A RARE OPPORTUNITY

The musicians in Crossing Roper's Bar

The musicians in Crossing Roper’s Bar

PREVIEW: CD launch, Crossing Roper Bar Volume 2 — The Ghost Dances, Young Wägilak Group & Australian Art Orchestra, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Tuesday 27 May, 2014

This is a last-minute post (there’s been a few concerts on at somwhere called Stonnington recently), but this is a chance not to be missed.

In a rare live performance, indigenous musicians David and Daniel Wilfred from Arnhem Land will join distinguished Australian pianist and composer Paul Grabowsky and the acclaimed Australian Art Orchestra to launch their new album, Crossing Roper Bar Volume 2 – The Ghost Dances.

Crossing Roper Bar journeys into jazz and the music traditions of Australia’s first people. The result of regular exchanges that began in 2005, this work brings together two diverse cultures “in a very contemporary and yet spiritual musical fusion”.

It is based on the Yolngu song cycle Wild Blackfella and will feature indigenous musicians of the Young Wägilak Group and traditional ceremony men from Ngukurr on the Roper River — Daniel Wilfred (Wägilak Songman and dancer) and David Wilfred (Wägilak Songman and didgeridoo), Paul Grabowsky (Musical Director and piano), Tony Hicks (saxophones), Stephen Magnusson (guitar), Niko Schauble (drums).
and Philip Rex (double bass).

And at 7pm on Thursday 29 May at Moreland City Band Hall, 22 Cross Street, Brunswick, there will be a free workshop with Daniel and David Wilfred covering the storytelling, ceremony and musical traditions of Arnhem Land. Participants can take part in bunggul (dance) workshops, and enjoy live performance of beautiful songs and virtuoso yidaki (didjeridu) playing.

The following material is taken from the media release:

The manikay (song cycles) of the Yolŋu of South East Arnhem Land represent one of the oldest and most affecting musical traditions on the planet and the song men of Ngukurr have worked closely with the AAO to create a contemporary rendering of these precious cultural artefacts — performing songs that many of their Yolŋu kin further north had thought were lost forever.

Paul Grabowsky, who initiated the project, said the collaboration was based on an equal exchange of knowledge through a dialogue centred on music. “The resulting intersection of jazz and traditional Indigenous music is an electrifying marriage of the very old with the very new, and a celebration of country, ceremony, and the power of music to build enduring bridges across cultures, time and space.

“Music is integral to Aboriginal ceremony, culture and to their whole social system and the ancient song cycles of the Manikay are in real danger of being lost unless they are picked up and preserved by future generations,” Grabowsky said.

“Over the past nine years the Crossing Roper Bar project has reinvigorated the Ngukkur community, which has for many decades lived with the threat of losing its cultural traditions. It has re-engaged the young people and shown a way forward.”

The Roper River is a magnificent waterway flowing from Mataranka, 100 kms south of Katherine, and out across the land of the Mangarayi and Yungman people. Before it reaches the Gulf of Carpentaria it passes the remote town of Ngukurr, which is isolated by the Wet for several months of each year (November to Easter) when the Roper engulfs all but the highest land. At other times, Roper Bar is the point where it’s possible to cross the river and go on to Ngukurr. The crossing over seems not only a poetic but also a fitting metaphor for our collaboration, Crossing Roper Bar.

Ngukurr is an ideal place to learn about Aboriginal music because it is the gathering point for outlying peoples of the Wägilak, Ngalmi, Murrungun, Nunthirrbala, Mungurra, Lalara and Wurramurra nations, who come together under the name Yugul Mangi.

The CD was recorded in 2012 and features the Young Wägilak Group from Arnhem Land led byBenjamin Wilfred and AAO musicians, Erkki Veltheim (violin), Paul Grabowsky (piano), Tony Hicks (saxophone/flute), Philip Rex (bass) and Niko Schäuble (drums).

The Bennetts Lane doors open tonight at 8.30pm. For details visit the Bennetts Lane website.

ROGER MITCHELL

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