and stories.
In the meantime, the team urges everyone to stay connected, to keep in touch via social media and to keep dancing - even if it’s just in your room at home.
Stay connected with Frequency via their instagram page @frequencylivejam and keep an eye out for their updates on their virtual event.
Next week we’ll be speaking to Talya Jacobson, founder of The Indie Groove, which is fast becoming a key indie player in Sydney’s indie scene.
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