Review: The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra @ Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre

13 June 2018

This review is part of our coverage of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra is an Australian group that made their debut at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, and was brought together by Zvi Belling and Ethan Hill (DJ Manchild) who created this project to explore their passion for the Afro-beat music of Nigeria with a contemporary outlook, and the result is an incredibly energetic and vibrant group of musicians.

The ensemble is massive, including a tremendous horn section, five or six vocalists and a killer percussion/ rhythm section. The horns were tight and punchy throughout the show, and had some wonderfully captivating solos, and I found the contrast of male rap type melodies supported by four strong female voices harmonising very beautiful.

The lyrics of the tunes performed, all carried very strong political messages to do with a variety of current affair topics such as racism and the refugee crisis in Australia, with lyrics saying ‘Let them stay’, a message that made me so happy to hear being expressed passionately and powerfully at the Melbourne Jazz Festival, and a highlight of the show for me.

I have to admit, when I first heard that the gig was to be held at the Darebin Arts Centre, I was quite speculative and didn’t expect to have much fun, as the venue is a large theatre filled with seats, and from my idea of afro-beat music, it isn’t the type that you should sit down and watch. However, halfway through the first song, the band told the audience to get on their feet and dance because that was one of the intentions behind the music they play, and to my surprise, almost the entire audience stood up and danced for the rest of the show, making the experience just that much better.

The whole band seemed genuinely happy to be onstage, dancing, laughing and singing together creating a comfortable, chilled out environment and an overall, memorable performance, and I’ll be sure to go see them again for another night full of dancing.

Photo credit: Victor Alan

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