La Danza Poetica #21 My Island Home


Warumpi Band - My Island Home
Archie Roach & Middleton Cheedy - John Pat (Poem by Jack Davis)
Cumbia Cosmonauts ft. Lamine Sonko & Amadou Kalissa - Animbara
Larry T Hill - FAQ live at the Rails, Darwin + FAQ acapella poem
Taqi Khan - Atish
Candy Royalle - Guatemalan Waters
Prasaara - Ghost Creek
Ebony MonCrief - Traveller
Not Drowning Waving - Call Across The Highlands
Mau Power - Warupau Nur (Sing Strong) (feat. King Kadu)
Mau Power - Island Home
Kajob, Tim Cole & David Bridie - Land Of The Morning Star
Ebony MonCrief - Chimera
Alia Gabres - She Cotton Summer Dresses
Ebony MonCrief - Anchor to the soul
Luka Lesson - Celebrate
L-Fresh The Lion - The Heart, the Pen (feat. Jeet Hakam)
Taqi Khan & Morganics - Bul bul by Taqi Khan Ft. Morganics
Candy Royalle - Stained
Traffic & Sib – Jezebel
Radical Son - Highest of love
Ali Cobby Eckerman - Family
Gurrumul & Blue King Brown - Gathu Mawula Revisited

Notes on the show

Australia is my country. I was born here; it made me; I make it. We all do. Our potential is being undermined. Our government and their puppet masters, the commercial vested interests, would have us divided. But music, art, culture and poetry are the threads that connect us, and connection is our weapon to fight for the country we know can, should be. To commune with our art, is the way.

This dance poetic is given over to passionate voices from only some of the many cultures, languages, religions, rhythms, that make up the continent and the neighbouring islands of the oceans of Australia. 

The song My Island Home was written by Neil Murray of the Warumpi Band. It's about Elcho Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land, the northern tip of Australia.

The Warumpi Band originated in the Aboriginal settlement of Papunya in the central desert region of the Northern Territory in the early '80s. The band's name derives from the honey-ant dreaming site located near the settlement of Papunya which is 260ks west of Alice Springs. Original founding members were Sammy and Gordon Butcher, Neil Murray, and George Rrurrambu. Warumpi Band is a seminal band in the history of Australian rock music. They released the first rock song in an Aboriginal language Jailanguru Pakarnu (Out From Jail) in 1983. There is a great ABC documentary about George Rrurrambu if you want to find out more about this Australian rock legend, the front man of the Warumpi Band: Big Name No BlanketThe original clip  for My Island Home:

Recorded many times since, notably by Christine Anu in ’95, My Island Home has recently been resampled by rapper Mau Power, and it’s the spirit of this dance. In his soulful hip hop remake Mau Power uses the first verse to pay homage to the Torres Strait Islands while the second verse is an ode to Australia, the great Island Home. The video, shot on location in The Torres Strait Islands:

Mau Power is a lyrical storyteller from Thursday Island in the Torres Straits. For many years he has been guided by two cultures, Indigenous culture and Hip Hop culture. His album The Show Will Go On is an autobiographical journey through the pinnacles of Mau Power’s life, coming soon (keep up to date at Collaborations will include the legendary Archie Roach, and Radical Son - both also featured in this podcast.

Archie Roach is almost hard to write about, his importance to the soul of this country is so great. My sense of pause in writing about him is just that I don't know where to begin, then where to stop. In the tradition of his people he is a storyteller and a chronicler of life, place and country. As one of the stolen generation of Australian Aboriginal children (watch him talk about his song  Took the Children Away) he led a troubled existence as a young man, journeying through institutionalisation, homelessness, alcoholism, finding through music and through partnership with his beautiful soul mate Ruby Hunter, a very real kind of transcendence. His stories and his songs better us, help us to understand each other, help us to acknowledge and reconcile our country's terrible history. He brings us together.

Archie recites Jack Davis' poem John Pat, along with Middleton Cheedy. The poem is about a young man, John Pat’s, death while incarcerated in an Australian prison, which was a catalyst for the demands of the Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, an ongoing tragedy across this country. The poem comes from the album Murru, released in 2003 through the Yijala Yala Project bringing together some of Australia’s most celebrated Indigenous singer-songwriters and talented non-Indigenous blues, folk and alt-country artists to work with prisoners and community members from the remote Pilbara town of Roebourne.  The album release marked the 30th anniversary of the death of 16-year old John Pat in a police cell in Roebourne on the 28th September 1983, and raised funds to fulfil his mother's wish to build a memorial for him in what was his home town.

Thanks to some serendipitous timing I was able to slip in a new track from Radical Son this month - Highest of Love brings the funk to the table, and continues the spirit of compassion, awareness and connection that runs through all the works in this podcast. From the Kamilaroi nation of Australia and the south pacific nation of Tonga, vocalist Radical Son has a unique ability to deliver as a soul singer, rapper and spoken word artist. Highest of Love features the voice of Archie Roach in the opener, and is one of a few tracks to be released this past week, as a precursor to a full album coming later this year. You can listen here:

Australia is also home to many different cultures - from Africa, from Asia, from the Middle East, from Europe, from the Americas. Apart from those indigenous to this land, no Australian is completely "Australian" - or, a better way of expressing this: every Australian is Australian, no matter where we come from. We are all carrying the blood of travellers, migrants, immigrants. Many came to this place; many others continue to come; many were always here. To recognise, heal and repair our history is necessary. To grow into and realise a better, more communal future is also necessary.

Refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries take a very long and very hard trip to get to this island. The governmental policies in this country in relation to refugees have been on a slippery slope for many years. I've written about this before, for the Refuge podcast. Currently we have a cruel and cynical policy of sending back refugees to camps in poor neighbouring countries. There is resistance to this; there is growing outrage and activism. There are also many great organisations working to encourage refugees and immigrants once here to share their rich cultural perspectives and art, to contribute to the tapestry of this country and to repair the damage that ignorance and racism has done to the migrant experience here.

Multicultural Arts Victoria is one, an organisation bringing together artists, both immigrant and indigenous, encouraging and supporting young artists, putting on festivals like the Emerge Festival which is happening right now in Melbourne, and recording and producing some excellent compilation albums including the Visible series showcasing musical collaborations from MAV's mentoring programs.

From Visible 8 we hear Taqi Khan - born in Afghanistan, living and making music in Melbourne. Atish (Fire) is a traditional love song sung in Hazaragi. From another Multicultural Arts Victoria release 4DS, Traffic and Sib, originally from France, with the deep funk of Jezebel. And, two live recordings from MAV's ReMastered Myths project, which brought together musicians from different musical and cultural backgrounds to collaborate, improvise, and explore foreign sounds and styles. First, a collaboration between The Cumbia Cosmonauts, Lamine Sonko and Amadou Kalissa - From West African rhythms to electro infusions, the ever adapting Cumbia takes a trip back to its ancestral origins. Later in the show, Taqi Khan again collaborating with hip hop artist and educator Morganics.

L-Fresh the Lion also released an album last month. This is a hip hop poet of deep consciousness, inspired by his cultural and ancestral roots of the the Sikhs from Panjab, India. More than inspiration - the deep embodiment of culture and person in music. And in a way that really only hip hop can do, L-Fresh wraps message in music so clearly that you cannot help but hear. Embodying his words in his existence also, he is an ambassador for All Together Now, Australia’s only national charity that exists solely to address racism. This album ought to go big. Many more people ought to hear this voice. In this podcast I feature a track from the album, The Heart, the Pen featuring singer Jeet Hakam. L-Fresh's video for the track Survive (ft. MK-1) was filmed with the Sikh communities of Sydney and Melbourne. As he says, it showcases the diversity and beauty of Australia's Sikh community,

Sri Lankan / Middle Eastern / Australian vocalist, and currently Pacific seafarer, Larry T Hill’s FAQ mixup is a combination of a live performance in Darwin and a recorded version for video last year (the video below). This poem is wry, frustrated, but also infused with a real love, I think. In his frustrated listing of the FAQs, Larry perfectly expresses the experience of casual racism that is unfortunately a part of Australian life.

I feel energised by making this edition of La Danza Poetica. I have felt disconnected from my country for some time, angry and disturbed by the politics and frustrated by the apathy, and just wanting to leave it behind. But lately I've felt more hopeful and more positive, and it's been through engaging with the music and poetry that is happening here, the empowering and beautiful connections being made between the many cultures, languages and spirits inhabiting this place. So I hope that this mix of music and poetry inspires a little of that sense of positivity and possibility in you, too. I'm feeling like my journeying in my birthplace is just beginning, again. "...And the learning continues."

The last track of the dance is the gorgeous Gathu Mawula. Two deep souls of Australia, Gurrumul Yunupingu and Natalie Pa'apa'a of Blue King Brown came together in a very natural and very spirited collaboration to record this. The song originally appeared on Gurrumul’s eponymous debut album where he sung it completely in the Yolgnu language. "It’s a song about family, about the land and about our essential connection to it." 

Taking us full circle - Gurrumul is also from Elcho Island.