This article titled Downsyde highlights the upside of Narrogin by Nikki Wilson-Smith was featured on the ABC News website mid last week. The article features Downsyde’s Optamus and highlights the positive effects that hip hop can have on disadvantaged youths and also the community.
As a student at Craigie High School, Scott Griffiths’ passion was music.
But, his parents and teachers took a bit of convincing that Aussie hip hop was the right career path.
“Even though it was quite unconventional to want to have a career in hip hop and especially Australia hip hop they realised that it was somewhere I could vent my negative and positive energy.”
That energy has translated into a multi-award winning music career with his band Downsyde and Scott, who now goes by the name DJ Optamus, is loving life as a professional rap artist.
But, a life of gigging and festivals was not enough for Scott Griffiths, who has been giving up his time to teach kids the benefits of self expression.
“There is definitely a part of me that wants to be a bit giving and to get out there and do some community based stuff,” explains Scott.
The B’boys of Narrogin
“For young people in any regional area there is always the problem of not having enough to do, there can always be a strained relationship between police and young people,” says Scott Griffiths.
That relationship has been a little better these school holidays as authorities say tensions in the town have eased.
Police investigated a number of alleged racial incidents and assaults at the Narrogin Senior High School last year.
There was also a sudden surge in youth crime which spanned a two month period and police worked with the Department of Education to tackle the problem.
The Mayor Don Ennis is linking the change to the hip hop program.
“We have much less problem in the town as far as kids away from parental control, it shows up as being a lot less contact with police, negative contact, the incidents around town stop.”
It’s not uncommon for the children to arrive an hour early for the class.
They hover around the turntables and flick their tiny hands over the records.
And, for a few hours there is no where they would rather be.
Raymond is taking part in the program and he says he would have nothing to do if he wasn’t taking part.
“I would just be at home watching TV…but I love this…it’s amazing. (Scott Griffiths) is wicked and I can’t believe we have a person from an actual rap band.”
The program is just the first in a four year project by the Community Arts Network of WA, CAN WA, with funding from State and Federal Governments.
The next project will be a theatre program where the adults of Narrogin have the opportunity to write and perform their own play.
CAN WA plan to open an office in Narrogin during the next few months so they have better access to the communities of the Southern Wheatbelt.
It will extend the program to photographic exhibitions and public art projects.
There is no doubt that the Narrogin community has faced some challenges.
But, Scott Griffith challenges anyone with negative ideas of the town to head there and meet the children that live in the Southern Wheatbelt.
“Anyone who has negative ideas or negative stereotypes about these kids just needs to get out to the communities and meet the kids, they’re just beautiful kids.”
Scott’s workshop may be giving them the outlet they need to overcome the high rates of youth suicide and violence that occur in the community.
“When you can read an issue or a problem that you have and put it down on paper it somehow translates itself out of your body. Hip hop is an art form.”
The original article can be found here.
Downsyde are currently in studio lock-down, preparing for the release of their fourth album. We will have more details on this soon.