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Beats, bars and The Block

REDFERN: Aboriginal rapper Stephen Carr-Saunders, known as “Sonboy”, is using music to share his story about growing up in Redfern on The Block.

 

Stephen “Sonboy” Carr-Saunders in the music studio at Redfern Community Centre. Photo: Lyn Turnbull
Stephen “Sonboy” Carr-Saunders in the music studio at Redfern Community Centre. Photo: Lyn Turnbull

Redfern has always been home to 22-year-old Sonboy, who reminisces of afternoons spent at Redfern Community Centre (RCC) and evenings sparring at Tony Mundine’s gym. Sonboy’s cousin, Reagan, introduced him to music at a young age but it wasn’t until early 2017 when Sonboy started working with Jurnan “Thorn” Ayerst, director of Last Minute Productions (LMP) and coordinator of music at RCC, that he found a second home in the studio.

LMP have been at the helm of StudioRCC nurturing local talent like Sonboy for four years. Jurnan and musical engineer, Steven “Espa” Petridis, both mentor Sonboy, helping him to launch his career and develop his music. Last year, Jurnan received an Aboriginal Quick Response Grant from Create NSW to take Sonboy to the prestigious All 3 Coasts (A3C) hip-hop conference and festival in Atlanta.

Prior to the trip, Sonboy had never owned a passport, never been overseas, never been on a plane, and an Australian artist had never been invited to A3C before. Sonboy says, “Seeing the outside world was a big eye opener. It’s nothing like what you see in the movies. We got so much love. I wasn’t expecting that.”

In Atlanta, Sonboy partied with hip-hop royalty T.I., and learnt how Jay-Z and Kanye West climbed to the top of the charts from their managers. Sonboy describes A3C as an invaluable experience and credits the trip with giving him confidence in himself and in his music. At the end of the year Sonboy is set to release his debut EP recorded at RCC which features local singer Aiyesha Donnelly, producers POV Beats, Ollie Roland and Sydney Blaq.

“Redfern Hometown”, the first song Sonboy recorded for the EP, talks about his childhood growing up on The Block. He says, “Back when The Block was The Block there was always a lot of singing, rapping and dancing.” Jurnan adds, “The Block was a centre point for every clan. People from all over the country knew that they could go to Redfern and they would find the mob there.”

Vacancy and redevelopment on The Block have had an impact on Redfern, which has rippled through to the RCC, as it has experienced a decline in the number of people utilising its services.

There are plenty of ways to get involved with music at RCC. Jurnan and her team at LMP run 13 free workshops covering everything from live drumming to beat boxing. In addition, they also hold a monthly jam session at RCC on the last Thursday of every month called Beats n’ Bars where local talent perform in front of music industry insiders and South Sydney residents.

Sonboy hopes his music will “spread positivity to the young’uns”, keep memories of The Block alive and encourage other Aboriginal youths to record at StudioRCC.

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