OXJAM at The Polo. Friday 21st, Polish White Eagle Club
by Little Dove

Once again The Canberra Musicians Club and The Polo pool their talents and create a party with a cracking line-up of musos. And this one was indeed extra special. OXJAM gigs were organised around Australia during August to raise funds for (duh) Oxfam and their fight against world poverty. Canberra represented well. The crowd were, as is my experience of the CMC/Polo combo, culturally and age diverse. And refreshingly, so was the music.

The programme kicked off with some Canberra stalwarts of indo-jazz who have combined in recent years to become Mohona. It was a pleasure to enter the room to the Bengali sounds of multi instrumentalists Nitya, Andrew and Robin. And they played to an attentive audience. My friend mentioned that Mohona sometimes cover The Face of Love by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Eddie Vedder. Sure enough after they announced their last song, they began that tune and led the room to that place of blissful listening where you feel a crescendo build in your belly before the rise of the sound. It was beautiful only…. Mr McRae cut them off just a few minutes in and they were unable to complete the song. I saw him enter the room, walk on stage and whisper in Robin’s ear, and I was like No, no, Nigel please don’t, there’s magic happening here. But he did. And they stopped. I’ll be keeping ears pricked for the chance to hear the song in its entirety. Of course, Nigel was just making necessary space for the many other acts to follow.

The evening seemed to flow well and conversation flourished in the moments between musical highlights.

The MC was late, his enthusiasm was low and he lacked his usual pizazz. He was actually the main reason that I attended so this was disappointing. But I guess everyone has off days.

Our first information about the Oxjam cause actually came from The Blue Angel and Dr Wiedemann who spoke knowledgeably at the start of their set. The pair brought their usual quirky presence. I really appreciate the risks that these two take in creating something truly unique. The commitment to their dark clown Weimar characters is a refreshing injection into any program. The vocals in each song are drawn and lengthy however, and as someone that struggles to listen to words for too long, I find this challenging. I would like to hear more space between words. But I certainly can’t get enough of the Blue Angel tap dancing.

The Cyrenes Choir of Women was committed in their performance and evidently passionate for the cause.  “We are who we are because of each other – spread that secret” was a lovely sentiment spoken by their leader. That general feeling of love and respect seemed to carry through their set and the room. Plus they did a sing-a-long with the crowd, which is always a winner. Generally a fan of thoughtful costuming, I liked the addition of the blue scarves they each wore.

CHOIR were sensational with their harmonies and enthusiasm. It was great to see a boy girl mix on the stage and everyone carrying their own unique style. I loved their Stiff Gins cover and the sharing of personal stories. Like how the following day a choir member was getting married and that they would all sing at the wedding. It was sweet, and showed the special unity that is essential in a good choir.

Teddy Conrick brought us home with super cool guitar slapping and soulful acoustic stylings. His gravelly vocals were gorgeous afloat his original songs. I really enjoyed hearing this dude for the first time.

The People I Love brought the fresh flavor of a New Orleans kinda Dixieland sound. With a groove and a swagger like carefree days on the Mississippi, Emma Dryden was a Diva O’naturale. And what would a major event in the Berra be, without the musical accompaniment of Mr Cam Smith on trumpet. The whole band was sensational and prepped us well for the finale.

Zambezi Sound System got the whole crowd jumping. If anyone else was lacking enthusiasm, these guys made up for it. Their big smiles, expansive hearts, reggae beats and killer vocals were a perfect fit for Oxjam.

What a combo. What a night. I love how this town bands together (excuse the pun). Yay Oxjam.

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