By Triana Hernandez

Kandere Review: Displacement, Imagined Utopias and Melanesian-Futurism

Surrounded by oceans and limestone stacks, electro-fluid duo Kandere live their best lives in their music video for ‘BB Goy’. Wearing face paint as makeup for their inner strength, the Melbourne-based act sing and dance with pride at the beach, existing calmly but with assertion, floating in rock formations. Released in June last year, the much awaited debut single and music video from Kandere arrived in winter, the perfect timing for them to showcase their unique take on music; goth trap.

Throughout the clip, the duo co-exist in an intimate symbiosis with images of waves and shorelines, which are layered over their bodies. ‘BB Goy’ is a macrocosm curated by Kandere. It presents a beach in Melbourne’s south east as an imagined utopia; a shore where colonialism never landed, a depiction of Boonwurrung land untouched by British evils, a so called Australia where Eurocentrism never took over.

Composed of Lakyn Tarai and Wahe Kavara, Kandere speaks of Fijian and Papa New Guinean diasporas. Socio-sonically, Kandere is one of the most groundbreaking electronic acts in Australia for all the things it rejects being: this is not hip hop, this is not your average beat and this is certainly not rap. Kandere is Melanesian-Futurism.

*

As I walk down Nicholson street a line from ‘BB Goy’ pulsates within me: “Black Mermaid on a mezzanine”. Like a spell that lingers, I carry these words with me wherever I go. It’s not just the catchiness of Lakyn’s sharp delivery that mesmerizes me, it’s the feeling that enters my body when this string of words appears in my head. I can touch them like beads.  

As well as a musician, Lakyn is a baker. Working most days from three until ten in the morning, they probably understand society better than most – they view the world with inverted schedules. In an interview with Noisey, Lakyn explains that ‘BB Goy’ “speaks to being genderless more than anything”. The non-binary singer then clarifies how ‘BB Goy’ is a much needed anthem “that was personalised and cute”. Translation; this song is about and for them, not for you.

‘BB Goy’ has a lyrical composition that’s fluid in structure, a stream of consciousness that’s both savage and tender. It’s surreal and poetic as much as it’s colloquial. It’s spoken word and a self-assured mantra. Lakyn’s style is self-made and full of emotional complexity. There’s toughness but sparse cursing, there’s confidence but also longing.

I imagine Lakyn’s face covered in flour, surrounded by tall metal shelves stacked with raw bread. As they put a tray in the oven they burn themselves and curse. Then they smile. They’ve just come up with the line “that three to ten has been blessing me and looking like a black mermaid on a mezzanine”. Stuck between metaphorical floors, Lakyn’s hand might be blistering but deep down they know their blood is invincible.

*

Every day my tram turns into the heart of the city as it goes past a large, beige and restrained building; Parliament House. Designed 167 years ago by a settler under the name of  ‘Captain Pasley’, this is a Palladian-inspired construction influenced by Venetian Renaissance architect Andreas Palladio. It’s a tangible yearn for home for the majority of caucasians who live here, 200,000 kms away from their roots.

I sometimes imagine ‘Captain Pasley’ sleep-deprived and home-sick, drawing sketches of the building by candlelight, feeling displaced and unbelonging in a space where he couldn’t see his culture reflected in the landscape. Did he feel like white lice on a mezzanine?

Unfortunately the British were taught to feel superior and entitled. What could’ve been a symbiotic relationship with the culture and people that lived here, turned into genocide.

*

There are many ways in which this country makes people feel uneasy and uncomfortable in their own skin. The land we walk on has so much blood and pain left unhealed, an entire nation of people murdered, forgotten and erased. To the eye of most caucasians born and raised in the bubble, this place is normal. To the eyes of those who cannot fit into its stock-image standards, this place is terrifying and depressing.

For the past seven months ‘BB Goy’ is the song I sonically-envision inside my head when confronted by the lack of soul of this settler-made, invaded island. It’s my protective sonic-spell. From the start of the track, Wahe’s impeccable production brews an atmosphere that’s dark and sparse but also heart-gripping. I visualise a drop of black ink slowly unraveling and expanding within a glass of water.

There’s a platter of elements in the song that feel ritualistic, border-line summoning. The percussion seems to act like portals to the past, opening up with each beat of the clapsticks. There’s also layered voices that sound distant, blurred and ambiguous in mood. When I walk down the streets and think of the voices in the song, I think of all the voices that were silenced, the voices now breaking through the cracks of the pavement below me.

Wahe manages to create a beat that’s a living organism, that breathes and subsequently morphs from healing spell to protective hex depending on context.

*

I stand in front of the surreal building that has not one, but three ‘Australian’ flags erected, the Union Jack flapping against the blue skies. I can only imagine the pain of those who were, and still are, robbed of everything.

I am also an unwelcome guest here; standing on stolen land. My migration into this Island was never consulted with, or monitored by, the traditional owners of the land. Everything about my existence here was handled by settlers, down to the citizenship questions. Fervent requirements to learn, remember and cherish the colonial history of this country, alongside dozens of questions about the Queen, vessels, captains and settlements, were demanded before I could be accepted.

The only question I was asked about Aboriginal people was to name the three colors of their flag. Designed in 1971 by Indigenous and Luritja activist Harold Thomas, this flag was designed as a symbol of Indigenous land rights movements. This, of course, couldn’t be learnt through the settlers’ induction process.
_

Now, standing at the bottom of the stairs that lead into the heart of ‘Parliament’ – the legal term for modern day, tailored-suit colonialism, I feel uneasy. How do all of us displaced migrants ontologically fit into this space? In real estate terms; when welcomed into a house where the original tenants were murdered and the surviving ones locked up in basements, forgotten in attics and only allowed into the main rooms of the house if silent and obedient, how do I turn up to this house with a thank you note and a bouquet of flowers? Do I accept my space in silence, ask the hosts for the gravy recipe and compliment the house decorations? Once you are aware, how are you meant to hold back the tears as you sit in the living room as you are asked, ‘how’s your cup of tea?’

I’m a Latin mermaid on a mezzanine. Stuck between grateful citizen, rude guest and finding it difficult to understand my hosts. It’s hard to sing their anthem, a song that highlights the ownership of the young and free over the Elders and incarcerated. “Our land”, “Our home”, “Our Southern star”. I’d rather feel displaced and un-belonging than claim that these things are mine. 

*

To survive the curse of this country one needs daily rituals. If you are not careful, your soul wilts without them.

I only feel alive when I submerge myself in water. When I feel the sole of my feet against the wet sand, when I let the waves take me.  

Only when I turn into a fish can I feel a sense of connection to the land around me. Only when I listen to ‘BB Goy’ is there a sense of healing; of being less alone while caught between the metaphorical levels of cultural dysphoria.

Kandere
‘BB Goy’
Independently released March 2017 


Triana Hernandez is a Peruvian writer and film-maker. Her work has been published in Swampland, iD, Noisey and more. 

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