Adelaide rapper and producer Koolta has had a huge month.
It all started with an album launch at the Jade Monkey last month and he’s been riding the wave since then.
Filling the venue with keen fans on a rainy night, Koolta (a.k.a Kultar Ahluwalia) and his friends put on a show to heat up the Jade.
“The crowd were just unbelievable. We had the Jade Monkey packed. It was a really good vibe. We were worried because it was a really rainy day but I think that really helped. When people got there, they were keen to stay so Adelaide really turned out. I had Elapsed Time who was launching his EP, Squatters Quarters. I’ve seen him play several times but that was hands down, the best performance I’ve seen him do. Before Elapsed Time was a guy called Prospeks who DJs for a lot of hip hop groups around Adelaide, but he used to be a drummer and he plays on the drum machine,” he says.
“I asked him to do a solo production set. He hadn’t done that before but he was really keen. It was really cool. I’ve never really seen anything quite like it before. It added a unique dimension to the show. Then opening the night was a good friend of mine, Jesse Francis, who’s a soul singer but also a rapper. He did an acoustic set on his guitar and that really warmed up the night and showed everyone what the vibe would be.”
Revolutions Per Minute has been rattling around in Koolta’s head since a recent trip overseas where he was inspired by his chosen genre.
“I started writing the album in 2013 when I was on a trip to North America and a lot of the production and a lot of the songwriting was done on my laptop at the time because I found being in New York – the mecca of hip hop – was super inspirational,” he says.
“A lot of stories and ideas were coming to me in that process. When I was making the songs, I didn’t necessarily feel like I was making Revolutions Per Minute at the time, but then when I got home, it became apparent there was an album in what I was doing, and a running theme was starting to occur. That theme was change; hence the ‘revolutions’, and then linking it back to the music revolutions.”
Koolta produced the album himself, which he says gives him the freedom to have creative control of his work.
“All the recording was done in my home studio, apart from a couple of guest verses, and all the production was done in my home studio. It was completely a DIY independent project. I like that because I had more control over what I wanted to do and I could take more risks I might not have if I had more pressures on me,” he says.
As an experienced producer, Koolta has helped create the work of some prominent names in hip hop.
“I produced Allday’s first EP,” he says. “I knew him through a mutual friend called Dialect from Dialect and Despair who have a massive name in Adelaide. Allday started coming around (this is going on about four years ago now), and checking out some of my beats and we started doing his first EP and his mixed tape. Both of those went quite well in Adelaide. At the time he was also a stand-up comedian so he decided he wanted to try to take it all to the next level and move to Melbourne and now he’s gone bonkers over there!”
Meanwhile, here in Adelaide, a track from Koolta’s latest album is creating a stir of its own.
‘A Couple of Words’ is a song about Koolta’s dissatisfaction about our access to media, the media monopoly that exists, and people’s inability to be discerning when it comes to consuming media.
“That song is quite politically and socially charged and it goes down really well live because I think people are really resonating with the ideas behind it. By no means am I ripping into street media press; it’s much more about the fact that the majority of media in this country is run by one head honcho ex-pat Australian living in another country, getting a lot of tax breaks,” he says.
“But the larger idea behind it is really the fact that there are a lot of really complicated issues going on in the world right now, no matter where you sit on the political spectrum. In today’s age, with social media, people tend to simplify very complicated issues down to three word slogans or 140 character tweets and you don’t really grasp the full picture when you only see little snippets. The idea of ‘A Couple of Words’ is the less vocabulary we have in our arsenal, the less we can think and therefore the less we can protest against the powers that be. That whole ideology is influenced by George Orwell’s 1984.”
And while ‘A Couple of Words’ is getting airplay, Koolta shares with us that his favourite track on the album is ‘Glimpses’, but not for the reasons you may expect.
“My favourite track on the album is ‘Glimpses’ and that tends to be other people’s favourite as well, which is nice. But my reasons might be a bit different to theirs. My reason is there’s a reality filter in my head. So I’ll get an idea for a song in my head and to get the song to actually sound like it is in my head never happens; it only gets to about 80% of that. But with ‘Glimpses’, I can’t really fault the track at all and that’s why I like it – because it came out exactly how it sounded in my head,” he says.
With Revolutions Per Minute looking to be a success for Koolta, he can add it to the growing list of accolades and achievements he has received in his career to date.
He was winner of the 2011 APRA/Hilltop Hoods Initiative and winner of the 2012 Triple J Unearthed Parklife (Adelaide) Competition.
He has sold out various venues in Adelaide (The Jade Monkey; Rhino Room) and played festivals like Big Day Out (2012) and Parklife (2012), and headed a national tour (Possessions Tour, 2013).
But Koolta says his most memorable gigs are those close to home.
“Two of the best gigs I’ve ever had have been both my album launches. There’s nothing like a hometown crowd and an album launch. The crowd are there for you and they want to hear the material from your album. It’s a pretty damn good feeling,” he says.
“But outside of that, the most fun gig was supporting Hilltop Hoods at Adelaide Entertainment Centre in 2012. That was an absolutely bananas experience! Those guys have been so supportive of me and my music. They’re such humble people, and so supportive of the local scene; their crowd was receptive to my music as well.”
Revolutions Per Minute carries the theme of change, which Koolta wants to see through his music.
Inspired by rappers of old, the Adelaide artist wants to spread the message he believes in and make a difference to people who listen.
“To me, hip hop is just being yourself and taking risks. A lot of hip hop artists follow the mold, but historically when you look back at people like Ice Cube and Public Enemy, it was about taking risks and making music that was protest music, like other sub genres like punk. When I create my music, that’s the mentality I’m going with, whereas, I think some other artists don’t focus on the power and history of the music,” he says.
“Listening to those older artists as a teenager changed my life. It made me think about things in a different way socially and politically, and if I can have an impact on one person with this album then I feel like the album has done what it’s supposed to do. A lot of people say they make music for themselves, and there’s merit to that, but if it’s just about making music for yourself, then you wouldn’t release it. You make music for yourself and believe in the message, and then you want to spread that message to like-minded people – maybe even people who might not have thought of that message before.”
Revolutions Per Minute is available to buy now through Bandcamp and iTunes.
By Libby Parker
Photos by Koolta