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Comprising originally five main MCs*Patrick aka Maupower, Josh aka Cagney, Damien aka Mondae, Dayne aka Dayne-Jah, and Leroy aka Artu, the group have since incorporated several other members, including Troy aka Big Worm. OBHI work to create a distinctive hip-hop sound, mixing traditional Creole language with cultural stories and messages. The music has appealed to Indigenous elders across the TSI, who recognise its widespread appeal for youth.


To create and produce their own unique beats, sounds and rhymes, OBHI have become skilled at using computer music programs such as Fruity Loops, Acid and Reason that give aspiring hip-hoppers in remote locations the ability to sample and fuse together sounds to compose original beats, without relying on city recording studios:
Well I started using Fruity Loops, now we have upgraded. I’m using Adobe Edition, a bit of Reason, ACID. I use Reason for the samples but I still record [raps] in Adobe. (Maupower)

While all performers in the group created their own beats using computer programs, Mondae was the ‘lead beat master’: I listen to the music, focus on the beats. It comes natural, some days I can do 3 beats. I use the laptop and Fruity Loops, go through every instrument [in the program], mix in different instruments, change up PLATE 3. OBHI’s Shut the Gate album (2008), sold through the group’s website. Source:
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the pace, go through, clean it up, til you’ve got something ya like.


We were doing it on the streets, around the Straits, fucking around, then
Patrick came out with that single ‘Home boys’, that’s when we all got like,
yeah we can all do that too you know. That’s when we started getting into
it, we loved it, bro. Its poetry, like what you go through [in life], it’s a good
opportunity to use that in hip-hop. Now we be walking around town and
stuff, and these younger fellas start coming up everywhere rapping, and
we like, yeah you’re good man, keep it up. (Big Worm)

It’s Torres Strait Island hip-hop, an Indigenous hip-hop, we incorporate
our language and culture into that style, that genre … We get a great
response from the elders cause that’s a new genre for them. They’re not
used to hip-hop, and we show that we can incorporate our culture into
hip-hop, and their like WOW, keep it up. (Maupower)

Making beats was a technical skill, requiring practice and refinement. Computer programs were cheaper than DJ equipment and could be self-learnt, allowing participants to sample instrumental segments from other genres. OBHI liked to ‘cut’ in reggae sounds, snare drums, with deep bass guitars, manoeuvring the pace of beats, slowing down or speeding up, depending on message and the type of song.

After the beat and rap were brought together the group recorded their music using Maupower’s homemade studio. Emerging technologies of hip-hop production created a more accessible, do-it-yourself (DIY) musical form. The order for creating a new hip-hop song was variable for OBHI, dependent on time, the availability of members and motivation:
You know like sometimes, we have a beat and we write the lyrics, sometimes we have the lyrics and mix and compose a beat to it, depends how we feel at the time. Sometimes we just get into the studio and do it all up there at the same time, on the spot. (Cagney)

OBHI uploaded music onto video networking sites like MySpace and YouTube, where two tracks, ‘Coolies’ and ‘4 the Balaz’ have received 20 000 ‘hits’, a significant number for an underground, unsigned group. The band also sells and
promotes their music (four albums) online via their website, along with clothing and other merchandise (see Their sound is driven and produced by modern technologies and techniques, mostly circulated electronically. Group members are often stopped in the street and praised for their music, while Maupower was nominated for a 2009 Deadly Award (the national Indigenous music awards). Through beat mixing, rhyming, performance, dancing, and computer skills, hip-hop is a means to be creative.


OBHI, with most members in their 20s, had been practising and refining hip-hop
over several years. Yuin Soldiers*Nooky, Selway and Nat*aged in their late teens,
were younger and less experienced performers. They spoke of building up skills for
music making. In the same way as OBHI were promoting hip-hop in the TSI to
younger, budding hip-hoppers, ‘showing them the way’ (Big Worm), Yuin Soldiers
had drawn on the expertise and experience of more established acts like Wire MC
and Choo Choo, to advance their creative skills.


Each member of OBHI was born on different parts of the TSI. This has geographic
significance for the group, for, as Maupower explained, OBHI invented their name
through their geography:
We were singin like nobody, we didn’t have a name; just called the rap
group. The original five members were sitting around and said we want to
come up with a name which could be a concept that represented us as a
group. We tried to find one, because each member represents one
particular region. The Torres Strait is subdivided into 5 different regions;
we have the inner islands, the near western, the central, the top western
and the eastern islands, and each member came from that blood line,
those regions and we were all related. So we had a blood line connection,
Indigenous Hip-hop 151
and so we said we are all one blood, with no particular image, so we all
had different forms, and that’s how we evolved to One Blood Hidden
Image. (Maupower)
Rather than isolation and remoteness from large cities being paralysing for
creativity, OBHI overcame distance through hip-hop. Combining music with new
technologies, like YouTube, the TSI are positioned in their hip-hop as a musical
hub. Indeed, the group have uncovered opportunities to travel and experience the
rest of Australia, performing their music, in Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle,
Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland. Their songs project messages about brotherhood and maintaining a positive outlook:
Blood is what you make it, how else can I say it?
Who has got your back when the end of the day hits?
Different day same shit? NO, I wouldn’t change it,
[chorus] This is something for my Balaz [brothers],
Through the struggles that be holding you down,
Keep your head up, you gotta keep your head up.


Cagney and Maupower explained how isolation and remoteness were managed in
the TSI. As the established hip-hoppers in the region, the group became involved in
schooling younger budding rappers, especially in their own hip-hop production,
giving the ‘young fellas’ something positive to do:
Well making it up here is easy, I show most of them [young fellas] how to
build a home studio and record it, we all use the same program, so we’ll all
interact together. (Maupower)
There’s a lot of mob now starting to come out. There was a lot of shame.
Shame was big up here, and so for them young kids when we up on stage,
we say come down here, watch us, we notice how all of a sudden they have
courage to get up themselves. We do workshops too; do up a beat and each
person has a line by line. Everybody got their story and in this way [hiphop] even the smallest voice can be heard you know. (Cagney)
Overcoming the ‘shame’ factor, performing and expressing themselves in front of
audiences was an issue facing many young people in the TSI. Those who had taken
the ‘jump’ forward to performing their music had gained important benefits,
according to Big Worm:
When they have a go at the workshop, rap to the beat, the young fellas go
yeah, this is cool. We get them to write their raps down, then they can
record and play them back. It gives them a buzz bro eh? Like you see it on
their faces; Fuck, we can do it. (Big Worm)
Creating hip-hop was accessible for most young fans in the TSI because of cheap
technology and available mentoring, giving them a ‘positive thing to do’ (Cagney).
Maupower took an active role in schooling younger enthusiasts, showing youth how
to set up their own recording areas in the home or garage. The local library and
TAFE also provided places to practise music. While remote and marginal, the TSI
152 A. Warren & R. Evitt
has a growing music scene with creativity funnelled into the production of beats
and rhymes.


While practising in the TSI was considered ‘easy’, gaining access to performance
spaces outside the islands was more difficult and attributed to the region’s
‘remoteness’ (Mondae). However, from analysis of interview transcripts and
research diary notes, marginality emerged as not the only barrier to performance
as OBHI sought widespread recognition. Gigs have been dominantly bounded
within Indigenous ceremonies, events or festivals: National Sorry Day, Reconciliation events and NAIDOC celebrations. These performances provided rare travel
experiences to locations across mainland Australia; hence they were recounted very
Yet Maupower, Mondae, Big Worm and Cagney said in interviews how
remoteness in the TSI left musically talented youth frustrated, unable to access
opportunities to play their music to larger audiences on the mainland, or make any
significant income from their work. OBHI themselves rarely received invitations to
play at music festivals or gigs outside of symbolic Indigenous events:
Well we started out here performing in NAIDOC, cultural weeks up here,
cultural festivals up the Torres straits, and we started moving down to like
the styling up festivals [Indigenous hip-hop event] in Brisbane, Survival
day in Adelaide, and Sydney as well, but we perform mostly cultural
events. (Maupower)
To improve musical skills, participants spoke of ‘moving to the mainland’ (Big
Worm) for education and opportunity. On the mainland Maupower and Mondae
had learnt more ‘formal’ music skills*recording, computer programming and
professional networking*called upon for accessing performance opportunities.
Access thus required participants to move outside the Islands. Big Worm told of
needing to ‘get away’ from the TSI, recently deciding to move to Brisbane for
greater opportunities:
When I was living there, it was no opportunity; I want to do more music.
I’ve got to know a few of the artists around here, and you say can I come
on your track, so you try and get an opportunity like that but it’s hard. We
did play Styling Up in Brisbane, in Sydney for an anti-government
154 A. Warren & R. Evitt
thing … We try to get gigs paid for and accommodation paid for, but
some people just don’t pay that money, so we all have to chip in money to
do it. You do it for the passion. (Big Worm)
Playing gigs to non-Indigenous audiences was rare; receiving payment for their
shows or funding for recording or workshops was rarer still. Members had strong
aspirations to forge professional music careers, moving away from the TSI, at
various times, to pursue those goals. However, their ambitions of becoming
professional hip-hoppers were yet to materialise, in part due to patron discourses
restricting avenues for paid performance