Gabriel Akon, or DyspOra as he’s known behind the microphone, at first glance, looks like any other artist you see pop up over the internet. Someone who works hard on their craft, markets themselves hoping to catch a break, someone not afraid to put themselves out there. However, once you learn a little more about DyspOra, or if you’re lucky enough to have a chat with him, you quickly learn that for this artist, it’s not about ‘themselves’ at all.
DyspOra is a 22 year old ‘recording artist/ producer, poet, sonic activist and founding member of the Playback 808 movement’ ¹ – a group of Adelaide youths who love to make music, but with each personal goals to achieve. South Sudan born, DyspOra makes mention how he was raised across East Africa before finally settling down in Adelaide, South Australia. As a rap fan, I impulsively asked DyspOra whether he hoped his talents would eventually take him to the USA, generally considered a sign of ‘making it’ in such an industry. Considering most ‘successful’ rappers live in the USA, the birthplace of the genre, I was complacent in expecting a response along the lines of “Yeah I’d love to make it to the USA, own the cars, live the life of fame” – a materialistic, disposable existence we see all too often in contemporary culture. However, I was pleasantly taken aback when DyspOra responded to my question with “Ultimately… I want to open a Playback Recording studio in East Africa just to open up more artists to that region of the world.”
It was at this point I knew I was talking to someone who just understood what it meant to be a part of something bigger than themselves. DyspOra began down this path at age 13 through exposure to poetry, an art form from which rapping is “essentially built from, with added rhythm.” Discovering inspiration from his surroundings and events occurring around him, he combines these with the women in his life to stimulate his creativity. For the casual music fan, rap may be seen as a faraway art, not overly popular or maybe just not embraced by mainstream media in an Australian context. For DyspOra however, he feels Adelaide, his adopted home, “is a great incubator of talent and an amazing place to create art,” a place where he sees himself honing his craft for the foreseeable future. Mature and already worldly, DyspOra knows the tool of music is a powerful one, capable of changing lives beyond just the artist themselves. This is evidenced through the effort he puts into advancing his Hip-Hop collective of which he is the founder, Playback 808, comprised of friends who love to rap and express themselves.
An insightful student of the game, DyspOra realises the importance of the Internet in promoting his work, “The Internet revolutionised music production and distribution. It is definitely one of the most important tool (sic) for us as an independent label with no real funding.” This organisation and astuteness is evidenced through the label’s sharp website, (playback808.com) complete with clean merchandise, crisp visuals, all hallmarks of a label with a purpose. And throughout our conversations, DyspOra outlined this purpose clearly and with direction. “Playback 808 main objective is to bring stability to South Sudan by uniting our people back home through music!” Personally, DyspOra looks to “inspire a generation and ignite a social and cultural revolution,” a revolution he sees quashing the “underlying racial reasons as to why rap is perceived the way it is.” After all, if we were to be honest, hip-hop/rap has long dragged a stigma in the public eye of promoting violence, drugs, and other kinds of vice. So, the more we can encourage youngsters such as DyspOra to change that stigma, the better.
As for the reaction from his family and friends about turning his passion into a livelihood, well look no further than exactly that, his passion. “I’ve been doing it for 6 years now and I think they’ve realised that I’ve found my ‘purpose’… when you are truly passionate about something, almost obsessively, then you can convince the people around you to embrace and appreciate you for it.” So far, for a 22 year old, making his debut on Triple J just this week seems to be a pretty good step in the right direction.
Connect with DysOra here:
Connect with Playback808 here:
1 – playback808.com
Some quotes have been altered for the purpose of conciseness.