Music – Singing Stories

By Alexandra Kua

Arts Centre Melbourne presented Singing Stories in association with Multiculturalism Australia at the Famous Spiegeltent earlier this month on Saturday 12 April.

Featured artists included SistaNative, a Tongan heritage orator and singer; Paulo and Gill, an East Timorese duo taking a fresh look at traditional folk music; Saritah, a South Korean born singer who has performed in Australia and United States; James Henry, an Indigenous artist with a love of tongue-in-cheek humour; Herb Patten, a leading Aboriginal gumleaf player; Sunshine Sisters, made up of Indigenous artists Deline Briscoe and Jessie Lloyd, and Iranian-Mauritian artist Neda Rahmani; King Kadu, the Torres Strait Islander singer-songwriter and ukuleleist; and the acclaimed Indigenous singer Emma Donovan.

The Famous Spiegeltent … offered a feeling of child-like excitement that complemented the show.

The pre-show act SistaNative gave a wonderful start to the musical afternoon. With velvety-smooth yet powerful vocals and a brilliant electric guitar accompaniment that broke out into jazzy solos occasionally, the sparse lyrics brought focus to the hummed melody and laid-back feel of the performance.

The Famous Spiegeltent – with a bar, small tables, deck chairs, stained-glass windows and a circus-like pitched roof – offered a feeling of child-like excitement that complemented the show.

Opening artists Paulo and Gill performed their wonderful alternative take on folk music from East Timor in a composition calling for the freedom of West Papua.

Saritah told of her personal highs and lows through her lyrics, from enjoying the simplicities of life to accepting death and appreciating the living. Her powerful vocals resonated through the Spiegeltent and, in her moments of softness, whispered their important message to the audience.

James Henry started off with a joke and sang of the importance of accepting and loving people of different races to our own. We are essentially mankind, irrespective of our skin colour. Henry’s uncanny use of tongue-in-cheek humour to bring about a discussion of serious issues in society was well noted by many in the audience.

Herb Patten taught the audience about his art form – gumleaf playing – adding snippets of humorous events that have shaped his life. From recounting birdcalls to telling us of his new note called the “blues note”, Herb Patten wasn’t dull for a second. Topping off his engaging talk, Herb played a cover of John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine”. This was no doubt intended as a symbolic gesture of hope for a more united world.

Sunshine Sisters performed traditional folk songs to their own compositions with special guests Emma Donovan and King Kadu. Engaging to the last, the enigmatic voices of the artists combined created a space of wonder. Each voice was clearly defined without overpowering the others, at the same time imbued with its own special quality.

… a wonderful afternoon celebrating multiculturalism and the outstanding artists who sing to make a difference in society.

The event was well presented, with a wonderful artistic environment suitable for everyone – despite the notable absence of alcoholic beverages. It was a wonderful afternoon celebrating multiculturalism and the outstanding artists who sing to make a difference in society.

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