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Saturday 08 April 2017

Ak Pride: Aroha’17 NYC House Party

Posted in: Events
By Justine Sachs - 21st February 2017

Aroha’17 NYC House Party comes to Mt Roskill tomorrow night looks set to be one of the highlights of the Aroha Festival and the whole Auckland Pride festival.


Headlining the party is cyber soul performer GypjaQ, an outspoken subversive artist who has come from New York to perform. GypjaQ describes themself as a rapper, singer, cyber soul artist but above all they're simply a performer and always has been, with their first performance being at the tender age of 5 at a kindergarten graduation. The performance featured a lively lip-synced rendition of Michael Jackson’s Black and White, GypjaQ cautions however that shouldn’t inform your expectations for Wednesday night.

I sat down with GypjaQ to discuss art, identity and activism. Their work is an electric mixture of soul, edm and ballroom music. It is, they says, “upbeat, aggressive, unapologetic and above-all queer and black”. For GypjaQ growing up in the ballroom and vogue scenes in New York has heavily influenced their work.

With the emergence of FAFSWAG and vogue nights at Family Bar, GypjaQ’s work fits perfectly with the bubbling Auckland scene. Indeed it seems as though a distinct queer counterculture that sets itself apart from the wider gay Auckland scene is developing. GypjaQ refers to themself specifically as a queer rather than gay artist, in his work they wants to give a platform to queer stories and narratives. “What is queer anyway?” they says. “In many ways queerness is otherness, black is queer as well”. He explores queerness itself, its fluidity and lack of concrete definition.

For GypjaQ part of exploring queerness means exposing the darker side of the LGBTI community, shedding light on misogyny and racism within it and resisting it. Though, they says, whilst he is critical of the LGBTI community and the way many identities are often erased, maligned and ignored, the LGBTI community is still a family above all.

A lot of GypjaQ’s music is centred around embracing the feminine and femininity, they wants to make you free the woman inside, saying, “there is power in embracing your femininity, no matter what is between your legs”. The political undertones of their work and art aside, GypjaQ doesn’t mind if you don’t get the message they're trying to convey as long as “get down and dance”. The ballroom and vogue vibes of his music means it will be hard not to get down, simply said, it is the best kind of queer dance music.

GypjaQ got involved with Aroha’17 after meeting founder Mika Haka at a photoshoot in New York last year. Mika says after hearing GypjaQ’s work he knew immediately that it belonged in Aroha’17 and I’d wager he is right. GypjaQ says we can expect a circus, an “overt, unapologetic emission of energy”, he encourages concertgoers to get their life and go hard. This isn’t a rigid or standard performance but a “collaboration between audience and performer”, that and the “beats are easy to move to” they says with a laugh.

You can listen to GypjaQ’s music here and buy tickets to House Party Comes to Mt Roskill here.

Justine Sachs - 21st February 2017

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