Blacktown – Darug land – Invasion – Aboriginal Settlement – Migration – Multicultural destination.
Wave after wave, a place for settlement. A start, a new beginning.
Twelve long years of divisive politics that has created an Australian nationalism, based on a differentiation, colour and religion.
A start, a new beginning.
Blacktown Arts Centre is currently running a series of development workshops and residencies under the title of the African Theatre Project, which started in 2007. The projects aim to build the capacity of African artists and showcase the stories of Africans in the Blacktown and Western Sydney area through contemporary theatre.
With the support of Arts NSW I was employed by the Blacktown Arts Centre to work with African artists who had settled in Australia, with the aim of creating sounds and songs for three theatre pieces.
I have had the privilege of working in Western Sydney as a music producer for several years with a vision of showcasing the talents of people from diverse cultural backgrounds and disadvantaged communities. All this time I have been holding onto a dream of one day producing a ‘new sound’ for Australia. A sound that harmonises and embraces our diverse cultures!
We have all heard of the ‘Manchester Sound’, the ‘Seattle Sound’, why not the ‘Western Sydney Sound’? All it takes is an investment into our multiculturalism, into our differences, an investment into the one art-form that touches us all, music.
Music. Sound. Vibration. A fridge humming. We are all touched by it!
I worked with Western Sydney artists Mary Mamour (Sudan), 842 – featuring Emmanuel Johnson and William Dara (Liberia, Ghana and Australia) and Asim Gorashi (Sudan) to create the songs and the sounds for the African Theatre Project.
The song writing process included the musicians meeting with the writers to discuss what music was needed to help their writing come to life. The musicians went to work and I met with them a few times to workshop their songs.
Now, we had the songs but we needed help. So, we enlisted other African musicians who were working as session or performing musicians in the City to support the recordings.
Over a few nights in the studio, we recorded songs, ambient sounds and improvised new songs.
I asked Asim after we had finished recording instrumental pieces, to play one of his songs so we could record it. Immediately, he started playing and we started recording.
After we finished recording the song, Asim said, ‘I don’t know why I decided to play this, it is an old song’. Deeply touched by this moving song played on the Oud, I asked, ‘what is it called?’ and Asim responded, ‘My Inspiration’.
Inspired! An opportunity for a new sound?
How to initiate a new sound? Not just an instrumental fusion but an accessible, emotional product that might touch many listeners.
We had the opportunity to try something new with musicians coming together from: Mali; Ghana; Liberia; Australia/Lebanon; Sudan; Ethiopia; and Ivory Coast; to attempt a cross cultural song with no rehearsal and with musicians working together for the first time.
In one room, I placed Ethiopian, Dereb Desalgen (Masenko, vocals) and Sudanese, Asim Gorashi (Oud, Vocals) to work on an intro to the song. My vision was to have, two great voices and two ceremonial instruments coming together to set up a mood of contemplation. While in the recording studio, the band recorded the bed tracks to the main part of the song, which had a feel of celebration.
We had a go!
The song features different languages, words of respect for our indigenous community and a call to come together. The song is called, ‘A New Anthem’ (for Australia).
I played ‘New Anthem’ at the ‘International Symposium for Intangible Culture’ in Canberra earlier this year. While the song was playing and coming to its end, I mentioned that one of the musicians had remarked that the song sounded like music from the ‘Lion King’! The audience cracked up laughing!
My ongoing struggle with this vision of a ‘new sound’, is how to keep it real? I don’t want to dip into different cultures for the sake of creating something interesting. I want to be part of something that resonates. I want to bring people together that are searching for a common vibration, people working together that can give something of themselves, to be authentic!
Authenticity (philosophy), a particular way of dealing with the external world, being faithful to internal rather than external ideas. – wikipedia
When the symposium delegates were leaving the room, a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes and her hand on her heart and said, ‘We need a new anthem’.
Being involved in the Blacktown African Theatre Project was a fantastic opportunity. We all had a great time working together. Phone numbers and laughter were exchanged and relationships were built between established and newly emerging African musicians and we recorded some great music that will be featured on a CD in early 2009.
A new sound? Maybe not, but maybe a ‘new wave’!
Blacktown, the city for black people! – Emanuel Johnson, 842
Richard Petkovic has worked as a music producer and community worker for 15 years and is currently establishing the ‘Cultural Arts Collective – management, production and record label’, supporting artists from diverse backgrounds and in pursuit of a new sound!
Blacktown Arts Centre will be launching a compilation CD of the new songs developed for the African Theatre Project by the NEW WAVE BAND in early 2009. For further information or to be included on their mailing list, please email email@example.com , contact (02) 9839 6554 or visit http://www.artscentre.blacktown.nsw.gov.au for updates.