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Vyvienne Abla Talks The 4 Elements Youth Festival & Its Importance to Australia’s Hip-Hop Community

As the driving force behind one of the most unique and necessary youth festivals in our community, Vyvienne Alba, Founder of Vyva Entertainment and the 4 Elements Youth Festival is a force to be reckoned with.

Presenting the 2nd annual 4 Elements Hip Hop Youth Festival at The Bankstown Arts Centre in South Western Sydney on Sat March 19th has been an ultimate labour of love for this promotion and marketing entrepreneur, whose vision for the creation of an event that encompasses the four elements of hip-hop (djing, emceeing, art and dance) and allows the local youth to come together in a series of eight weekly workshops with some of the industries most respected experts. Perfecting their crafts and learning some invaluable lessons from the mentors on hand is what gives this project and festival its powerful spin for the youth involved in the various workshops and enables them to not only learn more but also showcase their talents on the day in a variety of live musical performances, art displays and dance.

Leading up to the festival Vyvienne has taken some time out to explain the drive behind an event like 4 Elements and what her ultimate purpose is in creating safe and authentic spaces for Sydney’s youth to create under the hip-hop umbrella.

Can you describe what 4 Elements is and how the concept of a hip-hop festival came about?

The 4Elements Music Project (4EMP) is a concept that’s been inside my head since the age of 15 and I’ve worked within the music, entertainment and events industry for almost 15 years now. I’ve always said that my retirement plan is to open up a musically inspired youth centre and this project is a step towards making that dream come to life. I want to create a space utilising hip-hop and music culture that:

  • Engages young people in a project which overcome barriers to participation in the community
  • Connects youth directly with professional mentors and the industry as a whole
  • Provides young people with the knowledge and skills to link them with further training and employment opportunities, or improve their educational outcomes
  • Promotes cultural diversity, self-expression and respect for others and self
  • Enriches the community by providing quality events for young people and the wider community.

4EMP utilises hip-hop and music culture to assist young people in breaking down barriers, connect with their local community and encourage positive self-image, skills development, unity and respect for self and others. After a highly successful year of festivals and programs throughout 2015, 4EMP is returning for a bigger and better 2016.

The project includes a workshop program for young people (Tuesday 9th February – Wednesday 23rd March 2016) and a free all-age community (alcohol & drug free) festival to coincide with Harmony Day (Saturday 19th March 2016) to be held at the Bankstown Arts Centre. The festival will consist of performances, rap & dance ‘battles’, live arts wall, art gallery viewing, hip-hop history resource room, industry panels and one on one discussions with professionals from the music industry and academics.

We are continually being approached by young people in the area and emerging artists, for guidance, development and exposure to the music scene. There is a strong need for a positive and relevant hip-hop project, no program of this nature exists within New South Wales.

Music is one of the most powerful tools in the world and is a medium that speaks the loudest to young people and provides a powerful voice to minority groups. Numerous studies suggest that music plays a vital role in shaping Australian culture and our identity. hip-hop is a proven vehicle for teaching:

  • Awareness
  • Knowledge
  • Equality
  • Peace, unity and love
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Recreation
  • Overcoming challenges
  • Life, truth, facts and faith

Recent statistics suggest that 9/10 Australians enjoy listening to music each week. 57% of the population attend live music events each year, making music the biggest art form in Australia.

The message of Harmony Day is ‘Everyone Belongs’ which fits perfectly with the concept of hip-hop. Hip-Hop is about unity, acceptance, socio-political awareness and creating something from nothing. Harmony Day is a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home, a time to reflect on where Australia has come from, while also recognising the traditional owners of this land.

Our cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and is at the heart of who we are. It is the spirit that connects the past to the present and lays a path towards the future. Australia is home to our Indigenous people and people from over 200 countries around the world, with more than 300 languages spoken in Australian homes. hip-hop provides a sense of belonging for all willing to embrace it and generally attracts young people and minority groups as it offers an environment where self-expression is encouraged, stimulating conversation and provides an opportunity to just be without being discriminated against.

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What do you think draws the Youth of our community to events like this and how do we continue to create safe spaces for the talent in our communities.

There are a number of reasons, our youth like to have fun, they enjoy going out with their friends, being creative and events like 4Elements gives them somewhere to go within their own backyard. The energetic and vibrant atmosphere of an event like this is attractive in itself, it’s a cool chilled out place to hang out and more than likely they’ll find one of their friends on the line up. We are creating an industry experience, a high quality event and putting artists who are active in the scene at close reach.

Sometimes the only reason they attend is because a friend is going so they tag along, or they have nothing else better to. It’s a free event so they come. The 4Elements line up and activities on the day are very diverse that no matter your reasoning you’ll end up leaving with an experience that will change you forever.

The only way to maintain safe spaces for our emerging scene is by working together and creating new opportunities. If you find a gap, fill it. Our youth are our future and without them their will be no growth in our scene so it is important for those currently active to give back to their community, mentor our youth and be present on a local level. With all the recent funding cuts, lock out laws and other industry challenges we need to learn how to be more innovative with what we have, utilise resources better and most importantly open up the lines of communication and build strong partnerships between our industry, local level organisations and educational institutes.

This is your second 4 Elements Hip Hop Festival – how much harder or easier has it been organising this year?

It’s a mix of both to be honest. It’s harder in a sense that the expectations of everyone are higher as last years event was incredible so trying to find ways to improve the experience and ensure that it grows with you creates a lot of pressure, especially as it has been talked about all year. You want to make sure that those new to the event or new to hip-hop culture in general have a great time and leave with something, while those who attended last year have a grander experience. We’ve taken into consideration all the feedback we received from 2015 and have made improvements and added a few extra surprises. After such an incredible line up of over 100 artists in 2015, trying to work out this year’s line-up was also a challenge – but thankfully Australia is full of incredible local talent, we have a whole new line up of fresh faces with some of your past favourites!

As an event that promotes such diversity and range of local talent it is important for us to find ways to stay relevant and on top of who is who and who is doing what where and provide opportunities to our emerging artists. This year we partnered up with music website ReverbNation and offered an opportunity for an artist to perform at the festival. By doing this we as the organisers were exposed to a collection of artists we had never heard of, with over 800 entries from independent artists it was a bind blowing experience. We are pleased to announce that the winner of our Reverb competition is an artist who goes by the name of Tu P, a hip-hop artist born in Brisbane, to a Vietnamese Refugee family. He graduated UQ in 2009 and is a practicing medical doctor. He released his debut album “Made of Jade” in 2013 and is now working on his second album “Agenda”. Tu P will be flying down to Sydney to perform inter-state for the first time.

The level of support has increased now that the event has been done before and people can visualise the outcomes, they can see it, they can feel it. That alone has helped us to gain further funding and outside support. Hearing the stories and outcomes from last years event and the ongoing changes it has made for our community far out way all challenges, negativity or roadblock that’s tried to surface. We had a number of local young people who from the event gained further performance, mentoring and collaborative opportunities. The event attracted people from outside the area who had never come to Bankstown and to have them leaving with a changed perception was huge. Interpretations were challenged not only on local level, but also internationally. 4Elements attracted attention across waters and exposed others to a side of Australia they had never seen before. The event, along with many of the local artists in 2015 were featured in U.S magazine ‘Whatsgood’ which was distributed across 241 news stands in America, England, Canada and hand delivered to all the major labels.

Over the years I’ve learnt that with each obstacle or problem there is always a solution, there is always a lesson to be learned and regardless of what it is, it will add value to your event and humbly allow you to enjoy its successes. As without being challenged, without being push outside of your comfort zone, we would never grow and reach our full potential.

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You have been holding a series of workshops for the youth for the past month in the lead up to the big day. Can you explain how the workshops are run and who the facilitators are, their backgrounds in music and entertainment?

We are currently running 3 series of workshops, which include music, dance and street art. The workshops all run independently at the Bankstown Arts Centre, however, on Wednesdays we occasion merge together for specific joint sessions. The program has specifically been structured so that at least 1 of the 2 days all 3 programs are in the same space at the same time. This is so that they can be exposed to the work others do and to allow us to bring everyone together.

The idea behind the joint sessions is to get the young people familiar with each other, to assist with team building, both professionally and personally as well as an opportunity to meet and talk with weekly and special guest mentors on topics like HipHop and music history, industry knowledge and engage them with others in the community. The workshops independently focus on the foundations of their chosen craft, creative skills whether it is drawing, writing, performance, music, dance or design.

We have an astonishing team of mentors this year, as we did last year! For music we have L-Fresh The Lion, Zig Parker and Jamie Muscat. Dance is run by Dancekool facilitators Karen Siu, Joker and Lisa Teng and the street art by Mistery. Some of our special guest mentors include Mirrah Reflects and DJ MK-1. All of our mentors are passionate, humbling and inspiring humans. They know how to push our youth outside their comfort zone while showing support and creating a safe and non-judgement environment for them to explore and find methods of self expression, to build confidence and learn more about who they are as an artist as well as an individual.

L-FRESH the LION is renowned for his powerful presence, inspiring live shows and thought-provoking lyricism. In a short space of time, the Western Sydney artist has gone from underground community events and ciphers to national tours and major festivals. It speaks of an MC with a sense of purpose and self-belief. Inspired by the soulful movement in US hip hop of the late 1990s / early 2000s, and the love and respect for his own cultural and ancestral roots of the Sikhs from Punjab, India, L-FRESH is an artist like no other. Aligning himself with many social justice issues, L-FRESH The LION has dedicated himself to working tirelessly in the community. At present, he is an ambassador for All Together Now, Australia’s only national charity that exists solely to address racism.

Zig has worked for record labels, both major/independent in the U.S., & after relocating to Sydney he co-founded a full service multimedia production agency in 2008. Specialised in audio and video production, advertising, music videos and short films. His work earned him International awards both in film and advertising. As a rapper, music producer, songwriter and basically someone who has worked in just about every aspect of the industry including sound engineer, video director and tour manager, Zig has developed his art and is now more interested in developing other artists.

Jamie Muscat has been a producer in the industry for the past 6 years. He has played guitar for 15 years giving him a deep understand of music and the way we communicate our ideas about music. Has worked on multiple projects with Australian internationally recognised producer Philipe Marc Anquetil with such artists as ‘what about tonight’, Paulini, Quinn, Ramos, Poem and many more.

Karen Siu’s love for hip-hop dance began in Sydney, as she moved around living in Japan and NYC she was able to study HipHop culture and all styles of street dance with some of the pioneers of these styles such as Brian Green, Bam Bam, Ejoe Wilson, Jazzy J, Archie Burnette, Shabba-doo and Tyrone. Now back in Sydney, Karen is heavily active in the dance community managing Dancekool.

B-boy Joker, Floorchestra Crew has been b-boying since 2006 and teaching for over 7 years. He has a colourful track record which includes:

  • Winner of 2v2 Parramatta PCYC 2007 Top 8 in Oz b-boy crew championship 2009Winner of 1v1 Macquarie freestyle battle 2009
  • 2nd Place at 2v2 $2 freestyle battle 2009
  • Winner of 1v1 New Gen Jam 5 2009
  • Winner of 3v3 Rooftop vol 1.5 2010
  • Have been B-boying since 2006
  • Teacher 2009-2011 at Dance Generation Studio(Eastwood)

Lisa Teng has been dancing since she was young and mainly focuses on JFH, hip-hop and urban choreography. By dancing with different studios in Sydney, she’s had the opportunity to train with many of Sydney’s best as well as international teachers who come to share their wealth of knowledge. Training outside the studio with different crews, she’s competed and co-choreographed for many shows and competitions such as: 3rd place at ADCC Sydney 2014 with dGen (Dancer) and 1st in Sydney Battlegrounds 2014 with Fetch (Co-Choreographer/Dancer). Training in Singapore last March 2015 at the Summer Jam Dance Camp has pushed her further as a dancer and teacher and she has many more things to share in her classes.

Mistery is one of Australia’s most legendary and influential writers. For over 20 years, he’s been representing the HipHop culture through breaking, graffiti, and as an emcee. Having started out as a B-boy in the early 1980s, his signature style and iconic B-boy characters are recognised all over the world–a true reflection of his roots in hip-hop . Today, Mistery continues to share his love for hip-hop culture with others, touring cities and countries abroad as a B-boy, martial artist, Christian minister, emcee, and writer.

What can the public expect from the 4Elements Festival and how can they attend and show support for the great work you and your team are doing?

A great fun day filled with something for everybody. Even if you aren’t into hip-hop or if the word hip-hop generally turns you away from going then I challenge you to challenge your perception of what hip-hop culture is, and to open yourself up to a new experience. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised. We are here to take you on a journey, to challenge your perceptions, to introduce you to a new world and to create a safe and fun environment where we celebrate our cultural diversity.

There will be an array of amazing talent, interactive spaces, good vibes, and incredible people. With a cast of over 100 people from over 35 different heritages 4Elements is a safe and welcoming space for those of all backgrounds, all ages and all walks of life.

The best way to show your support is by coming down to the event, bring your friends, and bring your family. We welcome you to join us on Saturday 19th March at the Bankstown Arts Centre. 4Elements is free to attend and will be running from 11am – 6pm followed by an informal jam session till 8pm.

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Your ultimate motivation in doing what you do and what are you hoping to be the overall achievement for 4 Elements?

Why? – The million-dollar question into everything that we do. Growing up I dealt with many different situations or problems from racism, bullying, relationship challenges and all the great things we come across as a growing adult and female in Australia – the list could go on for days. I grew up always wanting to be anywhere but here. I rebelled throughout my teenage years by going out all the time. I’d be in the clubs 5-7 days a week, till 6-7am every morning. As a youth growing up in Australia I felt as though I didn’t belong, I had no one to really talk to and didn’t know where else to turn. From the age of 17 the clubs became my home way from home and naturally, I started working within the industry as part of a street team and worked my way up to eventually running my own nights, radio hosting, working on festivals, music awards and other major events.

Although I am still young, these eyes have seen too much. I was blessed… somehow! With the common sense to keep on the straight and narrow in an industry so easy to get lost in, especially at a young impressionable age. In a crazy way the industry acted as my second parents, as mentioned before the clubs became my home away from home and my career became my life. I think that is the reason that no matter how hard I have fallen, and trust me I’ve hit rock bottom, from being on top of cloud 9 one day and waking up the next to being buried 6 feet under with nothing to my name – I keep coming back for more. Like family, we don’t always agree with what they say, we may not understand at the time why our parents are so protective, have the views they do or get what ‘their’ problem is. But the reality of it is, they are their to guide us, teach us and welcome us back with opening arms regardless of how floored or damaged we may be. The industry, like my parents allowed me to grow, it allowed me to make mistakes, it allowed me to get distracted and fall off my path but it also taught me a lot about myself and gave me the strength and fight to keep going on what I believe in regardless of what others may think or say. If you are passionate about something don’t let anything get in your way.

Despite the troubles I have faced, I have this burning desire inside of me that always takes over and never lets me give up. I believe that I am here for a greater purpose, that I have experienced and seen everything for a reason. People always say I have the gift of understanding and I know that comes from my past experiences. Knowing that my challenges have helped me to help others through their dark times has made it all worth it. Knowing that I motivate and inspire others has a 360 affect, as they are my inspiration.

I want to give back to others what music gave me, but within a fun, safe and productive environment. I believe that music is the most powerful tool in the world and can be used to create a positive change in every individual’s life – regardless of who you are.

I may be facing all odds, and living in a fantasyland as most people always seem to “remind” me, with my crazy ideas and high hopes but that will never stop me. I want to create a culturally diverse environment where individuals, in particularly youth, feel free to be themselves and where self-discovery and expression is encouraged, to educate youth and the Australian community on the benefits of music and hip-hop culture. To enrich our industry by providing quality, educational, fun and safe projects for lovers of music within Australia and link youth and emerging talent with music industry professionals and the industry as a whole; giving them access to a pool of knowledge, experiences and resources.

All in all my vision is to educate and inspire individuals through the use of music and its culture.

For more information on the 4 Elements Free Hip Hop Youth Festival visit:


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The 4 Elements Hip Hop Festival at The Bankstown Art Centre on Sat 19th March 2016 from 11am till late.

Images: Vyva Entertainment