INTERVIEW: NAK discusses the lack of intercultural collaboration between Australia & the world
Updated: Jul 26
We interviewed NAK, founder of I Am Leverage (@ial.iamleverage) and Sage Music (@sagemusicglobal) about the collaboration culture in Australia and how there is an inherent reluctance to collaborate with other countries. Upon travelling to East Africa and living in Rwanda, the multitalented NAK has worked with many artists through workshops, management, and educational courses.
An artist and producer, NAK started her marketing and PR business in Australia working with artists, and her management company in East Africa. Through her experience she commented: “I realised there is no bridge between East Africa and Australia and I noticed that some artists would work really well with other artists, Australian artists don't collaborate much with East Africa and that's what I am trying to build”.
We are in a place and time where Australian music is exponentially growing and slowly being established especially in the past few years. We are seeing similar trends in other countries in Europe and Africa, and there are undeniably many missed opportunities for growth.
“Countries in East Africa and specifically Rwanda are so unknown because the industry is so new and there's been a huge shift in the past five years. This is a starting point in promoting intercultural integration and there are many artists that are emerging and are established”.
Tanzanian, Kongolese, and Nigerian music has become increasingly established in the world and provide a great framework for emerging countries in Africa. “Rwanda has diamonds of artists that are unknown, and they are developing a rap and drill culture which is incredible to see. There are many similarities between Australia and East African artists in which they can learn from and augment each other.”
NAK continues to point out that in East Africa, they are very open to collaboration and support from other countries, and they have found great success in working with the UK and USA, but have struggled in connecting with Australia. We delved deeper into why this was the case, and one answer NAK spoke on from her experience is that Australian artists did not focus enough on doing it for the love of the music and the merits of the artist. NAK noted that In Australia, “there's a minority of people that want to work with you for your talents, unfortunately the majority look for specific connections, status, streaming numbers”.
Artists in Australia struggle in balancing their work between how it benefits their career financially, musically, and in terms of status, however for NAK, there is an imbalance of artists not focusing enough on the musical value collaboration brings. For example, NAK mentioned that she was working with Bruce Melody who is an established Rwandan artist and at the forefront of the Rwandan music scene.
NAK acknowledged her frustrations at seeing the times change slowly, and even though we see the prevalence of this collaboration culture, Australia is slowly getting out of its music bubble due to the few trailblazers in the industry such as Mike Akox and Manu Crooks. However there still needs to be a greater impetus on working collaboratively with other countries and cultures - particularly when considering the multicultural population base that Australia has.
We asked NAK on what strategies there are to bridge this gap in Australian culture including any implications involving this process. Nak explained that the main strategies she has deployed are reaching out to managers that have that open mindset, and this is where she admits to finding the most success in creating connections between artists. “The main problem in the market is that artists are trying to find the balance between collaborating with others for musical value, money, and social clout”. Another strategy she exemplifies, is creating discourse about collaboration and working with people for their musical talent, competency and merit even if they may not have the numbers to show at that point of their career.
To conclude our chat, NAK makes a call out to all Australian artists: “If there's anyone who wants to collaborate with East African artists hit me up because there are so many artists who want to come to Australia and tour. Countries like the UK and USA are more receptive. If you want to work internationally, Hit me up and I will try and give you the connection, don't limit yourself just because you're in a particular place or time. Music should be shared for the world”.
Concluding this dialogue, we were left with some unanswered questions. So, we put together a discussion question on the Instagram post of this article asking artists about the potential for greater collaboration across continents. Head to @waevzau on Instagram to give us your thoughts.
Photo 3 by @briana__tz
Words by Byron Zeledon-Torres