Hi my Wandering Journo tribe! We celebrated World Press Freedom Day yesterday in Australia but it’s still going today in most of the world. It really should be every day!
It’s a day to celebrate the power of good honest independent journalism—such as the indie podcast at the top of this page! The Fourth Estate is more important than ever to keep those in power to account, and that my friends is what this project is all about: playing my small part in keeping independent journalism ticking along and helping democracy flourish. Hooray!
You can read all about press freedom in Australia here: https://pressfreedom.org.au/
To celebrate, we have a brand new episode of Streets of Your Town ready for your listening pleasure!
This week we bring you the wonderfully eclectic Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra.
From a shy kid on the fringes to years later bringing together an eclectic group of musicians in an orchestra bearing his name, Matt Hsu has found the power of music and passed that joy onto dozens of others.
The Matt Hsu Obscure Orchestra has quickly established a following as one of Australia’s most respected ensembles, bringing together a diverse band of BIPOC, First Nations, disabled, non-binary, queer and trans artists at the intersection of art and activism.
Streets of Your Town takes you behind the scenes to one of the orchestra’s recent musical imaginings at the Museum of Brisbane, bringing the exhibits to life with a roving performance.
As the award-winning Taiwanese-Australian composer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Hsu tells us on Streets of Your Town, the 22-piece ensemble challenges many of the assumptions around traditional orchestras, replacing pomposity with dancing the night away to a range of world instruments made out of found objects.
“It’s amazing. It’s like a childhood dream come true,” Matt says.
“I’ve always felt really peaceful and relaxed in art spaces and cultural spaces. The Museum of Brisbane, I think I reached out about something else and they were like, ‘Hey, while we have you, are you interested in coming in and doing this show? It’s all about vibrancy and colour and playfulness’. And I was like, yes, absolutely.”
Matt Hsu composes all the music that the Obscure Orchestra performs, with his otherworldly joyful compositions celebrating difference, promoting inclusivity and bringing together diverse cultures.
“It started with just me tinkering around with a lot of instruments in my bedroom, just collecting instruments, learning them, and not really trying to do anything with it. Just being, having some fun with it,” he says.
“And then eventually I created a whole bunch of songs and I couldn’t play them live. I tried to, but it was basically impossible to, because I’d used so many layers and instruments.
“So I gathered a troupe of people that I felt really comfortable with, people I respected, diverse people of queer, non-binary, trans, people of colour, first nations, refugee backgrounds, just people from all walks of life that I felt really comfortable bringing into my space. And we are today the Obscure Orchestra.”
Matt Hsu’s story is an inspiration to all the average music students out there who have struggled through high school wondering why they continued to play.
“I don’t know how I do it. I’m kind of surprised as well because I was never particularly good at music in school,” Matt says.
“I was just a mediocre trumpet student, and then I joined a punk band and then kind of got freed up in my mind of like, oh, music is just making fun noises with other fun noises.”
The orchestra now has a national reputation, with its first album available for download on streaming platforms, and performances at prestigious festivals such as the Woodford Folk Festival under their collective belt.
The next collaboration of Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra is at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on May 31 when they play alongside First Nations rapper singer and poet Sachem in The Bigger Picture.
“It’s really picking up. People are, I guess, noticing or something,” he says.
“We are in a really comfortable space where the 22 of us have settled in with each other. There are friendships inside and outside the orchestra.
“What’s next is, I guess, writing album number two. Album number one was a very, lonely solitary writing process because it was just myself. And all those instruments.
“But this time round, I want to bring in more of the musicians that I have around me into the process.
“I’m really proud of it. I love this place. It’s my home.”
Have your say on Streets of Your Town!
And now over to you my incredible Streets of Your town and Wandering Journo supporters.
Can you believe that this episode of Streets of Your Town podcast is number 98? NINETY-EIGHT! Holy Dooley I can’t believe it myself!
This little indie podcast that could, produced and edited by no-one else but me from Brisbane Australia is about to reach the century milestone. And for a cricket nut like myself, that’s significant. I’m not letting this pass us by.
So my friends, Streets of Your Town wants to hear from you—the listeners from all around the world—and use your voice in the 100th celebration episode.
Have you got a favourite episode? A favourite interview that you would like to know where they are now? Or would you like to tell us what you love about this podcast and where you’d like it go next?
It’s as easy as taping your comment on your phone and sending it to me on my email firstname.lastname@example.org. If the file is too large, send me an email and I’ll send you a dropbox link. It’s easy!
We’ve already got one comment from the beautiful Melissa—thanks so much Mel! You’ll be making the cut on the 100th episode coming out soon!
Just get your comments to me by May 15 and you can be part of this audio celebration.
It’s your time to shine on Streets of Your Town!