L-FRESH The LION bringing people together

L-FRESH The LION Photo by: Dan O’Brien

From behind sweat-covered microphones, Australian-born Sikh hip-hop artist L-FRESH The LION looks out to crowds surprisingly similar to those he sits among at AFL matches.

 By David Sygall

The fans are from all walks of life, various backgrounds, different genders and age-groups. They are there to have fun, become impassioned, let off steam and maybe learn something new. They feel safe, welcome and engaged.

“Music, just like sport, is a beautiful platform for bringing people together,” the musician and footy lover from western Sydney says.

“I see it at my shows. When I get on stage there’s such a diverse audience, it’s a beautiful thing to experience. Music has the capacity to cross all social and political barriers and bring us all together to enjoy the moment, just like AFL does.”

It might explain why L-FRESH – born Sukhdeep Singh in the south-western suburb of Liverpool – has become a passionate GWS GIANTS fan and recently been enlisted to become an AFL Cultural Ambassador. The young club is building a base in Sydney’s ethnic melting pot and Singh, who will perform at the Multicultural Festival at Sydney Olympic Park as part of the competition’s Multicultural Round celebrations on Saturday, hopes the orange and charcoal will begin to resonate with people from backgrounds which have not traditionally enmeshed with the game.

“AFL is not one of the more popular sports among the Indian community, for instance,” he says. “But there are kids in our community who are keen to engage with sports other than cricket and are passionate about the AFL. Let’s connect with them and find ways for them to become more involved.

“Growing up in western Sydney I had a keen interest in AFL, I was a Swans fan and I wanted opportunities to play. But I don’t remember even having the choice to play it at school or for a club. Now, with the Giants here, how exciting is it for kids to not only have a team to support, but opportunities to play and connect with the team in a really meaningful way. It really excites me. That’s what I want to explore in my engagement with the AFL.”

However, Singh suggests, engagement is about much more than simply growing the club’s membership numbers. It’s about social cohesion and understanding, topics he feels strongly about and has become renowned for expressing through his energetic and positive music.

The new L-FRESH record ‘Become’ articulates Singh’s personal challenges finding his way as a minority in his own country. He says it “explores the challenges, conflicts and harmonies that come with being an individual whose experience is made up of being part of so many different cultures”.

“I’ve got a Punjabi background – Indian and Punjabi cultures are quite different – I’m from the Sikh faith and culture, I obviously look different to most people. I’m born and raised in Australia, living in western Sydney, and I’ve been influenced by hip hop. All these different cultures intertwine within me as an everyday experience. A lot of the time it works well but at other times there are conflicts. Sometimes those conflicts come from outside of me and sometimes they manifest within me based on my interactions each day.

“I’ve found adversity in just trying to fit in, which entails being discriminated against, being abused and picked on. I’ve dealt with it by coming to peace with not trying to fit in, but rather standing out and celebrating that, celebrating diversity.”

It’s the kind of celebration Singh hopes to more of in the AFL, particularly through the Giants, with whom, he says, he is “officially on the bandwagon”.

“I love that there is a western Sydney team and my role with them and the AFL will be about connecting with communities at events and letting them know that we can all enjoy AFL together.

“I’m sure there are plenty of kids from many different backgrounds playing AFL and I think it’s amazing that the AFL is being proactive in creating better pathways for these kids to be a real part of the game. Hopefully soon we’ll see someone from the Indian community kicking goals and flying high and grabbing marks.”

You can see L-FRESH The LION live at the 2016 Toyota AFL Multicultural Festival on Saturday, 9 July, Cathy Freeman Park, Sydney Olympic Park at 12:50pm.

For more information about L-FRESH The LION please click here.