MC ESO ON PEOPLE, POWER AND MUSIC
It's been a big year for Bliss n Eso. It all started when a band from South Africa called the Zulu Connections Choir dropped by on a visit to Australia and asked if the boys were interested in doing a song with them. What would begin as a stone of an idea tumbling down a dusty ideascape quickly became an avalanche that held its own momentum. Bliss n Eso with DJ Izm said they were in; Jimmy Barnes caught wind and offered up his loungeroom to the 21 members of the choir; and the rest is history. They miked up Jimmy's loungreoom; and recorded a demo of the choir singing.
Shortly afterwards, MTV and The Oaktree Foundation suggested that Bliss n Eso visit South Africa as part of a trip to help sufferers of HIV/ AIDS and youth at risk. They would also be able to reconnect with the Zulu Connections choir on their own turf. Bliss n Eso jumped at the chance; not only so as to continue the relationship with the choir that they'd only spent one day with, but to see the destination for the funds that they were already planning to send from CD sales to the Zulu Choir's own community.
Months later, although some may say feeling closer to a lifetime, the result of that collaboration is the intensely moving single "Bullet And A Target", which became available for purchase on the 27th October. And the Australian public's response to the single?
"It's been hitting people like a ton of bricks", says MC Eso. "It's something that wasn't planned perfectly, but it's more like fate."
The power of the song is largely felt through the personal experiences of Bliss n Eso and DJ Izm, who spent several weeks in South Africa, assisting in charitable projects and seeing for themselves the reality of the daily poverty, illness, crime and hunger suffered by the those in the Zulu Connections Choir community. And while MC Eso's mother originally came from Soweto and had communicated predictable stories of fearful crime and danger at every turn; MC Eso was nonetheless faced by a different reality when he arrived.
"My mum's stories had scared me more than anything," he said. "I'd been told that people mustn't stop at red lights after 10pm; that there were special rules for women who wouldn't have to stop at red lights at all. Car jackings, violence. It was there."
But what image struck MC Eso most strongly?
"The hospitality. The way we were treated. We stayed with the South African hip hop band Gumshev - you can see them in the filmclip to Bullet And A Target, walking beside us - and they're all ex-gangsters; they've spent time in gaol. But when they came out of gaol, they turned from gun to microphone; from dark to light; they didn't want to do that anymore. And so they've got this background, but we walk into their house, and there's four brand new mattresses wrapped in plastic for us, and a pillow. They were so hospitable. And we stayed with their family; and we recorded the kids, and just seeing their faces when they heard themselves played back it was so moving."
On arriving in South Africa, the boys commenced a series of activities designed to help them understand the community in which the Zulu Connections choir lived.
"They were heavy to go through," says MC Eso. "We had diary nights at the end of every day, and we'd hear the stories of Evermore (who also joined Bliss n Eso on the trip to South Africa) and know that we would have to go through that on another day, and it was heavy. We saw so much 50 kids sleeping on the sidewalk, puffing glue they get stuck on glue so that they don't feel the hunger pains kicking in. We didn't want to glorify it, but the realization of the enormity of the situation facing these people was immediate. It's easy to watch this sort of thing on TV; you can walk away. But when you can't look anywhere else, it's just too hard to comprehend. There is no system worked out for them. And you can't just go out and give them 5 Big Macs, for example, because the next day they'll be there again, waiting for Big Macs it can't be about dependency. It's about teaching them. Letting them know we care."
It took six days of visiting street kids, orphanages, bread deliveries and community immersion, before Bliss n Eso and DJ Izm suddenly felt they had to put pen to paper. Eso couldn't even bring himself to attend a meeting of young rape victims who had been abused by their own families, saying "I got busted up just thinking about it". It was time to start writing, while all these images were so fresh; so everywhere.
The result is Bullet And A Target. And some of the most moving lyrics to ever appear in a song. The images are filled with vivid reality, and poetic hope:
So let the bullets in the air turn to raining rose petals
That covers the Earth's surface while the children throw pebbles.
From dreams to themes, to a crack in the concrete
From a seed to a tree, I make it happen at God speed
Of their song, MC Eso says that he hopes people gain awareness. "People have to understand that the governments aren't telling you the truth. The television isn't telling you the truth. Open your eyes, because there's some fuckin shit going down; question everything, because you're not going to hear the truth. We want this song to help them pull back the wool. There are so many musicians who glamorise mansions; sell $50,000 tickets to their concerts; it just seems so backward. And yet for all these people's hardship, you still see the smiles on their faces, and how they can do that during all this shit is so hard to comprehend."
And how has Bliss n Eso changes as a result of their experiences?
"It's made us a little more aware that music can be something that you party on to," he says. "But you know what? I don't get jiggy in a club all that much anymore. People have been affected by this song. It's made us realise that we, as musicians, hold power. And so I guess we've realized a new maturity we want to write about something."
The documentary about Bliss n Eso's trip to South Africa, and the making of their hit single "Bullet And A Target", has been screening on MTV through October, and is now available on OverDrive. Don't miss seeing this inspirational documentary, and make sure you buy the single "Bullet And A Target"- not only will the song blow your mind, but 100% of the proceeds will go to the Oaktree Foundation to assist underprivileged communities in South Africa.