Vyvienne Abla – Vyva Entertainment
I recently caught up with Vyvienne who started her business Vyva Entertainment almost 10 years ago and is a strong force within the Australian Hip-Hop community. She is currently running her 4Elements project, which is a series of workshops for young people, which cover all aspects of hip-hop culture culminating in an all ages festival on March 19th. We had a great chat about her journey to where she is today, the importance of hip-hop culture and how she is giving back to the community and creating some incredible opportunities for young people in Western Sydney.
Hip-Hop is about unity, acceptance, socio-political awareness and creating something from nothing. It’s about living and breathing creativity, whether that be through music, art, dance..
Can you tell me a little bit about what led to you starting your own entertainment business?
I’d say it happened organically. From a very young age I was interested in a selected few industries and I tried all of them. By the time I was done testing the waters I realised that music had been the only consist thing in my life, the only thing I had committed too. From the age of 17 the clubs became my home away 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.
What is Hip-Hop culture to you and how has it helped you as a person?
Hip-Hop is a way of life and to be honest I was living it way before I even grasped the concept of what it was or that I was a part of it – I’m still travelling along that journey.
To me Hip-Hop is about unity, acceptance, socio-political awareness and creating something from nothing. It’s about living and breathing creativity, whether that be through music, art, dance, djing, how you dress or carry yourself, designing platforms and opportunities or simply encouraging communication and knowledge exchange.
It created a sense of belonging as it travelled with me wherever I went. Growing up I went through some pretty dark times, as we all do, and as an Australian Lebanese growing up in the Shire, as a female I found it very hard to ‘fit in’ being labelled differently depending on who you spoke to. Hip-Hop and music culture helped me to simply – be me, to be comfortable within my own skin. It has showed me that home is wherever I choose to stand and that I am capable of whatever I put my mind to and that anything is possible.
You’ve had the opportunity to travel overseas, have you ever considered moving away from Australia? What keeps you here?
I will never forget my first trip to America and the experience I had. From the moment I stepped foot on U.S soil it was almost like I had been set free. Free to be me. Call me crazy, but I felt more at home in a foreign country than I did in my own house that I’d grown up in since I was 2. I found it is acceptable to be you; everyone is as different as the next. I felt comfortable and confident in my own skin. This frustrated the heck out of me – and still does.
At one stage in my life I wanted to permanently move to America because I felt that was the only place I could fit in, but for the same motivation I had to leave was the inspiration that made me stay.
Now I am in the process of creating a culturally diverse environment where individuals, in particularly youth, feel free to be themselves and where self-discovery and expression is encouraged. I wanted this place to be here, in Australia and Hip-hop culture is the vessel I’ve chosen to bring that to life.
How important is it to you to keep up with what’s happening internationally?
It is crucial to stay in touch with what is happening around you both locally and internationally because it keeps you in the loop and assists with education, the growth and development of not only your work and projects you’re running but also within self. Travelling and experiencing another’s culture and learning from their experience and way of life is the best way to learn about yourself. Additionally a change of scenery always helps to reenergise and inspire you.
Travelling and experiencing another’s culture and learning from their experience and way of life is the best way to learn about yourself.
There is a strong need for a positive and relevant Hip-Hop project, no other program of this nature exists within New South Wales. Last year we engaged 5 young people in the first round of workshops, 10 in the second and this year we have 35 young people for 4Elements 2016.
You are currently working on a project called 4Elements can you tell me a bit about how it came about and what the project is?
The 4Elements Music Project (4EMP) is a concept that’s been inside my head since the age of 15. I’ve always wanted 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.
After a highly successful year of festivals and programs throughout 2015, 4EMP has returned to see its second year! The project includes a workshop program for young people and a free all-age community (alcohol & drug free) festival to coincide with Harmony Day on Saturday 19th March 2016 to be held at 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.
We are continually being approached by young people in the area and emerging artists, for guidance, development and exposure to the scene. There is a strong need for a positive and relevant Hip-Hop project, no other program of this nature exists within New South Wales. Last year we engaged 5 young people in the first round of workshops, 10 in the second and this year we have 35 young people for 4Elements 2016.
I want to give back to others what music gave me. 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.
What attracts you to working with youth?
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. My experiences – some I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, I constantly found my self in situations – situations I probably should have never been in. Lucky enough, I had God watching over me; and the strength to keep on the straight and narrow in an industry so easy to get lost in, especially at a young impressionable age. As I know others may not be this lucky I want to create an environment, a culture, a “home away from home” through the use of music and its culture but within a safer, more productive space. I don’t want others to walk down my same path but rather provide them the opportunity to walk down another.
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.
You work within the western suburbs, how important is a project like 4elements for the area?
Cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and is at the heart of who we are – especially within Western Sydney. 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.
Having events and programs like 4Elements are vital in that it gives our local young people something to do and a positive way to channel their energy as well as a platform and outlet for self-expression. It is also a great way for the wider community to get involved creating a supportive and vibrant atmosphere.
If you want longevity, if you want those you are trying to engage to get the most out of their experience – you need to involve the right people.
How did you manage to get such great artists to work with you? Why is it important to have such high level artists as mentors?
I’ve been working within the music, events and entertainment industry for almost 15 years now and have built ongoing relationships with a large number of incredible artists and industry professionals. It is from these relationships and track record of previous works that I was able to get the support of a huge number of inspiring people who are active within the industry and passionate about what they do. Another key element which needs to be noted is the importance of partnerships on a local level. This project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of organisations like the Bankstown Youth Development Service (BYDS), Bankstown City Council and many others.
If you want high level results, if you want a professional outcome, if you want to be taken seriously, if you want to attract the right people to you, if you want longevity, if you want those you are trying to engage to get the most out of their experience – you need to involve the right people.
What do you hope the participants will get out of the program?
Sense of community/ family.
Knowledge and skill development.
To know that, no matter what obstacles come their way there is always a solution… or 10! i.e never give up – anything is possible.
As an artist it is important to understand what is expected of you and what to expect from others. Our industry is continually changing and these days emerging artists no longer sit solely within a creative space, gone the days where a record label or A&R discovered you and took over everything
Why do you think it’s important to teach emerging artists about the music/creative industry and not just how to create a hit?
It is imperative that they know what they are getting themselves into – we don’t want them walking in blind. Like everything, knowing your history and background knowledge with what you are doing or trying to do will always be relevant and play an important role in your growth and future success.
As an artist it is important to understand what is expected of you and what to expect from others. Our industry is continually changing and these days emerging artists no longer sit solely within a creative space, gone the days where a record label or A&R discovered you and took over everything – nowadays you need to know how to build your brand, your presence, put together a business, marketing and publicity strategies, events and tours, you need to take care of your accounts, legalities, copyright and so much more. Knowing your industry and how to run a business is just as important as creating an incredible product.
Even if you don’t know everything inside out. You need to know enough to know what others within your team should be doing.
Outside of school and my blood relatives, music is literally the only tie which connects me to everyone I know, to all I call family and friends.
Where do you think you would be without music?
To be honest I have no idea, and I don’t want to know! Outside of school and my blood relatives, music is literally the only tie which connects me to everyone I know, to all I call family and friends.
To this day I still lose myself to music. It is always there for you. It never gives up on you. It helps you through the good and the bad, it moves you and motivates you. It lets you drown your sorrows when you need to and then knows how to pick you right back up.
Music has been the only consist thing in my life and without it I’d be lost.
When is the 4Elements festival and who can come?
The festival is on Saturday 19th March from 11am at the Bankstown Arts Centre and is open for everyone! It is an all age event suitable for emerging artists, young people, adults and families.
An already talented young rapper Joshua aka Banjo Patterson was turned down from the X-factor who told him “we’re not looking for a rapper we are looking for Justin Bieber” he gave up for a few years. After friend told Joshua about the workshops running at Bankstown Art Centre he was one of the first to sign up, he is loving the workshops and the skills he is gaining. The knock back from X-Factor might be the best thing that happened to him.
Rapping taught me how to speak properly. When I was 5 or 6 I had to repeat preschool because I couldn’t speak properly. I had my own language. I had a speech therapist. I could talk but I had a hard time explaining what I wanted to say. It’s hard for me to explain but once I discovered rapping it really helped me out!
I am really grateful for finding the program. I am not expecting anything but I think if I just keep slogging away maybe something will happen. You never know.
I would like to become a recognised Aussie Hip-Hop artist, if someone hears my song on the radio and they turn it up, that’s all that I want.
Zig Parker has a wealth of knowledge about audio production, music videos and advertising from being in the industry for over 20 years. He is one of the mentors on 4EMP. As a big fan and supporter of the project he told me a little about his involvement as a mentor.
I worked in the music industry in LA for about 15 years in different aspects of the industry, coming to Australia I saw lots of talent, but people didn’t have the outlets and information so I took it upon myself to be one of the ones to help provide the information and build more of an industry here. A lot of up and coming artists think that they have everything that there is to know, which is good to think but there are a lot of things that you need knowledge about, like media training, stage presence and studio etiquette. Those types of things can take you a long way in the industry.
The youth are our future and these are the people that could be running it one day. So you want them to be able to have the tools and the right information to be able to do it.
Most talented people that are doing really well, have a team around them that are responsible for their success but in order to have that team you need to have an idea of what to expect from that team. If you have a manager and an agent or other people who are working for you, if you don’t know what their role is then they are just going to do whatever they like, so as a mentor I help kids know the roles and different aspects of the industry.
I love being a mentor because I learn as well and it keeps me motivated. When you have been doing something for a long time you can get complacent and the creativity can be blocked. I am still a sponge myself from being an artist and a producer and I never look at it as if I know everything. I like to learn from the mentees.
4Elements Festival (4EMP) is on Saturday 19th March from 11am at the Bankstown Arts Centre and is open for everyone! It is an all age event suitable for emerging artists, young people, adults and families.
Interview: Katrina James
Photos: Katrina James and Jim Merchant