It's early Tuesday afternoon, and Melbourne Hip Hop artist Nyuon is feeling pretty damn tired. While many may think it's from the late night lifestyle that Melburnians are privy too, it couldn't be further from the truth for this 20-year-old Sudanese musician. Laughingly he tells me, "I've been for a run around the area." It's the hallmark of this modern day self-made artist. Keeping on top of his game, is a necessity, and also a way to combat nerves for the upcoming gig on Friday 13th March, at The Workers Club, Fitzroy. With the gig already half sold out, he'll be releasing his new single 'Your City', an anthem devoted to his newfound hometown of Melbourne.
Born in Ethiopia, Nyuon's parents were Sudanese refugees who escaped the civil war. His memories stem back to growing up in Kenya, but not a lot of his from his original heritage of Sudan. The family moved to Melbourne in 2001 when Nyuon was six years old, and he recalls his love of rapping started when he was 12 years old. It was a favourite pastime with his fellow Grade Seven friends.
While sharing his younger years, he pauses for a moment and asks, "Do you want to know a secret?" Being the ever-curious journalist, I resoundingly affirm, "Hell Yes!" He pauses again and then reveals, "I have a Myspace of songs recorded, from when I was young!" There's banter about the demise of Myspace and an-almost-disclosure of the URL, but instead, we confirm that he keeps it private for now, or bootleg it later.
Nyuon's natural talent stems from his ability to learn songs easily. Growing up, he attended Sunday school, "I was in a choir for a Christian church. We used to go to church twice, once in the morning and once at night – this service was in my language. Every Sunday they made us stand in front of the congregation!"
His first performance was to celebrate his Australian citizenship, at nine years old. "Me and my brother met the conductor from the band who was going to play the Australian anthem. He said, 'Do you want to perform?' He gave my brother a triangle, and he gave me a shaker. Then said, "Meet the future performers of Australia!"
It's uncanny how moments like these can stand out, especially now he's released a single and doing gigs. The production of his music, like his early days in the choir is all him. "I usually try and keep it all original stuff, I don't like doing remixes. I try to keep it pretty tight. Most of our stuff is well ... we are not really professional, most of it is really raw and organic, we don't put too much effects into it." A big factor is ensuring his friends are in the process; this helps get them known to a wider music audience. "If the song is really good, and they really like it, I would be like, "my friend did the beat, and lift them up'."
With his friends and brother forming a big part of his support crew, his recent airplays on independent and national radio, were big moments. With no one owning a radio, they decided to all jump in the car to tune in. "I remember a few weeks ago, my friends were driving down the road, we couldn't wait to flick on the radio. I was on jjjfm, I knew it was going to be on in an hour and we were all in the car together. We went all crazy!"
It's a far cry from the days of his brother second-guessing his ability to get his music out there. "I remember one night we were talking, and listening to a Lamar song and I was like, 'Hey man I am going to write songs named after people. He was like, 'You can't do that man, you aren't successful!' I woke him up the next day and said, 'I wrote a song.'" Needless to say, his brother was floored that Nyuon would write a song in his honour." His response to his brother, was this brilliantly delivered line, "You said I couldn't do it."
With hip-hop in Australia growing rapidly in both audience appreciation and volume of acts, Nyuon believes it is due to the platform hip-hop allows artists. "With other genres of music ... pop, rock, the songs are more about people dancing, even though they are about personal experiences. Hip-hop is about the lyrics, what is going on in your life. Right now, hip-hop is starting to evolve in Australia. I think it is the younger generation, compared to 10 years ago; the population was not so multi-cultural. There's a lot more people from around the world."
Even though he came runner-up in the Melbourne Music Bank competition, he's still humbled by the experience. "Each phase I made it into, was always a shock. Originally the runner up wasn't meant to get anything. I think after my last performance, they changed their mind and said I was really good. I got some studio time, and they liked the recording so much they wanted to help me out. It is all so overwhelming, the bank's generosity. Don't expect that from a bank."
While he's "kind of nervous" about Friday's gig, "I don't want to forget the lyrics!" he's excited about reaching a wider audience, and the prospect of someone taking him on-board "that would be a really nice boost." In true fashion he wants to reach the whole world, "it's every artists dream." After going back to Sudan in 2012, and to where his Grandma lives, I ask if his music has reached the capital of Sudan, and his family back in the village. Unfortunately it hasn't, as it needs to be "physically taken to them" in cassette or CD form. With aspirations of heading there, " I hope to go back once the drama has settled," it seems like "Your City" and headlining his own show is gonna make that happen.
FRI 13 MAR | THE WORKERS CLUB MELBOURNE VIC | 18 | DOORS 9PM