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July 19, 2019

South Sudan’s ‘King of Music’ to grace Sunny’s Pizza

Gordon Koang earned himself a royal reputation in Africa and online for his infectious Afro-pop earworms. To celebrate his impending album, Gordon and his band are heading to Adelaide for a night of peace and pizza.  

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  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Photos: Supplied

Gordon Koang may be unknown to most Australians, but the South Sudanese musician has legions of fans on the internet and in diverse pockets around the world.

As a household name in South Sudan (where he is known as the ‘King of Music’), Gordon boasts an impressive music portfolio.


Gordon Koang at Sunny’s Pizza
17 Solomon Street, Adelaide 5000
8:30pm on Sunday, 28 July

This is a free-entry event, but you’ll need to pay for the food provided by Sunny’s Pizza and Africola.

A selection of DJs will be on the warm-up. Doors are at 4pm and bookings are recommended.

Click here for more information.

The 40-year-old has released 9 albums, and some of these songs have clocked-in hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube.

You can pin Gordon’s success on his ability to create dance-floor fillers that spread messages of love and unity.

With contagious vocals – sung in Arabic, his mother tongue Neur, and English – and jangly hooks played on a six-stringed instrument called thom, Gordon has toured in Northern America and Europe.

He migrated to Melbourne in 2015 where he now awaits asylum seeker status. But since he’s been here he’s been busy.

Gordon will be hitting Sunny’s Pizza next Sunday, 29 July, for the last show in a string of tours to celebrate his latest single ‘Stand Up’, and tells CityMag that without music, he isn’t sure where he would be.

“I make the music because I don’t have another job to do,” he says, laughing.

“I started with church songs, that was the beginning, in 1988… I have been playing music for almost 32 years now.

“I love it so much.”

‘Stand Up’ is the first track off Gordon’s impending album and was put together with musical accompaniment from a handful of musicians in Melbourne and his cousin, Paul Bell, who is also seeking asylum.

The track is Gordon’s call for Australians to dance: he sings cheekily over a driving bass line, ‘the music here is very serious’ before suggesting, over the swing of the thom, ‘don’t keep quiet, move your body’.

Although Gordon is a big name in some communities, he wrote this song in English to attract a new crowd.

“Music… it’s very good for people,” he says.

“I want other communities who love it to understand what I’m doing.

“For somebody like me, you need to [give] what you know to other people, [so it can] be international [and] not in one community.”

L-R: Paul Biel and Gordon Koang. Photo: Supplied

The Melbourne-based label Bedroom Suck Records released ‘Stand Up’ through their Music in Exile initiative a month ago, which aims to bring Gordon into that new market.

Gordon is one of the five artists the label represents which acts as a conduit for migrants and refugees to access music opportunities in Australia.

Music in Exile does this by providing resources and contacts for the musicians so they can get a foothold in the industry.

Joe Alexander, one of the co-founders of Music in Exile and an ex-Adelaide resident, says the initiative was spurred-on by him reflecting on the ease he himself finds as a musician.

“I come from a background where I play music and also from my own record label, Bedroom Suck Records,” says Joe.

“[And] I was speaking about it to a friend, about us having access to resources and knowing how to book a gig or organise a recording session, and it’s kind of easy for us because we’re already part of that industry.

“That lead us to think about whether that was harder for others to access, and if we could try and share those resources.”

The label is driven by the “nothing about us without us” maxim, which puts marginalised groups at the forefront of these decisions. (It’s also important to note that all the income that Music in Exile generates goes directly back to the artists.)

Under this representation, Gordon has recorded a handful of new music that will be released as a 12″ vinyl soon.

Music in Exile has also helped him complete a national tour, which saw him performing four times at the Tasmanian arts festival Dark Mofo, and will wrap up in Adelaide.

“I’ll be really happy when I play in Adelaide because I haven’t played in Adelaide since 2012 when I came for three months,” says Gordon.

“I played for South Sudanese [communities] but now this time it will be with other communities, which is a great one.”

Joe says that he wants Music in Exile to have a continuing relationship with Adelaide, as he wants the label to represent local musicians and also help book events.

As for Gordon, Joe’s adamant this won’t be the last time we hear music from him.

“The thing with Gordon is that he’s so active,” says Joe.

“He’s got hundreds of unrecorded songs that he just wants to record and release.

“When we get together in the studio, he’ll just have bass parts and the drum parts and everything written in his head.

“He’ll sing them to the band and the band will play that.”

Gordon Koang will perform at Sunny’s Pizza at 8:30pm on Sunday 28 July. This is a free-entry event, but you’ll need to pay for the food provided by Sunny’s Pizza and Africola.

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