Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Mista Monk is an emcee, vocalist and producer from Katherine, Northern Territory, who is based in Melbourne, Victoria. He has been a part of NT Hip Hop Pioneers Culture Connect, is currently the emcee for Melbourne Ethio-jazz outfit Black Jesus Experience and an extended member of Soul-Hip Hop group Planetself, and has toured with the father of Ethio-Jazz, Mulatu Astatke, on his Australian and New Zealand tours. He is also a solo artist in his own right. Mista Monk has his DNA to a multitude of albums, spanning the genres of Hip Hop, Ethio-jazz, reggae, jungle, dance-hall and electronica, dating back to the early 2000s. He has also travelled the world, collaborating with local artists as he goes, and performing at major festivals such as the Big Day Out, Glastonbury and The Big Chill. So how has Mista Monk been informed by his experience growing up in the outback, and how has his later globetrotting rounded-out his worldview? Mista Monk talks to BEAT CONTEXT.
‘…I was always acutely aware…’
I grew up in a small country town called Katherine a few hours south of Darwin and I was always acutely aware of these two worlds (ocker Aussie and Indigenous culture), also having parents from two very different worlds as well. I could see the collision of Indigenous people and some of the trappings of western lifestyle particularly alcoholism but I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time on some Aboriginal communities and see the strong sense of kinship and cultural practice. There was a very overt racism present in that town and Aboriginal people were the butt of a lot of the schoolyard jokes there, which was a stark contrast to the pan-African consciousness; through media such as the Malcolm X biopic, hip-hop, I was becoming increasingly aware of whilst living in Zimbabwe in the two and a half years prior to returning to Katherine.
‘…artists like Public Enemy and Ice Cube articulated the minority identity very boldly and that appealed to me …’
So in this sense, as a thirteen year old trying to grasp my sense of self as a mixed race youth coming into this environment with an awareness of colonialism through my mother's and her home country's history, rap music by artists like Public Enemy and Ice Cube articulated the minority identity very boldly and that appealed to me.
Insight through TRAVEL
‘…I’ve carried the perspective of the common threads of humanity as well as an awareness of the very privileged lifestyle that we enjoy in Australia…’
Travelling has defined my outlook in life undoubtedly. I travelled at a young age through South East Asia with my family and I've carried the perspective of the common threads of humanity as well as an awareness of the very privileged lifestyle that we enjoy in Australia. Recently travelling through East and Southern Africa, I was struck by the universal desire for peace and the simple opportunity to provide for one's self and/or your family. I'm lucky to have travelled through music and so I'm also connecting with the creative communities, the freedom to express yourself and create is one of the most powerful connections I've experienced.
‘…my affinity for the bush,
and a slower pace remains…’
I always love coming home to the Territory especially when it's winter in Melbourne! Seriously though, the creative community in the Top End is rich and diverse and despite all my time away, it feels like home. There's a laid back pace and warmth in the people that I love and I think that I will always be a tropical lad at heart - the city pace, all the concrete and crowds are foreign to my nature. Living in Melbourne has definitely made me appreciate a wider range of art and music that just can't be sustained in a small place, but my affinity for the bush, open spaces, and a slower pace remains.
Writing about love
‘…that's the greatest artistic muse in history…’
I have gone through more rhyme books than I can remember! Funnily enough I was doing a spring clean recently and came across a suitcase full of old rhyme books and had a chuckle at some of my old lyrics. I'm sure every important or impactful moment has made it into my rhymes maybe not in a literal manner but subconsciously in the themes. I use rap as a vehicle for personal expression and its been a very valuable tool to channel my thoughts on some very challenging moments in my life. I guess the one experience I find it difficult to write about effectively is being in love, that's the greatest artistic muse in history but to write about it poetically without being cheesy is a challenge for me, maybe I should take that up and try again.
Fun Fact: First there was ‘Diesel’
My first nickname was ‘Diesel’ and not ‘Monk’.
Mista Monk was kind enough to provide BEAT CONTEXT with some knowledge bars. Enjoy!
Mista Monk's band, Black Jesus Experience, are playing the Jazz Roots Festival at the Coopers Malthouse, Melbourne, Victoria on Sunday April 28, 2019.