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South Australian Music Awards 2017: A.B. Original Win Big, DyspOra Sends a Message

“The cure for cancer might be on Manus Island, or might be in these refugee camps with a kid we’re not giving a chance,” says ‘Best Male Artist’ winner, Sudanese-born rapper DyspOra.

A.B. Original emerged as the big winners at last night’s South Australian Music Awards. Held at Adelaide’s Thebarton Theatre, the Indigenous hip-hop duo of Briggs and Trials took out Best Release for 2016 debut album Reclaim Australia, Best Song for “January 26” featuring Dan Sultan, Best Group, Best Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Artist, as well as the Hip-Hop Award in the People’s Choice category. Richard Coburn also won Best Music Video for “January 26”.

With Briggs unable to attend — “He’s sitting at home critiquing TV really viciously,” quipped Trials (pictured) during one of his acceptance speeches — his bandmate paused to consider their haul backstage.

“It’s difficult when you’re in the middle of the hurricane to figure out the damage it’s doing, but nights like this always put it more into perspective for me,” said Trials.

“I spent all week back on the mission with Community at a funeral, and when I got out there it’s like, the recognition from Community is the one. As soon as that hat-tip is there, it’s like, this is exactly what this is about. These [awards] are great, but in a way somewhat superfluous to the recognition from Community. The record’s for and by mob, so the fact that it permeates different atmospheres and audiences is beyond me. I still haven’t figured out what the hack is yet, how we kicked that thing. But I guess it’s truth and honesty.”

Tkay Maidza collected the gong for Best Female Artist — “I really appreciate it, cos when you start doing things you can’t really see where it’s going to end, so when other people recognise you it’s a really big honour,” she said of her award backstage — while Sudanese-born rapper DyspOra took the opportunity to dedicate his Best Male Artist accolade to refugees around the world.

“I spent seven years in a refugee camp, and if I never got out of there I would not be onstage performing or winning this, so all I wanna say is, let’s give people chances, let’s do the right thing, let’s start with Manus Island,” he told Rolling Stone.

“Let’s be a leader to the world and let’s show them, we like to give people a fair go, we like to give people chances. I want the world to do better, to be better, and we can start with refugees, cos anyone can be a refugee, it doesn’t matter what religion, what skin colour, it could be anyone. And if I never got the chance, I wouldn’t be here. You might not know. The cure for cancer might be on Manus Island, or might be in these refugee camps with a kid we’re not giving a chance, so let’s give people a chance, regardless of their creed, their race.”

DyspOra with Elsy and Prospeks Live 1 Photo Credit Lauren Connelly
DyspOra performing live, with Elsy and Prospeks. Credit: Lauren Connelly

Other winners on the night included Timberwolf, who collected the Experimental Award; Heaps Good Friends, who were voted Best New Artist; and Bad//Dreems, who won the Rock Award in the People’s Choice category.

“I really didn’t think we were going to win that,” said frontman Ben Marwe backstage. “I thought West Thebarton had it sorted, but it’s really nice to know people were voting for us. It’s awesome.”

The night featured a series of performances by South Australian artists interpreting hits from other SAM Award finalists. Amongst the highlights were Timberwolf’s stunningly emotive rendition of A.B. Original’s “January 26”, Grenadiers covering Timberwolf’s “Washed Out” with Bec Stevens; and Lonelyspeck and Allume taking on a chilling, stripped back version of Bad//Dreems’ “Mob Rule”.

The full list of winners is as follows:


Blues/Roots Award

Country Award
The Bitter Darlings

Electronic Award
Abbey Howlett

Experimental Award

Folk Award
The Winter Gypsy

Heavy Award
Ice On Mercury

Hip Hop Award
A.B. Original

Jazz/Art Music Award
Ross McHenry

Pop Award
Rachael Leahcar

Punk Award
Young Offenders

Rock Award

World Music Award
Adam Page


Ryan Freeman Live Music Award
Robert Dunstan

Best International Collaboration
House of Songs project

Lifetime Achievement Award
The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel

Best Studio
Chapel Lane Studios

Best Engineer
Tom Barnes

Best Music Festival / Event
Porch Sessions

Best Music Venue
Grace Emily Hotel

Best Manager
Craig Lock

Best Cover Art
Henry Stentiford

Best Music Video
Richard Coburn – A.B. Original, “January 26th”

Best Song
A.B. Original, “January 26th” featuring Dan Sultan

Best New Artist
Heaps Good Friends

Best Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island Artist
A.B. Original

Best Group
A.B. Original

Best Male Artist

Best Female Artist
Tkay Maidza

Best Release
A.B. Original, Reclaim Australia

Top photo: Trials from A.B. Original. Credit: Lauren Connelly