Producer, artist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, rapper, actor, poet, theatre maker and activist Joel Ma (Joelistics) is recognised as a unique voice in the Australian music scene and the greater Arts landscape.
He founded seminal alt-rap group TZU, who built a reputation around their electric live performances and inventiveness in the studio across four albums, Position Correction, Smiling at Strangers, Computer Love and Millions of Moments.
Along the way they picked up nominations for the Australian Music Prize, a J Award and an APRA Award.
Under the moniker Joelistics’ his anticipated debut album Voyager arrived in 2011 and was nominated for an Age Music award and AIR award. Written whilst traveling with a laptop between China, Mongolia and Europe, it opened up a new lane in Australian hiphop.
His second album Blue Volume was one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Top 20 albums of 2014.
In 2014, he co-wrote musical theatre piece In Between Two with James Mangohig exploring mixed race identity and family narrative interlaced with searing hiphop premiering at Darwin Festival (2014) and enjoying seasons at Carriage Works for Sydney Festival (2015), Adelaide’s entertainment center for OzAsia Festival (2017) and Arts Centre Melbourne for Melbourne Festival (2017).
Joel was picked up by acclaimed television producer Tony Ayres to develop a script based on his stories from In Between Two, still currently in development.
In 2015, Joel produced and co-wrote for other artists notably with internationally acclaimed group Haiku Hands and at the same time worked closely with Mo’ju (AKA Mojo Juju) including providing production for the celebrated track Native Tongue which was nominated for an Aria award, an Age award, APRA song of the year, and won the AIR award for best independent single and National Indigenous music award for best song of the year.
In 2019 Joelistics collaborated with Mo’Ju again on the joint album Ghost Town under the name Mojo Juju x Joelistics, earning him the inaugural Music Victoria award for best producer (2020).
Joel has produced hiphop tracks for artists including Birdz, Omar Musa, Mistress of Ceremony, Nomad, Titan, Dialectrix, The Tongue, Sensible Antixx, L-Fresh The Lion, Hau, 360, Pegz, Mantra, Grey Ghost, N’fa Jones, rapport, Ozi battla, Coda Conduct and Nas.
He has written for and collaborated with noted artists such as Tim Rogers, Emma Donovan, Ecca Vandal, Hermitude, Wil Wagner, Parvyn Singh and even Madonna amongst others.
In 2020, he released a short film ‘Still the Quivering Air’ and an album of production based work and collaborative tracks under the name Joelistics Presents Film School fusing beats and synths, 70’s Asian pop samples, psych-rock journey music and studio improvisations also exploring experimental compositions for strings, traditional Chinese and Indian music, synthesizers, samplers and drum machines.
In 2018, Joelistics starred in the ABC young adult science fiction show Nowhere Boys playing the main villain Zeb in Season 4.
For 15 years Joel has helped to establish an authentic Australian hiphop identity, created a network of collaborators that are representative of a diverse Australia, successfully expanded beyond the boundaries of genre bridging out in to theatre making, script writing performance poetry and acting.
Perhaps most importantly, before the conversation of representation became a go-to for out of step festivals, white artists, politicians, companies and brand advertising campaigns, before diversity became a signifier for those trying to convince you of their virtue, before the Australian music industry was prepared to speak out about racism and actively resisted the idea there was even a problem to begin with, Joel was on the forefront of that discussion raising his voice, provoking a response and picking the fight, living his values.
The substance of his work and the people he has chosen to work with has been informed by a real and meaningful relationship with multiculturalism promoting respect, humanity and inclusivity, driven by appealing to our humanity and informed by an engagement with Australia’s Indigenous identity. Joel is not new to this space, his influence and work has echoed out and it is society that is catching up to what has been an ongoing theme in his work all along.
He has been recognized by the music establishment as demonstrated by his invitation to the advisory group of The Australian Music Vault, or his many stints as a peer reviewer for Creative Victoria and APRA or his 2 years as a sitting board member for Youth Music organization The Push.
He has achieved Artistic recognition both commercially as a Triple J darling (over 25 songs as artist, producer or cowriter playlisted to high rotation) and critically, ARIA nominated producer (Mo’Ju album Native Tongue) internationally award winning spoken word artist (Ubud Writers Festival) or Music Victoria producer of the year (2020)
But more importantly he has carved out for himself a lane all of his own with a reputation that speaks of the highest integrity and creative exploration.