Federal Arts Minister Simon Crean has been on the national and international trail, spruiking the benefits and importance of promoting Aussie music and bands abroad in his his recent keynote address on the importance of cultural exchange at the Music Connects India conference in Mumbai.

Minister Crean’s address covered the importance of strengthening the connection between the emerging Australian and Asian music industries, name-checking the growing popularity of K-pop superstar PSY’s breakthrough hit ‘Gangam Style’ hitting #1 on the Australian Charts. Crean also focused on the importance of the region’s music industry. “Music is at the vanguard of the growing cultural connection between Australia and Asia and our artists will play an important role in the growth of our creative economy and our success in the Asian Century.”

Mr Crean’s appearance at the industry conference coincided with the government finalising a revision of Australia’s National Cultural Policy, the first in nearly two decades. “The $3 million the Australian Government invested in contemporary music in this year’s budget will produce dividends for the nation,” said Mr. Crean last week. “Which is why the Australian Government is supporting our music industry to strengthen our engagement with the Asia region at an artistic and business level.”

After arriving home, Crean then made headlines across Australian media for trying his hand at rapping, during a visit to the Swift Digital Arts Centre run by the Information and Cultural Exchange, appropriately abbreviated to ICE.“Yes, I rapped – but there’s more to the story than my impromptu rhymes.” – Simon Crean

Avoiding his own “Whyalla Wipeout”, Crean’s smooth rhymes referenced the Gough Whitlam-spearheaded “It’s Time” campaign of the 1970s, as well as his recently forged cultural connections to Mumbai in lines like: “From India to Parramatta/ We all know it’s arts that matters,” and “we’re all collaboratin’ and listenin’”, as well as, “comin’ at ya from ICE.”

Tone Deaf spoke to Mr Crean in light of his rap renditions, and the Federal Arts Minister responded saying that he was entertained and humbled by the attention, but hoped that the media could move beyond the gimmicks to the heart of the issue – namely, highlighting the importance of Australian music and the Government’s support.

“Yes, I rapped – but there’s more to the story than my impromptu rhymes. The response has entertained; good-humoured conversation on Twitter, tongue-in-cheek reviews and clever suggestions for my rap name,” writes Crean, chuffed at Tone Deaf’s suggestion of Ice Ice Creany, MP-MC and Lil’ Crean.

“Radio station Triple J even themed its national breakfast program on the perennial question of whether politicians should ever sing, or in this case, practice the art of hip hop,” adds Crean, before writing:

I’m glad my rap entertained, but I visited Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) to see the important work the group is doing in Western Sydney, and was fortunate enough to be asked to participate.

ICE uses community accessible recording and film studios to connect people – many of them newly arrived migrants and refugees – with digital media so their stories can be shared.

They’re producing excellent creative material, including a monthly show, Chatterbox, which screens on Aurora – a not-for-profit subscription community TV channel.

There’s more to this story than the gimmick suggests. I urge people to tune in to Chatterbox to see the great talent produced by ICE.

Our publicly funded broadcasters and free-to-air stations should be looking at how they can provide more opportunities to support this talent.

Community organisations such as ICE, remote specialists Feral Arts and Community Arts WA are creating the alternative, and the mainstream media should help drive that empowerment.

The free-to-airs have had their licence fees halved in recent years, and are now broadcasting on multi-channel platforms – they need to better understand what these community groups are doing and recognise the opportunities.

I’m happy my performance has drawn some attention to the talent and content – I hope the media now gets on board too.
Simon Crean, Minister for the Arts

Additionally, Mr Crean today announced $200,000 in funding for some of Australia’s best contemporary musicians to take their music on the road and share their experiences with audiences across Australia in a series of performances and workshops into regional areas.

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