Remember Mr. Squiggle? The crew behind Sketch The Rhyme sure do. In an effort to bring together the old friends of art and music, Sketch The Ryme sees a group of MCs freestyle about what a group of artists are drawing and audiences are invited to participate as the improvisation is structured into games. With four artists, four rappers, four musos and a trail of special guests, Sketch The Rhyme showcases some of Sydney’s most talented musicians and artists in an interesting, engaging and unique way.
We’re sitting on the couches in Buzzz Bar with my old skool tape recorder perched between us. Joel Rapaport, Claire Nakazawa and me. I should disclose now, I manage Sketch The Rhyme, I saw their birth at Underbelly Lab + Festival 08 and their most recent show at Hibernian blew me away. I just came on board with them and I’m very very excited about this act.
Sketch The Rhyme is Joel’s brain child which he finds the time to mother in between his musical duties for ‘The Phonies’, ‘Mama Cita’ and of course ‘Rapaport’. He said it all started with the idea to have art and rapping at the same time – “ I always liked having something to rap about… it’s like battling, your stimulus is your opponent so I practice using a magazine for stimuli, or a friends drawing, battling with stick figures – that’s where ‘Sketch’ started really”.
He collected his rappers, found artists and through meetings and brainstorms came up with the games “it was my initial idea but all the games were collaboration between people who hadn’t collaborated before, I think that’s why it was a lot of fun”. Claire is an artist for Sketch the Rhyme, known for her regular Sydney exhibits, in the gallery and on the street. I asked Claire what the artists brought to the table – “in the making we showed what was possible and what was not, speed of the drawing, being really imaginative, coming up with things on the spot… it’s a different style of art”
The games were influenced by Pictionary, theatre sports, live animation, shows like ‘Spicks and Specks’ and of course Mr Squiggle. The group is also influenced by hip hop theatre and live art.
“Both of these elements are growing… and we’re kind of in the middle of them… a cool place to be,” Joel tells me as Claire adds “the special thing is we’re combining it all together.” The game element means there’s a bit of friendly competition going on but as Claire puts it “we all need each other so much to make it work”.
The live music, courtesy of Sydney hip hop gents ‘The Phonies’ create the foundation for the show but Joel says “the real originality of the show is the artists and rappers”.
Sketch The Rhyme was developed last year in Underbelly Public Arts Lab and then showcased for the first time at the two day festival. It was here that Melbourne Fringe first discovered Sketch flying a handful of them down for a cut-down show in 08. The whole troupe are now heading to Melbourne Fringe in September for a seven night run in the ‘Hub’s’ Ballroom. From Underbelly to now Joel says “it has developed, we’ve gotten better at it, more games, but same concept”. Claire says the artists are more confident with a live audience – “the rappers have been performing live for years before hand, for us, Underbelly was the very first time. It’s become a lot easier… having an audience there takes a bit of getting used to”.
But the audience is very much part of the show as ‘Sketch’ asks the audience for topics, squiggles and a lot of noise – “like guess the topic, crowd cheers when you get it, we need them”. Claire adds “the more the audience is into it, the more they’re excited, the more we get more into it and the better the show, it’s all about the vibe.”
The nature of improvisation and audience interaction makes every show different. Joel stresses the need for Sketch the Rhyme to always be fresh – “which is why we have to keep evolving the games to make it interesting for ourselves” and one of the reasons why they have different guests every show – “Guests keep us on our toes”.
Sketch the Rhyme’s appeal stretches from kids to grandparents, from the underground to the mainstream from hip hop lovers to haters. Joel comments “people have come up and said, ‘I hate hip hop I’ve never liked rap in my life but that was amazing’… Anyone can watch it, older people think its funny… little kids love it… I think that’s one of the most exciting things about it”.
Along with Joel, Sketch rappers include Tuka (Rumpunch, Thundamentals), Jesswon (Thundamentals) and Larry (Reverse Polarities). Artists alongside Claire are ‘Duckman’, ‘How?’, ‘Creon’ and ‘Edgar’.
Sketch is now doing regular monthly shows in Sydney; catch them at Hibernian House in August and their September show is at the Annandale on the 10th.
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