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L-FRESH the Lion arrives for the Multicultural Fringe

Alexandra Tolmie

Alongside everyone’s favourite National Multicultural Festival this weekend is the Canberra Multicultural Fringe, celebrating our city’s love affair with Australia’s cultural diversity. One of the exciting headline acts this year is hip-hop legend L-FRESH the Lion. As a mother of two small children I don’t get out to gigs much anymore, but I haven’t lost my passion for music. I’ve always loved and been especially proud of Aussie music so I literally jumped at the chance to speak to L-FRESH about his gig tonight at the Canberra Multicultural Fringe.

L-FRESH blew everyone away with his flow and musical dexterity when he threw down an awesome mashup of Yo Home to Bel-Air (the Fresh Prince theme song) and Punjabi MC’s Beware for Triple J’s Like a Version last year. Inspired by such diverse artists as Tupac, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and Lauryn Hill, and a love and respect for his own cultural and ancestral roots, L-FRESH is certainly unique in the Aussie music scene. Speaking with his characteristic, mellifluous voice, L-FRESH tells me he draws inspiration from “anything and everything”.

“I’m always listening to different styles of music, and especially these days I try to draw from as much as I can,” he explains.

“Life experience tends to be the biggest influence for me in terms of what I then create. What has influenced me the most in the past, I would say, is my cultural and ancestral history—understanding the history of my people, the Sikhs… has really driven me and inspired me.”

L-FRESH is known for his powerful presence, inspiring live shows and thought-provoking lyrics. The capitalised ‘FRESH’ in his name stands for ‘Forever Rising Exceeding Sudden Hardships’.

Almost mirroring the current boom in the Australian hip-hop scene, in a very short space of time this Western Sydney artist has gone from being relatively underground to playing national tours and major festivals. L-FRESH signed to legendary Australian hip-hop label Elefant Traks in January 2015.

This young Australian is one incredible role model. Not only has he completed a double degree in Arts/Law but he’s also a highly successful musician whose career just seems to be skyrocketing. He is also an MC with a strong sense of purpose and social justice, well known for putting his words into action. Working tirelessly in the community, he is an ambassador for All Together Now, Australia’s only national charity that exists solely to address racism. L-FRESH offers up some advice to others like him who might just be starting out, who look up to him and who  might be wondering what their best path forward is.

“I think it’s important to understand what you stand for. What do you represent? What are some values and beliefs that you hold dear?” L-FRESH says.

“Essentially, you want those things to be resonated in your presence, resonated by your presence, and in your eyes, your heart, and your soul—people should be able to feel that when they’re around you. It should be in your essence.

“It’s a really reflective thing and it’s truly about understanding who you are and how you commit yourself to being driven by those values—finding something that you enjoy doing and using that to contribute positively to the world around you.

“These are deep questions and these are life long, but it’s great to think about them right at the beginning.”

Even though L-FRESH has played in Canberra before, he laments that he’s never really spent a lot of time here and is still learning about all the amazing things our city has to offer. He’s hoping to get a little more time in the nation’s capital this weekend to explore.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new people, the diversity that’s going to be on display, the music, the entertainment, the culture… I’ve heard so many amazing things about the festival so I’m very excited! I’m sure it’s going to be great energy and great fun.”

And the interview wraps up, I can’t help but ask if there’s a particular cuisine L-FRESH is excited about trying for the first time at the Multicultural Festival. He practically eats the microphone in excitement.

“Man, I’m looking forward to sampling EVERY bit of food from EVERY single country!” he says.

“I enjoy my food—there’s a lot of cuisines I’ve tried and many that I haven’t so I suppose I’m going to have a look at the smorgasbord that’s on offer and just be like, ‘You know what, lemme try a bit of that, lemme try a bit of this’ and see what I really enjoy.

“I hope they have good Jamaican food! That would be awesome!”

L-FRESH is incredibly polite and articulate, and I couldn’t help but warm to his genuine enthusiasm for life and his beautiful turns of phrase. This is one man you can’t miss tonight at the Multicultural Fringe.

The essentials

What: L-FRESH the Lion
When: 5pm, Saturday 14 February
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre as part of the Canberra Multicultural Fringe
Cost: Free


Alex Tolmie

Alex is the founder and co-chair of the Department of Education and Training Women's Network and a mum of two gorgeous little girls. She has overcome big challenges as a new mother and now loves to help others become confident, joyful mamas themselves. She blogs about her experience at draxela.com More about the Author