As part of the partnership between Live at the Bowl and Melbourne Music Week-Extended, Arts Centre Melbourne is hosting a new gig series.
Titled Happy Mondays, it’s a celebration of Melbourne’s live music scene and the small venues which nurture it.
Every Monday night this month, two iconic music venues will come together to curate a gig at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The venues include The Tote, Old Bar, The Gaso, The Curtin, Northcote Social Club and The Evelyn Hotel. But one we’re particularly excited by comes from the brilliant minds behind Bar Oussou and Colour Club.
Ahead of their collaboration, we spoke to Mary Sitarenos, who owns Bar Oussou, and Benny Rausa, the owner and director of Colour Club.
“It’s come at a really great time because small venues have had to work really hard to recover from COVID,” says Sitarenos of the Happy Mondays series.
She feels particularly grateful to the state government and the subsequent initiatives designed to protect Victoria’s live music scene during the pandemic.
“That’s given us inspiration and hope to work through this [period],” she says.
Rausa wholeheartedly agrees, “We’re super appreciative that we’ve been given the opportunity to do something like this.”
“It’s pretty awesome that a small venue like ours can do something on the big stage,” he says.
The collaborative project, in Sitarenos’ opinion, celebrates and gives recognition to the importance of small businesses.
She believes small live music venues are the lifeblood of the industry, “[giving] great opportunities for emerging artists to develop themselves”.
The platform means people will be, “exposed to a variety of [the] incredible music Melbourne has to offer,” she adds.
When the opportunity arose, the only question was who to book. The first thing to cross Sitarenos’ mind was: “We have such amazing bands, who are we going to pick?”
Ultimately Bar Oussou and Colour’s choices were a no-brainer.
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For Bar Oussou, Yusupha Ngum & the AFFIA Band were the perfect choices to represent the venue.
Sitarenos says, Yusupha Ngum brings, “a wealth of knowledge and history” to the “contemporary emerging artists” in the AFFIA Band. This, she says, is the intersection that embodies Bar Oussou’s philosophy.
“He’s one of a kind,” she says of Yusupha Ngum. “I would say he would be one of the greatest West African singers Australia has.”
Yusupha Ngum is a Gambian singer and songwriter, currently based in Australia, who performs in a range of styles, including mbalax, folk music, rap, jazz fusion, and African fusion music. He performs with the colourful six-piece African fusion outfit, the AFFIA band.
Like Bar Oussou, Colour chose an artist who accurately reflects the venue.
“We love Sui Zhen, we try to book her whenever we can,” says Rausa.
Sui Zhen played Colour’s opening in October 2019, and thus holds a special place in the venue owner’s heart.
“[Sui Zhen’s] beautiful mixture of electronic pop, with a bit of a dreamy vibe in some points and a bit of a darker, more twisted clubby edge,” embodies Colour’s culture, according to Rausa.
Sui Zhen is a Melbourne-based experimental pop and performance artist. Through her music, she explores how we exist in a digital age and the intersection between human life and technology.
“I’m really glad we got her to play for this… [Sui Zhen] is a good encapsulation of Colour.”
On the collaboration, both Rausa and Sitarenos are stoked to be working with one another.
“We love Mary, we love Bar Oussou,” says Rausa, “it’s an institution”.
“[Colour has] a lot of connection with Bar Oussou,” he continues, “it’s a real privilege to be teaming up with them.”
Sitarenos echoes the sentiment.
“Partnering with Colour is really great because they’re in the foreground of really new contemporary work.”
She ascertains both venues are, “very much intercultural, contemporary, [and] original,” with Bar Oussou bringing, “traditional roots”.
At both Colour and Bar Oussou, their ethos revolves around welcoming people from every background.
Happy Mondays presented by Bar Oussou and Colour Club is happening on Monday March 29 at Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Grab your tickets here.
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