The Boomerang Festival at Byron Bay – Day 2
Day two of Boomerang Festival started just where day one had finished. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the crowd was building from the word go. A line had already formed at the gate as if the punters were waiting for the starters gun. First on the stage was Blues virtuoso Ray Beadle.
The Sydney guitarist set the benchmark right from the start with his high energy set. Beadle has released a new album, All the Kings Men, which highlights the men who were King of the Blues. Beadle payed homage to these Kings which include Albert, B.B., Earl and Freddie.
Next to take the stage was Shellie Morris. A very important role model to indigenous people, Morris has not long since released her most important work to date. Her last album, Together We are Strong: the song people’s sessions, is sung in the Yanyuwa language which now has less than 10 speakers. Morris learnt the language from her grandmother and is passing it on to keep the language alive. Morris’ set was a mixture of songs sung in the Yanyuwa and English.
Thelma Plum was up next. Plum is one of the newest indigenous performers in the live circut and she has hit the music scene with a vengeance. A sweet voice which matches the singer’s demeanour, Plum was right at home in front of the Boomerang crowd. She has released her debut EP Rosie and had the crowd under her spell right from the start.
The pace took a different direction with the next showpiece. Starting off with traditional indigenous music and dance, Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra took to the stage in conversation with Jeff McMullen. Mixing music with politics isn’t really something new. When there is a need to convey a message, the best way to do it is in a way that people can understand and music has an international language that people embrace.
Dr. Gondarra spoke about the struggles that the indigenous people still face today, the way they faced them in centuries past. Even though many things in the world are moving forward, the understanding of the indigenous culture is virtually at a standstill. He spoke about the Australian Government, the land and its people, both black and white. Like the majority of things that are being shown at this inaugural festival, Dr. Gondarra’s conversation was an education in itself, providing food for thought.
To make sure the messages filtered across the crowd, Xavier Rudd used his appearance to convey it in song. Rudd certainly got the crowd well and truly inspired. Everyone moved to their feet and to applaud as everyone had come together as one at that point and that is what this is all about. People standing side by side, no matter what the colour or creed, and being as one. The message through the language of song was beginning to penetrate the crowd.
To carry on the message and keep the feeling alive, Wantok: Sing Sing made a return to the stage and with the colourful costume and infectious song and rhythms kept the message going. This was a spectacle that needed to be experienced, to get the rhythm to take over and lose any inhibitions that may have been hanging around. It was time to get loose and let the music take over.
As the sun was setting and the grounds were starting to be lit by the coloured lights of the stalls, The Medics were next to take to the stage. The four lads rocked the crowd and played really tight and keep the high energy flowing. The Medics played tracks off their debut album, Foundations and also played new material. It may have been difficult to keep the energy going after the inspirational talk and music but The Medics didn’t falter in their task.
Casey Donovan, best known for winning the second season of Australian Idol in 2004 was next up. While working on her musical career after Idol ’04, Donovan has moved into theatre where she starred in the stage version of The Sapphires. More recently she played the part of Mama Cass in the stage show Flower People which was the story of The Mamas and the Papas. It was great to see her return to the stage to sing and to be a part of a festival that is here not only to entertain but to also educate.
The last part of the night was reserved for another icon of indigenous music. Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu known only as Gurrumul, is an important voice responsible for highlighting aboriginal culture on a national level. Born blind, Gurrumul has repeatedly justified his dominance in the local music scene and whose music draws out the sense of empathy and compassion in the average patron. Singing with such a passion and in his mother tongue that you can’t help but be moved by his songs, Gurrumul was joined on stage by another artist that conveys strong messages through song, Natalie Pa’apa’a from Blue King Brown.
This was the surety that the second day finished on a high note and people could make their way home with plenty to think about. The day had one major subliminal suggestion that Vulture has adopted wholeheartedly: it’s not only time to open your eyes, it’s time to open your mind and embrace the culture of this sacred land.