Barkaa Live @ Sydney Opera House (Vivid Live): May 31st 2024


“What’s up beautiful people! Can’t believe we sold out the Opera House…” Those were the first jubilant words spoken by Chloe Quayle, aka BARKAA after her first rap, Bow Down, wraps on stage at the Drama Theatre as part of the Sydney Opera House for VIVID Live Friday evening. As an opener the song doesn’t lack political punch, and yet also serves as an allegory to the proud blak women in her First Nations community. Featuring lyrics: “I go to war every day, I wear black uniform and salute to all my tiddas who are handling this, we aren’t backing down to no patriarchy… bow down” with that she set the tone and pace of the evening. And, it’s obvious from the jump that there is a beautiful complexity to this musician. On one hand, she’s a bold and cyclonic-like force, almost a modern-day Mary Poppins with a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious energy, bouncing, and yet imbued with deep truth to share. While on the other she presents as a humble and relatable mother. A marshmallow-type filled with love, deep appreciation and a striking joyousness for this evening, and those who have turned out for her and who support her ongoing.

Visibly overwhelmed throughout the evening, perhaps for what she has invested in herself to bring this show to life, in between songs, she’s half stand-up comic treating the evening like a roast of herself, her circumstance and culture, even sometimes her family members, who are all with her this evening. And as quickly as she makes a joke about the laundry service available at the Opera House in the building, “I’ll hang my blankets on the sails”, she quips, she’s led us down the labyrinth of her intelligent and questioning mind and is revealing in her trauma via the poetic justice lifted from her soul.

Fight for me is one song where this is best displayed. It’s a song laced with lament for those ”babies” in detention. She offers that it’s ok for us and that she expects the crowd to cry as it’s about the failing of the system and the spiritual and emotional decline of incarcerated youths suffering with mental health trauma. Within the same song, she doesn’t shy away from her own inner reflection and healing, touching on the impacts of parental figures using drugs, something she openly discloses more than once throughout the night that she herself has a lived experience of. And with that she’s joined on stage by her collaborator, one half of Electric Fields, Zaachariaha who hits the high notes on Fight for me while Barkaa herself tells the story summed up via the line: “I just never had your back”.

There is also a section of the set dedicated to her “three babies in the building” two with tributes delivered via their own songs made all the more special and sentimental when her 14 year old daughter, Alinta appears. She herself a rather shy teen at one point looks lovingly as if to be guided by her mother in an endearing exchange. Alinta accompanies her in I know I can unveiling in herself an unexpectedly ethereal vocal which suits the lyrics to a song themed in hope and which Barkaa confesses she has penned to inspire her daughter on her own path as her own mother did for her.

Noticeably the set steps up its tempo as we progress from celebration of family to a song crediting Barkaa to finding her groove again Groovy. She carries this positive energy forward with airs of aggression and revenge when she stops to open up about the recent dissolution of her relationship with her former manager. The song Get Gone is one with absolute disdain at its heart and speculates in its clever metaphor about being stolen from. Despite the anger and grit interwoven it’s evident Barkaa’s heart is brimming with the pride she possesses for living her dreams and being a successful blak Australian woman.

The love from the crowd is disconcertingly delivered in equal measure. It’s a call and response style of shouts at one point for songs like hit: King Brown a song about her ex boyfriend and another that the little people present in the room request: We Up which don’t seem to disappoint.

As the night draws to a close Barkaa leaves us with one more deliberate and well-intentioned surprise. Stepping off to the side of stage, she is handed a folded Palestinian flag and with it she returns to the mic and begins a chant which evolves and creates a chorus from the audience: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and with that she’s imparted her messages for her followers.  She asks her DJ accompaniment “Rechey” to play out the song from departed rapper, 2Pac, Changes. A potent message to leave those in the room contemplating as we walk out.

Pic: Mikki Gomez


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