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Radical Son

Cause 'n' Effect


Wantok music
soul, hip hop

Most of us cannot imagine the difficulty of reconciling one's personal and cultural identity as a modern Indigenous Australian, let alone articulating that experience effectively. The better attempts at such articulation can provide profoundly affecting artistic statements.
David Leha, aka Radical Son, has made such a statement with his debut album, shrewdly titled, Cause 'N Effect.

On one side of the coin, there is nothing remarkable about Leha's story - a part indigenous Australian, part Tongan who became involved in alcohol, drugs and crime and wound up seeing his teenage years out in prison. Leha's adolescence was not devoid of opportunity either, his prison stint began the week before he was due to progress to first grade in the South Sydney Rabbit-Ohs squad.

The remarkable twist to Leha's story is that he managed to turn his life around. He cleaned up, started a family, and embraced music as a positive creative outlet. When I ask Leha if he celebrated the recent Rabbit-Ohs Grand Final win, he just shrugs and says he's not even a football fan anymore.

"That was a lifetime ago, mate," he sighs..
Leha managed to break the destructive cycle that surrounded him. Cause 'N Affect is his paean to change - a personal celebration of his own change and a demonstration to others that change is possible. Unfolding more like a story or journey than a collection of songs, the album is interspersed by spoken word interludes. Read by Archie Roach, the introduction to 'Talk To Me' states, "There is always potential for change. Talking about change often requires looking at ones self. Being honest. Acknowledging that which is positive so that it may be used to inspire. Acknowledging that which is negative so that it may be learned from." This, in a nutshell, is the album's mission statement.

"That's been a struggle man," says Leha. "Knowing who you are. You can quite easily decide, 'Okay this who I'm going to say I am.' But if someone asks you who you are there's probably a story and you can see that most people's stories wont change at all. They'll stick with that same story all the way through. But I just found it a struggle to understand what it was that I wanted to say and what it is that I wanted to be about."

"What I write about is to have people look at ourselves," he continues. "We're always looking outward for a solution, or looking for politicians to change things and blaming others."

Rather than beating the message over our heads (that was the old Leha?), Radical Son beguiles us to attention with a sweet, pure singing voice and sultry soul grooves. It's a potent approach, one that, Leha admits, owes more than a little to Bob Marley - "One thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain."

Cause 'N Effect opens with Richard Green (Dr Greenthumb)'s arresting Indigenous vocal 'Yenmala (Let's Walk) - Nambrimbii' before the decidedly more modern tones of 'Human Behaviour' bloom into a soul-reggae groove, complete with lush backing vocals and horns, Leha's voice all passion and molasses. Leha says this was the first song he wrote with his band and it's the beating heart of the album.

Next song in, 'Do The Right Thing' sees Leha and co pick up echoes of Redhead Kingpin's immortal rap track of the same name, hip and soul combining oh so sweetly. Though Archie Roach reads most of the spoken word interludes, he is reading Leha's words, drawn from his describing the songs to the bandmembers. Roach introduces Leha's personal favourite, 'One Dream' with the profound words, "We all have so much, yet we continue to feel like we need to acquire more."

'One Dream' is slowburning soul, Leha getting to stretch his sonorous voice to striking effect - the man can sing! Which is all the more remarkable considering Leha says he did not grow up around music at all and did not even think about singing until he was 24 years old.

The album continues to swing between slower poignant soul songs in the vein of 'One Dream' ('This Could Be', 'Talk To Me',) and big, energetic reggae/hip hop numbers ('Rock On' (bound to be a live favourite), 'Ooowee', 'The Highest of Love') so that one is constantly swept from the dismal lows to the celebratory highs, mirroring Leha's own journey. With sparkling production, committed playing, and the Son's voice never less than gripping, it makes for an unforgettable ride for both performer and listener.

"That's what I love about it the most, is the reflection," says Leha of his music. "Going deep within and the soul searching. And that can be a painful process too, but I love it. "

Radical Son

Cause 'n' Effect


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