DOBBY brings powerful, political ‘drapping’ to the stage

Lottie Twyford 3 May 2021
Musician DOBBY

Filipino and Indigenous musician DOBBY will take to the stage as part of the Canberra International Music Festival. Photo: Cole Bennets.

Multicultural and multi-instrumental artist DOBBY performs a signature blend of drumming and rapping, or ‘drapping’, with a politically powerful message.

This year, DOBBY is set to perform as part of the 2021 Canberra International Music Festival, and he says he is excited to make connections on Ngunnawal land.

The theme of this year’s festival is ‘The Idea of Vienna’, although DOBBY’s performance alongside DJ Diola will celebrate both his Indigenous and Filipino roots.

His anger regarding the ignorance of one particular Australian journalist drove DOBBY into the studio with a passion in 2020.

The journalist had thanked Black Lives Matter protestors in the US for explaining why they were out in the streets following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman, saying “we don’t have that systemic problem in Australia”.

The result, I Can’t Breathe, a collaboration between DOBBY and artist Barkka, won them the 2020 Free Broadcast Inc (FBi) Radio Sydney Music, Arts & Culture (SMAC) Award for best video.

I Can’t Breathe – which references the final words of George Floyd and Dunghutti man David Dungay Jr, both killed at the hands of police – is now being used in schools as part of a module teaching children about racism, white privilege and colonialism.

DOBBY says hip-hop is an easily digestible way to connect with young people.

“They listen to the lyrics and find a connection with them, which they can then turn into knowledge and understanding,” he says.

DOBBY credits his cousin, Jess Williams, for putting together the learning resources to go with the song.


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When asked about why he got political, DOBBY says there was simply anger that bubbled over in 2020.

“It was a tipping point for me to hear a very misinformed question that blatantly refuted Australia’s history of police killing and systemic racism,” he says.

“It’s all lies and ignorance because we have the exact same history of police brutality alongside neglect, or just downright exclusion based on the colour of people’s skin.”

DOBBY, whose family is from Brewarrina, on Ngemba land, says he feels a call to continue sharing stories from both of these cultures.

“From my mother, who migrated here from the Philippines in 1985, which is an important part of the Australian story, to my great-grandfather, who was born under the birthing tree on Culgoa River – I share it all,” he explains.

An important way DOBBY does this is through singing and making music, not only in English, but also in traditional Indigenous languages.


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One of his songs, Dirrpi Yuin Patjulinya, translates to ‘the bird names himself’ in Ngemba language.

He recorded a bird singing and then wrote the music and lyrics around this sound.

“Continuing these cultural traditions means remaining connected with my ancestors and the past,” says DOBBY.

His musical influences range from hip-hop artists such as Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg and Eminem, to jazz singers such as Billie Holiday and Tony Williams. This wide variety of influences has shaped his diverse style which sits somewhere in between hip-hop and classical.

DOBBY also bounces between piano, drums and drum pads, ensuring his show is full of energy at all times.

You can catch DOBBY performing with DJ Diola on Friday, 7 May, 2021 at 6:00 pm at Kambri at ANU. This event is part of the Canberra International Music Festival. A full program of events can be accessed here.


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