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Ausecuma Beats: nine members, five countries, a singular sound

Story Published Thursday 27 August 2020
Ausecuma Beats includes (L-R) Luke Koszanski, Mohamed Camara, Boubacar Gaye, James Jablonka (seated), Raudie McLeod a.k.a River Yarra, Rodolfo Panga and Will Larsen. Photo: Nick McKk

The Melbourne ensemble have members from Australia, Senegal, Cuba, Mali and Gambia

They recently joined APRA AMCOS in May 2020

The band was starting to play shows outside of Melbourne, and had played at Dark Mofo in Tasmania before COVID shut down the industry

“All my life is music.”

This is what Boubacar Gaye, bandleader, composer and master djembe player says when asked if he’s staying creative during Melbourne’s lockdown.

In other words, yes, he’s staying creative.

Bouba is the founding member of Ausecuma Beats, a nine-member ensemble that showcases a global sound. The ‘Aus-Se-Cu-Ma’ comes from the original line-up's home countries: Australia, Senegal, Cuba, Mali. The current line-up has expanded to members from Australia, Senegal, Cuba, Mali and Gambia.

Bouba was born and raised in Senegal, he moved to Japan when he was 18 and lived there for nine years, working as a full-time musician before taking a holiday to Melbourne, when he visited Simon Fraser’s African Drumming.

“When I arrived from Japan, I didn’t know anyone. I went straight to Simon Fraser’s drum shop. So I played with him. He didn’t want to limit me, so I started to play around Melbourne. I went back to Japan and started to miss Melbourne.

“Melbourne’s African drumming community is very strong and very friendly.”

“Be patient"

Bouba came back to Melbourne to stay. You might have seen him drumming in Federation Square. He played with different bands, played weddings, but it took a few tries to settle in musically.

“I trust my talent. I would go into went to Federation Square and get coin there. People would come talk to me, give me their business card and say they are interested, but nothing would happen.

“If you come from somewhere outside of Australia, you need to be patient. Don’t just play with one group. Play with different groups until you find the right place and the right guys to play with.

“Be patient."

“When it comes to music, it doesn’t matter how good you are on your instrument, you will need to have experience. Sometimes experience can be good, sometimes experience can be bad, but it’s all experience.

“So all my experience led to me setting up my group Ausecuma Beats.”

Brunswick's Bar Oussou, where it began

“There is an African restaurant in Melbourne, Bar Ousso, and that’s where I started things,” says Bouba.

He would eat a café most mornings and the owner there said the bar next door is owned by someone from Senegal.

“The owner is Oussou and it’s called Bar Ousso. 653 Sydney Road, Brunswick.

“And that’s the venue who has promoted everything that we are doing. That’s how Joe Alexander from Music In Exile, first heard about us. We were playing every Sunday, it’s packed all the time.

“A lot of people come to the bar and hang out. Most people would say how good we are and that it’s. They’d say ‘Hey man, are you interested in doing something?’ and then disappear.

“When Joe came in, he was looking for artists. We were looking to make an album. That’s how we came together. How they came to us is a surprise.”

Joe says,“I used to go down to Bar Oussou every Sunday with a good friend of mine, to see what was going on with music down there and mostly just to stare fascinated at whoever was drumming, trying to pick up tricks for my own band! One day this band Ausecuma Beats were on, they blew me away!

"It’s all a bit of a blur now, but there was a time when we would spend hours and hours there every Sunday, dancing and just grinning from ear to ear. I knew these guys were the real thing.”

“Joe came to the bar and he saw us as humans. We can tell him as musicians what we want and he can tell us what can be done and not be done. It’s very nice communication.”

Music In Exile released the band's self-titled debut EP last year and recently River Yarra x Ausecuma Beats REMIXED collaboration.

“If the money comes, we share it.”

As a band, the music has always come first. Bouba became an APRA AMCOS member in May of this year.

“The idea is let’s play good music. And, let’s not have issues between us.”

At a band meeting they agreed on how to handle business. “I said, ‘You guys decide what is the best’ and we opened the band account and when the money comes in it goes into the band account. No matter how much it is, we share it by nine.

“Every band has their reality. Some bands don’t have any problems with, say, giving 50% to a writer, but we don’t want one particular songwriter to be entered in. We want to make our own system, and so far our system has been working

“If the money comes, we share it.”

As to the creative side of the band, Bouba explains, “When you got kora, djembe, balafon, conga, sax, bass, drum kit, you have the foundation to build something amazing.

“Just with kora, balafon, and djembe from Western Africa, we are sharing the same culture but there are so many things we want to develop in Australia and mix it with Western music – bring in guitar, sax, bass.

“We always jam. And we have the saxophone player, who I call ‘Young Will the Arranger.’ It’s good to have someone in the band and have them be part of the creativity. If we want this to work, we all have to come together and have a part to play.”

Where to next

The band had started to play gigs outside of Melbourne before COVID hit. They have been to Tasmania for Dark Mofo. “We got to go together, it was good. That’s what the band needs…music gives possibility to see more places.”

Part of the band’s openness and honesty comes with responsibility.

“The kora player says ‘I don’t want to be a musician and have empty pockets.’ I have to listen to what the group wants and what their goal is.”

“We play music because we love music, we are born to play music, but at the same time we want to help out our families.”

What can APRA AMCOS do to support the members of Ausecuma Beats?

“I’m not sure what APRA can do, I just signed up to APRA!

“In my understanding, APRA will help you with anywhere they play music. If you play at festival or a club, or if someone used our music.

“We know it’s good to join APRA AMCOS to make sure our music is protected.”

"We are missing that sound check, that set up for a gig"

When it comes to drums, Bouba is also teacher, maker and repairer. He doesn’t have as many repairs to do lately, as his clients often drive to Melbourne, bring the drum and meet in person and he asks about the sound they want.

But of this uncertain and open time, there’s plenty of other things to do. Bouba has been working on a musical project he said he didn’t think he would be able to get to otherwise.

He’s been live streaming performances on social media, a new dynamic. “It’s a challenge for everyone. But it’s good for musicians to learn how to trust themselves. To put the camera in front of you, take your guitar, talk to the world, do what you are good on it.”

“I say, ‘Guys, this is a challenge,' but I do live stream on Instagram on Facebook and talk to my friends in French, English, Wolof, Japanese.

“I’m in the world. Technology has made us close, use it.”

Ausecuma Beats misses the stage though.

“Let’s hope things can go back eventually. We are a band. We are stage people. We are missing that sound check, that set up for a gig. I think that’s the same for everyone who is a musician.”

Ausecuma Beats Live at Bar Oussou