Op­ta­mus primed to save lives

Kwinana Courier - - Front Page - Gabrielle Jef­fery

HIP hop is about the down­trod­den.

Through that sen­ti­ment, a lo­cal hip hop artist has turned it into a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive force for good for some of the most down­trod­den and dis­carded mem­bers of our so­ci­ety: in­mates at Ca­sua­r­ina Prison.

Scott ‘Op­ta­mus’ Grif­fiths has run a hip hop pro­gram at Ca­sua­r­ina for 15 in­mates since the start of the year.

It is an ac­cred­ited Tafe course that’s prov­ing to be a pow­er­ful and heal­ing tool for the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of in­mates.

“It’s about re­flect­ing di­verse voices and about mak­ing that pos­i­tive,” he said.

“It’s based around lyric writ­ing, nar­ra­tives, the jour­ney in and out of the prison sys­tem, talking about emo­tions and the mu­sic.

“It cov­ers every­thing: sound pro­duc­tion, mix­ing, lyric writ­ing and song com­po­si­tion.”

Each in­mate is al­lowed to use a lap­top and set of head­phones to cre­ate their own hip hop tunes.

Held ev­ery Wed­nes­day, classes are started with a freestyling ses­sion where in­mates have to im­pro­vise around a speaker.

“It’s quite chal­leng­ing to get up in front of oth­ers but that breaks down the fear of per­for­mance,” Grif­fiths said. “It also builds self-es­teem and cre­ates a bond be­tween my­self and the guys.”

Grif­fiths did not fear go­ing to the max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison.

“As a rap­per walk­ing into a class – it’s the same as walk­ing into a class any­where – there has to be a bond with the class from the start,” he said.

Dub­bing it ‘hip hop ped­a­gogy’ Grif­fiths said it had be­come a world­wide move­ment for deal­ing with pris­on­ers.

“There is a real ther­a­peu­tic value to lyric writ­ing and beat work is a proven therapy,” he said.

“Stud­ies have shown that the rep­e­ti­tion of beat works with trauma therapy, along with the low bass tones of hip hop.

“One key thing is pre­ven­tion and tak­ing a three­p­ronged ap­proach.

“Pre­ven­tion, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­lease/re-in­te­gra­tion, so they don’t fall into re­cidi­vism.

“Peo­ple think just about the crime com­mit­ted; there is al­ways a big­ger pic­ture and a lot has to do with child­hood trauma.

“Then these (hu­man) time bombs are cre­ated.

“In the sober light of day, these guys want to do the right thing and they are very, very re­morse­ful.

“The pro­gram helps break down the walls they nor­mally face and gives them com­mon ground.”

Grif­fiths is one of the found­ing mem­bers of Aus­tralian hip hop band Down­syde.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d487553

Hip hop artist Scott ‘Op­ta­mus’ Grif­fiths is us­ing mu­sic to help re­ha­bil­i­tate pris­on­ers at Ca­sua­r­ina.

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