Bringing music to the frontline

August 1, 2023
MC Izzy Brown
MC Izzy Brown. Photo: izzy.brown.330/facebook

Izzy Brown (aka MC Izzy) is a “triple threat” — a musician, activist and filmmaker. In an interview with Green Left Radio, Izzy said her mission is to “bring music to the frontline” as there is “power in people and when those people are dancing the cops don't know what to do”.

Izzy is one of the lead singers of Combat Wombat and — with Frances Evans — forms Rotary Hoes. With these bands Izzy uses music as a tool for change and education.

Izzy’s music is inspired by her involvement in environmental and social justice campaigns, including freedom for West Papua, the 1997–99 campaign against the Jabiluka mine and campaigns to end native forest logging.

Izzy first started writing raps when she was arrested at an anti-deforestation protest, held in custody and refused bail. This formative experience prompted her to “use hiphop as a tool to express what [she] was seeing in the environment movement”, she told GL Radio.

Izzy was a critical organiser of the Freedom Flotilla to West Papua, a land and sea convoy that travelled more than 5000 kilometres from Lake Eyre to West Papua, staging musical events and protests along the way to highlight human rights abuses in West Papua from Indonesia’s brutal occupation.

Izzy is quick to draw attention to the injustices that are still going on in West Papua, and calls for “our attention, help and support” particularly for the internally displaced peoples on the Papua New Guinean border. Izzy also encourages us to protest and blockade the weapons manufacturers in Australia that continue to supply the Indonesian military.

For the past 15 years, Izzy has also run music and film production workshops with Indigenous youth in remote Aboriginal communities in the Central and Western Australian deserts. When travelling through Africa in 2010, Izzy founded the United Struggle Project “to bring equipment [and] to record people’s stories and collaborate on tracks”.

The United Struggle Project creates opportunities for musicians living in slums, prisons and refugee camps to express themselves and Izzy invites producers from around the world to donate beats the project can take to artists in these places. The project has been entirely funded through donations from supporters, fundraising gigs and Izzy’s own money.

Alongside all these projects, Izzy has also found time to direct and produce more than 100 music videos, short films and three feature films: Ghettomoto, Voices from the Ghetto, and Too Deadly. Izzy’s long-lost footage also featured in the Swedish documentary School under Siege about the G8 protests in Gothenburg in 2001. School under Siege was included as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Online.

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