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In Conversation with Music Programmer Joel Ma (Joelistics)

The Convent’s 2018 Open Spaces program has launched, bringing our much-loved festival back with its biggest program to date. Held over two days on 17 and 18 November 2018, this year’s jam-packed event features art, music, markets, food, kids’ activities, special Wurundjeri performances and more.

Multi-talented producer Joel Ma (Joelistics) has curated an exciting Open Sounds music program, bringing world beats to our heritage gardens and eclectic DJs to Sacred Heart as part of Open Spaces. Spread over two days, the line-up includes Senegambian Jazz Band, Cool Out Sun, Aaron Choulai x Daichi Yamamoto, and many more.

We chat to Joel about what he has in store for this year’s audiences, and what’s next for him as an MC, producer and multi-instrumentalist.

You’ve put together a stellar music line-up for Open Spaces 2018. Can you tell us a little about your program?

My aim is to create a family friendly program that is fun and unusual. I want to introduce the Convent audience to artists and DJs that play styles of music representing the diverse and culturally rich Melbourne I know and love. It’s important to me to program a gender equal line-up with a mix of emerging artists, masters and local legends, a few wild cards and some dedicated party starters.

Over the two days, there will be bands and solo artists on the main stage in front of a natural amphitheatre, and in the courtyard, we’ll have DJs playing a mix of funk, soul, reggae, dub and global music.

Can you give us a rundown of the artists playing over the Open Spaces weekend?

Opening the main stage on Saturday is Gordon Koang, a blind South Sudanese singer who plays the Thom, a Sudanese banjo. Gordon plays a style of long form narrative blues that’s really raw. He’s well known back in Sudan and arrived in Melbourne as a refugee in the early 2000s. After Gordon will be Benfugee and Alysha – Ben is an Iranian refugee with the voice of an angel who, along with his partner Alysha, plays a seductive form of pop music. Then we have Artie Jadu, an experimental vocalist of rare talent who uses loop pedals and effects to create a really hypnotic style. To close the Saturday, we have Cool Out Sun who are a kind of super band who blend hip hop and West African music using raps, talking drum, afro beat rhythms and crazy time signatures.

On Sunday, we have Mindy Meng Wang playing solo Ghuzheng (Chinese harp) – she blends traditional North Western Chinese music with experimental approaches. Following Mindy, we have singer-songwriter Louis Majiwa, then the experimental Indian stylings of Advaita. We are really lucky to have Aaron Choulai and Daichi Yamamoto, a hip-hop duo from Tokyo who blend downbeat jazz with fierce Japanese lyricism. After that, we have the mastery of Indolombia, fusing traditional instruments with electronica. To close the festival, we have the mighty Senegambian Jazz Band who bring eclectic rhythms and improvisations based around the African Kora.

…This should be one for the books.

What can our Convent crowd expect over the two days?

They can expect a program brimming with new sounds, showcasing artists from different communities, representative of the brilliance that makes the Melbourne music scene feel so alive. The music will be perfect for relaxing on the hill with family and friends in the sunshine and then picking up the tempo for a party in the evening.

You’re an MC, producer and multi-instrumentalist under the moniker Joelistics. What else can we look forward to from you coming up?

The last few years have been busy. I’ve been touring a music theatre show called ‘In Between Two’ since 2016 and did a short stint on a TV show ‘Nowhere Boys’ earlier this year. On the music front, I’ve been producing for other artists such as Mojo Juju, Haiku Hands, Parvyn Singh, Birdz, Saatsuma and others. I have also been working on new music of my own – The Film School Collective, Joelistics and The Yellow Peril Symphony. Musically, 2019 should be a big year – or I might get distracted again and go traveling through Mongolia.