Jess hosts Big Mob, 1- 3pm on Mondays – Big Mob channels the voices of our original, new and worldwide communities preserving and representing the culture-keeping force of music and the power of words and oral story-telling. Each week Big Mob shines a light on indigenous artists around Australia, specifically focusing on the voices and messages of younger generations, paying tribute to the origins and contemporary sounds of roots, reggae and Hip Hop. Jess Fairfax took over the Big Mob reigns only a year ago. She also works at Multicultural Arts Victoria.
Let’s start from the beginning, do you remember the first time you first heard radio?
Wow, that’s a tricky one! I can’t really recall the first time hearing it but an early memory is going into a radio studio with my mum when she was trying to plug a show, and I thought it was the most amazing thing my dad was listening to us on the other side of the city. They even let me do a shout out to papa!
When did the musical obsession begin? What did it stem from?
I was a typical music nerd at school. Hated sport, just wanted to hang out in the music department. I learnt the trombone and the flute but I had to pick one as the mouthing was completely different. In the end I picked the trombone so I could join the Jazz band. I started listening to more Jazz and subsequently I feel in love with all these beautiful jazzy female vocalists and I decided I wanted to be a singer and dedicate my life to music in every way possible, and it’s going pretty well so far!
What was your first experience working in radio?
I started my radio endeavors at SYN FM, The Student Youth Network. I had a weekly show for about a year called City Of Rhythm that showcased diverse music from Melbourne. I have always been fascinated by the many cultural groups that now call Melbourne home and the incredible music, dance and arts they have brought with them. I’m also interested in how Melbourne’s multiculturalism influences “mainstream” arts and culture and plays into what we see and hear in our everyday lives. SYN was an awesome chance to get experience in radio presentation and production, build confidence and pave the way for my show on PBS!
How did you first get involved with PBS?
I have always been an avid listener of PBS. I LOVE Latin music so I always tuned into Latin Connection and Fiesta Jazz, and then of course Big Mob. It was my dream to end up on PBS. My friend Sista Savage, who presented Big Mob before me, was getting a bit too busy and needed to pass over the reins and I happily put my hand up! Big Mob was a perfect fit, it has enabled me to uncover incredible music from our original and new communities whilst conducting interviews with various musicians, activists and community members that has opened my mind to so much!
What do you think the fate of radio is going to be, with people being able to craft their own playlists at will?
Hearing a great song on radio is still so much more exciting than hearing it from your iTunes playlist. As humans we will always crave a sense of community and that there are people out there with similar interests as you. In a world where machines are fast taking over real humans, I believe radio has become even stronger and will continue to grow as it links people alike and is accessible and engaging for listeners. You can call up and actually speak to the presenter and feel as if you are connected to the station and show. Despite the technological world we live in it is nice to hear real humans speak and share their passions and feel as if you can be a part of it too. It is also a source of new ideas and music. Most of the PBS presenters spend all their free time in record stores, online, scouring the globe for new music that they have not heard before. Then they spend two hours of their day voluntarily sharing it with the listeners. It will always be a source of inspiration, knowledge and humanity.
What role then, do you think community radio plays?
As the name describes, community radio is imperative in building community, connecting community and educating community about events, music, and issues. It is a voice that is not censored or told what should or should not be said. The role of community radio is to allow the voices that are drowned out in commercial media to be heard. PBS, in particular, supports the under represented and ensures we get local musicians on the airwaves and play their music. Many established musicians had their first radio airplay and interviews on PBS. There is a lot of talent within the local community and without community radio stations like PBS they would not get the opportunity to be broadcast.
Do you feel that community radio plays as big a part in the community as it ever has?
Yes. Mainstream media has become so saturated in advertising, dull stories and unimaginative and uncreative “music” that only aims to stupefy society. Fortunately many of us are clever enough to realise this and tune into community radio to hear interesting and challenging stories and good artistic music. Without community radio I fear we’d all be bopping our heads in unison to terrible electro-pop.
What do you think separates PBS from other community radio stations?
PBS runs on a music license, which means we are dedicated to broadcasting progressive and under represented music. Presenters are music obsessed. They are passionate about representing Australian music and styles of music that aren’t necessarily heard on other stations. Melbourne’s community radio scene is amazing and each station represents something unique meaning there is no competition. Just community radio love.
What do you think the fate of oral-storytelling is going to be in an age of boundless information?
The way information and story is being passed on is certainly changing. Globalization and domination from global powers has seen a great deal of culture, story and language destroyed. However at the same time with social media, television, the internet and of course radio, the world has never been more connected. People who are disjointed from their communities in various diaspora’s around the world are now able connect with others on the other side of the globe through these new technologies. This I believe in a way is bringing people back to culture and being proud of culture which will ignite discussions and ensure stories remain to be past on in a disjointed world.
Story-telling is a natural phenomenon and will always happen when two or more humans are in contact with each other, it’s just that now we are connecting in so many different ways and on a much larger scale.
What do you think the most important role of a radio presenter is?
I think the most important role of the radio presenter is to be constantly researching. For many whose lives are busy and filled with other things, there isn’t the time to be constantly researching about music, events, or issues. This is where the radio presenter comes in to educate and provide this information to the community.
In regards to PBS and community radio, it is also important that we pass over the mic and let those within the community have a voice. This means getting people into the studio for an interview and discussion and giving them the opportunity to express their views and have their creations heard.
What’s the best part about being a part of the Melbourne music community?
It is an amazing mix of creative, passionate and inspiring people. I’ve learnt so much through interviewing Melbourne musicians who take the time to think and create and not get caught up in frantic lives. And of course going to gigs each weekend is the best kind of de-stress and relaxation therapy.
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