Claz Kulpe is an artist of many different mediums, pursuing each one despite his restrictions at hand. Predominantly known as a musician and writer in the hip-hop, jazz and soul realms, Claz has hyperacusis, a sensitivity to sound.
Although as debilitating as this condition can be on Claz’s art, let alone everyday life, he maintains his status as an active musician and writer.
Tell us about your winning poem
The process of writing ‘A Bird To The Nest’ started in the latter end of September 2018 in Melbourne, on my final day before returning home after a month-long journey by land from the bottom of Australia to the top. The trip itself served as a salvage after being diagnosed with hyperacusis about three to four months beforehand.
Beginning on the grass under the sun, amongst the urban oasis of Flagstaff Gardens in Melbourne’s CBD, I wrote the opening words of ‘A Bird To The Nest’ on the back of a brochure I had picked up on my way there. Being my last day prior to making my way back to Adelaide, I was weighed down by a bittersweet sense in my heart, knowing that this trip was about to come to an end.
Sitting there, I reflected on the past thirty or so days that had just passed by me. The experiences, emotions, and people I met along the way, all gravitated highly amongst my conscious mind, and I began to think “what’s next after I come back home?” With these thoughts consuming my head space, ‘A Bird To The Nest’ was birthed into existence, and the initial words flowed out of me so fluidly that they resembled a nearby fountain. The piece was finalised within a few days after returning to Adelaide.
‘A Bird To The Nest’ details the cleansing of a nomadic man from his vices only to return to them so naturally in the same fashion as one would have returning home. Comforted and tortured by the same familiarity that a hometown provides.
Does ‘A Bird To The Nest’ cover similar themes that you explore in all of your writing?
Somewhat, yes. I’ve touched on how home becomes what it is only when you leave it. You learn to miss it, but when you’re there you only want to leave. That strong sense of familiarity serves as a double edged sword. Similar themes are found in a song of mine titled ‘Mama I’m Home’, which was written on the day I returned back home after playing a show in Melbourne in 2016.
What drives you to write?
I started writing in primary school at about age nine, after going on a school camp where we had a recurring activity that included finding a quiet spot by yourself to write about your surroundings and thoughts. The activity lingered past the camp to my time at home, where I’d sit in the backyard on this little patch of green grass amongst the weeds and dirt and just write. However, after a few months, the habit faded away.
At about age eleven, though, I remember writing my first ever rap for an SRC speech. From there until about fourteen, I’d write a random rap or R&B song here and there, as I was obsessed with singing but didn’t really have the vocal cords to match. Which brings me to the age of about fifteen, when I started recording some of these songs through a $10 headphone mic. Since then, the venture into music and lyricism, along with writing, has never stopped.
The main thing that drives me to write is the necessity to do so. The need to release and extend these thoughts that birth, die and linger within my mind. It’s a therapeutic ritual that my mental health heavily depends upon.
I tend to self-reflect a lot on myself and my life, from the past, present to future, and writing has always helped me organise this process in a practical fashion. Although, as important as my writing and music is to me, through time I’ve learned the great power and influence they both have on others, and the positive change it can bring to them, rather than just myself. When this realisation hits, you know then there’s no option to stop.
How do you incorporate writing into the rest of your life?
I try to incorporate my writing into all aspects of my life. Whether it be song writing, journal notes or a message to a friend, the art of piecing together words in a poetic and pleasing fashion can be a pleasurable experience for both the reader and the author. I believe words are there to be crafted, not just used to communicate.
Who has inspired or influenced your work?
The first author that really struck a chord with me was Paulo Coelho. I remember reading his novel ‘The Alchemist’ in my early 20’s about five years ago. His way of storytelling is so delicate and beautiful, not only vivid, but with such a deep spiritual feel that transcends the words on the page to not only bring you into the story, but comforts you too. His use of analogies and metaphors also really influenced my writing, drawing the smallest similarities between two things and creating such a strong bridge amongst them you’d think they were one of the same.
What barriers have you faced establishing yourself as an artist?
I guess one of the barriers I face establishing myself as a writer is breaking the stigma that some people may have of a hip-hop artist. There’s obviously some prejudice in society of what a hip-hop artist or rapper is, and the lifestyle that comes along with it. Although I do see where some people’s preconceived opinions come from, as some ‘rappers’ truly do bring a bad name to what the term is.
I hope to show that there are many that create hip-hop and live very inspiring lives, promote good moral values and ethics, fight for good causes and have some of the most profound ideologies on this earth. I do this by placing myself in situations I normally wouldn’t and by pushing my art with truth and confidence, no matter who the audience is.
When it comes to creating hip-hop music and writing, a beautiful bridge between the two is poetry, or spoken word per se. Spoken word events allow hip-hop artists to perform their lyrics stripped back, without a beat or instruments, and possibly even slowed down to cater to the occasion. The most defining factor at these events is that they bring together people from multiple worlds who’d normally never cross.
Personally, it was through spoken word that I first gained insight into what I could do with my lyrics/writings, and an understanding that there wasn’t just an audience of music lovers who could appreciate my words, but a whole other community of poetry and spoken word enthusiasts eager to hear my thoughts.
What (or who) has helped you on your way?
In terms of music, I’ve had mentors like K21, who would give me knowledge of the industry when I first entered it, and government-funded initiatives like Northern Sound System in Elizabeth, which signed me up for a one-year grant which allowed me to create the album I later released on vinyl with Sydney record label Low Key Source.
As far as writing goes, Mindshare here in Adelaide has been the greatest help. Winning the Unpublished Emerging Poets award in 2020 at the Mindshare Awards opened up a world of writing possibilities for me.
Over anything though, my mum has been the main enabler to help me along my way. Supporting me with all my creative endeavours with unconditional love.
Can you share a moment of your artistic career that you are most proud of?
The highlight of my writing career would definitely be winning the Unpublished Emerging Poets award at the Mindshare Awards in 2020. Alongside that would be being one of the feature poets at the Draw Your Swords spoken word competition back in 2017.
As far as my music career goes, having my 2019 album ‘Before I Forget’ pressed on vinyl would be my proudest moment. And being able to go on a national tour through different cities here in Australia through the release of that album was very special.
What are you hoping to achieve with your work?
The sky’s the limit to be honest. To have a book published is the ultimate dream, and a tangible dream with the right work ethic, passion and love for what you’re doing.
The ability to travel through my writing would be right next to that. No matter what I do, I want to be able to travel with it, creating art in different parts of the world. To let the environment, culture and smell in the air dictate my thoughts and what I create whilst being a nomadic vagabond is a dream I’ve had for many moons.
What advice would you give other writers who are just starting out?
My number one piece of advice with anything is to stay true to yourself. As clichéd as that statement may be, it’s the most applicable and real. Authenticity in what you create is what will set you apart from others and draw admirers towards you. Speak your story, as you’re the only one that can tell it.
Just as important is a willingness to invest in yourself. Whether that be financially or an investment of time, you need to give yourself the best possible chance to succeed, An investment in yourself is crucial to securing success in the future.
You can read Claz’s winning story here.