Charles, with his skills and experiences across youth works, music, art and culture, starts by giving the kids an insight into his lost early years, his journey to find himself through social outreach and working with kids, and his passion for the craft of barbering and the level of care and presentation that goes along with the skill.
The students easily gravitate towards Charles who inspires them in the way he speaks of the craft and the love and care embedded in developing this life-long skill.
The room in the school is no longer Room 201… it’s become The Groom Room and has been the centre of gossip and talk amongst the students and teachers for weeks. Before and after the workshop teachers and students have been peering in the windows and knocking on the door asking if everything is running smoothly (but perhaps wanting to have a little sticky beak too…); the kids laughing at how many teachers are checking in, thinking perhaps Deputy Noel Dixon is sending them to keep an eye on proceedings.
Charles commands the students attention and they warm to the idea that they can do this and more.He tells stories of the past successful Barbershop projects at I.C.E., walks through the safety aspects of barbering and the important tools they will be learning to use.
The students are amazed at the stories of thug life and Barbershop redemption; they are hypnotised by the sound of the buzzer.
In a blink it’s over for Week 1; the students have had their hair cut, all of their eyes are glued to the mirror checking the fresh fades and happy to know that next week they will embark on their first cut.
Barbershop chatter comes to an end with the ring of the bell but two students are still firmly seated in the barber chairs, they aren’t moving to the beats or rattle of the bell notifying the end of the day. They won’t leave until they have their hair cut so that tomorrow in the playground there is clear proof that they are part of The Groom Room.
With the last cut done, The Groom Room is empty and only the sound is that of the brush and dust pan as Charles sweeps up.
One day down, nine more sessions of The Groom Room lie ahead.
Words by Leo Tanoi
Granville Boys High Senior Arabic Band has been practicing for moments like this, in the coming weeks they will be recording their versions of two of the twenty odd songs they regularly perform. Today they treated mentor Chris Hamer-Smith to two tracks: MA7Laki (BPM 140) by Hussein Deek and Befrah Feke by Houssam Jneed, songs that many in the Arabic speaking community will know. Chris will record these two renditions and later work with the band to create their own versions that the feel of the area and the students that regularly perform these tracks.
All the students in the Granville Boys High Senior Arabic Band are of Lebanese heritage and are in Year 10. Some of them have learned to play at home, while others have learned in school music classes. Their passions extend past music; between each song practice the kids would jump into fierce discussion about why the Parramatta Eels NRL team has failed over the last few years.
The Band is a well-oiled machine by anyone’s standards, they’ve performed these tracks countless times (including for the 2017 School Spectacular) and the music transports you to their homeland. The rhythmic beats and organ and saxophone leads fill the music room with pride in their Arabic contemporary music stars.
In the afternoon Chris spent some time with a group of Pacific Islanders and Arabic speaking students who are forming a school band. It was an afternoon of musical experimentation with a funked-up version of a Bruno Mars style track; the plan being to continue to toy with the major trends that weave throughout the world in commercial music culture.
Words by Leo Tanoi