Ajak Kwai is a name well known to the airwaves, stage, and broader Australian music community for her powerful performances and strong messages that call for inclusion and celebration of the diversity found throughout Australian society. Originally hailing from a small town of Bor (pronounced ‘bohr’) on the Upper Nile in what is now South Sudan, music has always been part of her life.
Alongside sharing political messages through her music, Ajak Kwai is also a radio broadcaster in Melbourne on both PBS and 3CR. Her shows give a voice to the local African community so that they can tell their stories through music and spoken word, and her music selections focus on songs that have changed the world in a positive way. She challenges bias in our society and reminds politicians to be accountable for their language and actions.
Performing in English, Arabic, and her native language, Dinka, Ajak Kwai’s music draws upon South Sudanese funk and blues influences and brings together elements of traditional music alongside more contemporary gestures. The result is something notably unique and powerful.
Ajak Kwai is joined by a band of exceptional standards, including musicians Matthew Erickson, Kanyakumar Shome (Silent Jay, REMI, The Bamboos, Cat Empire, Sampa the Great), Kofi Kunkpe, Maria Moles (Jaala, Jonnine (HTRK), Mildlife), Gabriela Georges and guests Boubacar Gaye (Ausecuma Beats) and Allysha Joy (30/70).
Ajak Kwai’s previous release and fifth album, ‘Let Me Grow My Wings’, was featured as RRR album of the week, feature Album on 2ser, and saw widespread support across community radio. Ajak Kwai has been an ambassador of the Melbourne International Arts Festival for three years and her sets have been highlights at festivals including WOMADelaide, Bluesfest, Brunswick Music Festival, A Festival Called Panama, Dark Mofo, Port Fairy Folk Festival and Woodford Folk Festival.
Red Sands EP (Words By Ajak Kwai)
“This is what we need from music - to break down differences between us. To collaborate, to work together. Music is universal. If you preach to people, they won’t listen, but if you just play music, people will join you.”
“I am angry, but I am fighting my anger. Anger doesn’t go anywhere. I am upset about the things that people say to me, to my people, to minority groups. We get picked on all the time, and that is very upsetting, the words they use.
Actually I am not a very angry person. People ask me all the time, why am I angry? But I am not angry, it’s not worth it.
What I am trying to say is that you can’t dump your problems on others. There are so many good people in the world. Some people are bad, and they make me angry. But I fight my anger, because there are so many good people in the world. I don’t let the odd few, the people who have made life so difficult, I don’t let them dump on the good people of the world.
Overall, I know Australian people are good people. There are just a few that make our lives hell. I don’t want to focus on them, instead, I am focusing on the good people in the world.
Harmony goes a lot further than conflict.
It was really nice to work with Allysha Joy, and to collaborate with her. I am surrounded by so many amazing people, my whole band. Thank you to Music in Exile for doing this. Thanks to Joe Alexander, John Lee, and to James Mannix. And thank you most of all to my band. They are really amazing people.
This is what we need from music - to break down differences between us. To collaborate, to work together. Music is universal. If you preach to people, they won’t listen, but if you just play music, people will follow.
I want to thank you all for supporting my music over the years. There is no way I would have done it without your support. Thank you to my amazing, dedicated band.” Ajak Kwai
Published: 2nd September 2021