Arnhem Land artists launch online concert series amid coronavirus lockdowns


April 26, 2020 08:42:57

Locked down in strict biosecurity zones, thousands of kilometres from Australia’s major cities and towns, north-east Arnhem Land is being put on show like never before through a unique series of concerts.

Key Points:

  • The first performance in a concert series was livestreamed last night from north east Arnhem Land
  • Organisers say the concerts are a way to stay creative during lockdown, and share their music with wider audiences
  • Remote communities across the NT have strict travel conditions for incoming and outgoing travellers due to COVID-19

Yolngu musicians have launched an online performance series, starting this weekend, joining in the worldwide trend of artists in lockdown performing from home.

Singer-songwriter Yirrmal Marika is among the four acts performing from the shores of the Gove Peninsula over the next month.

He said online audiences could expect to get a genuine feel of the country that birthed the culture and music that would be on show.

“I hear so much feedback that people really enjoy, and they feel the spirit of this part of the country in Arnhem Land that I sing about,” he said.

“Other [performers] are living in their own regions and areas of land, and they govern that area.

“They sing about that country and they share.

“We can share stories through contemporary music and every tone hits each individual person’s heart, because we are telling the truth of the land.”

Staying creative amid crisis

The performance series was conceived as a way to keep the rich local music scene of north east Arnhem Land thriving while pandemic precautions were in place.

Travel to and from remote parts of the Northern Territory is being tightly controlled under efforts to protect communities from the spread of COVID-19.

The executive producer of the concert series and manager of Yolngu Radio, Nicholas O’Riley, said the performances were a creative outlet.

“It gives these bands an opportunity to keep playing, keep being creative and keep writing music,” he said.

“And [it also helps] getting their music out to a whole new audience.”

Mr O’Riley said communities in north-east Arnhem Land had been concerned about the impacts of coronavirus.

“A lot of the elders have real concerns. They are asking a lot of questions, and the right questions too, about how this is being handled,” he said.

“A lot of the community have gone back out to homelands and out bush and it is great for people to go back out on country.”

Marika, who is the grandson of the late Yothu Yindi lead singer Dr M Yunupingu, said creating music was a way for people to stay strong in a stressful time.

“It is really important for the music, that we can still play and tell stories. While there is still COVID-19 around there is no opportunity for us to get out,” he said.

He said the chance to share Yolngu music and culture with viewers from around the world was also special.

“What we believe, what we see in our heart and our eyes, we have been practising for thousands of years and it is still here,” he said.

“It is rich and beautiful … It is amazing to be a part of this area.”

The full video from Saturday night’s concert can be found on East Arnhem Land’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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First posted

April 26, 2020 08:33:35

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