It wasn’t the passionate speeches of acceptance, nor the deadly sets played by the artists, it was the short doco on the late great Uncle Jimmy (Dr James Oswald Little OA March 1, 1937-April 2, 2012), outlining his six decades as an innovative country music star, that moved me the most. The NIMA crowd was spellbound as it watched the screening in the verdant tropical Botanic Gardens Amphitheatre on Saturday August 11. An emotional Buzz Bidstrup, CEO of the Jimmy Little Foundation, paid tribute to the first Aboriginal singer to crack the mainstream music industry with his 1965 hit ‘Royal Telephone’. Little was posthumously inducted into the National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame.
Enthusiastic punters screaming out in delight had Larrakia songwoman Ali Mills at a loss for a moment, but she soon asserted her strong cheerful personality, and with National Indigenous Representative for APRA, Rob Collins, compered the Music NT coordinated event with gusto.
The first two acts to perform were opposite ends of the musical and cultural spectrum. In a poignant voice fresh new talent Thelma Plum sang one of her own sweet songs, having been selected as NIMA triple j Unearthed winner, while old timer Warren H Williams looked to be in his element as he led his countrymen through a fusion of tradition and modern melodies and lyrics.
Williams told me his Song People’s project with the Tennant Creek mob “was a learning experience.” The Traditional Music Award went to the Song People’s Sessions – the collaborations between country singer Warren H Williams and the Warumungu Songmen, and that of Shellie Morris and the Yanyuwa Songwomen of Borroloola, in which millennia-old songs were given fresh arrangements, as well as their creation of joint compositions. The projects, conceived by Patrick McCloskey and produced in the communities by sound wizard Tim Cole, are an initiative to preserve ancient languages and inspire the youth.
The Medics cranked up a psychedelic grunge frenzy in their set, and were joined onstage by drummer Jhindu’s dad & 2011 NIMA Hall of Fame inductee, Bunna Lawrie, for a sensitive rendering of the Coloured Stone 1984 classic ‘Black Boy’. In winning the top gongs, including Album of the Year – Foundations, Song of the Year- Griffin and New Talent of the Year, the North Queensland band scooped the pool. Thelma Plum also joined The Medics and Bunna on his interpretation of Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, which was partly sung in the Mirning tongue.
Yothu Yindi’s Mandawuy Yunupingu had been mentoring young Yirrkala ensemble East Journey, and it showed in its polished performance plus the achievement of two highly contested awards – the NT Film Clip of the Year for the video ‘Ngarrpiya’ and the illustrious G.R. Bururrawanga (the late Warumpi Band singer) Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to the NT music industry. Lead singer, Rrawun Maymuru, circled by traditionally painted dancers theatrically prowled the big stage like a professional. The chronically ill Mandawuy beamed with pride on the night as he presented the award to his excited protégés. NT School Band of the Year went to NEAL Boys, also from the Yirrkala community.
Not long returned from serenading Queen Elizabeth II at her Diamond Jubilee in London, Gurrumul Yunupingu was named Artist of the Year for the second year running. His duet, ‘Bayini’, with Sarah Blasko also scored Cover Art of the Year.
Yabu is a Wogutha word for rock and West Australian brothers, Delson on vocals and guitarist Boyd Stokes, were recently awarded WAMI Indigenous Artist Of The Year 2012. The brothers’ Yabu Band from Kalgoorlie, reinterpreted ‘I Am Australian/We Are Australian’ and Delson’s soul-searching ‘Petrol, Paint & Glue’ squeezed pain from everyone’s heart as it recalled the dreadful substance abuse in youth of all communities. Unfortunately the band failed to win an award but is definitely in the running for 2013.
Two legendary bands of the Northern Territory, Tanami Desert reggae meisters Lajamanu Teenage Band and Arnhem Land rockers Sunrize Band, were also inducted into the NIMA Hall of Fame with both acts stirring it up with fine performances to close the event. Sunrize frontman, Ben Pascoe had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he got them singing the chorus to the band’s funky homeland hymn, ‘Lembana Mani Mani, Maningrida’.
The Darwin night was unusually cold for the Dry season, but everyone went home with a warm glow in their hearts from a strengthening of the ancient songlines!
by Peter James Dawson
# Darwin Festival: National Indigenous Music Awards 2012 #