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Night Beat, BaliSpirit Fest: OKA Fires It Up on the One World Stage

It’s another sultry night in Ubud. The largest crowd yet has turned up for the second evening of BaliSpirit Festival’s 3-night music program on the open air One World Stage at the ARMA. My heart is confused but I feel a shift coming on.

OKA, the multi-talented Australian trio–Saturday night’s headliners–take the stage… and these boys do not disappoint.

Here is OKA‘s publicity bio for a point of reference:

Incorporating flavours of Dub, Electronica, Hip-hop, Jazz & many forms of world music, OKA’s sound can sometimes be hard to describe. A better way to define OKA is by the three interesting characters that make up the outfit, bringing together a variety of influences, backgrounds & talents. Stu Boga Fergie (Didgeristu), the big man behind the electronic beats & keys brings raw didgeridoo & vocals inspired by his aboriginal heritage. Chris Lane plays captivating melody on slide guitar, harmonica & woodwinds including bamboo, flute & sax. Making up the trio is Samoan-Australian Charlie Zappa – a rhythm specialist with beats of Polynesian fire & deep pocket. Together they blend many pieces that is the OKA puzzle – A sound & force that touches the heart & feeds the soul.

OKA has an amazingly large sound, much larger than you would expect from three men separated across a large stage. Chris Lane at stage-left (Jerry’s side, as the Grateful Deadheads say), anchors the melody line as he swaps out instruments with seeming ease, slide guitar, multiple winds and mouth harp. Charlie Zappa at center stage plays like a veritable percussion orchestra, moving from drum set to hand drums, dropping into throbbing beats as the music flows from mellow to intense changes within each song.

At stage right (Phil’s side for deadheads), Stu Boga Fergie is mastering the whole mix with keyboards and electronic beats while simultaneously providing the driving force with his array of rhythmic amplified didgeridoos. Stu’s rhythmic didg is a sound like you have never heard but will just want more of; it can move from lilting to beat-driving strong. (Stu is of Aboriginal Australian roots from the northeast coast of Australia; his father was the tribal didgeridoo player.)

Who says men can’t multi-task? These guys are living proof they can.

OKA produces an infectious transporting rhythmic sound that you can’t resist. As one of their lyrics promises, “OKA gets ya high;” that seemed to be the truth last night in Ubud, we all got a big dose of OKA. Their repertoire is filled with songs that move at their own unexpected pace, with major transitions accomplished by muted or intensified beats. “We got the rhythm, we got the beat, we got the rhythm that’s gonna give you itchy feet,” says the sweet lyric of “Music Makes Me Happy,” a song that rolls from tender ethereal melody and lyric to driving reggae beat and back again. “I don’t like Reggae, I Love It,” made even the holdouts in the crowd shake their booty. Everyone had dripping brows and wet shirts by the end of the evening. For the encore number, the crowd was invited to flood the stage and, along with the BaliSpirit organizers, we danced the night away flanked by the smiling faces of OKA. Thanks for the shift, OKA!

You can find OKA music for download or listening on bandcamp at

p.s. you can continue the conversation on Twitter, hashtag #balispirit

Written by : Jeremiah Abrams


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