When the ‘Spirit of Churaki’ had its premiere on the beach in Surfers Paradise last month, a thousand people were left in awe. It was a breathtaking performance; a musical collaboration of epic proportions and an ancient tale marrying the modern and the traditional.
And if you missed it you’re in luck, because ‘Spirit of Churaki’ is back, but just for one night.
The performance is inspired by a heroic and largely unknown story of Churaki, a Goodjingburra man known for carrying out daring rescues in the early 1900s as the surf bathing craze took the Gold Coast’s southern beaches by storm.
The production, created for Bleach* Festival, explores not just the life and philosophies of Churaki and his community at the time but also topics such as incarceration rates, depression and traditional culture of the Yugambeh people. It rolls out a mix of genres and musical flavours including an amped-up traditional welcome, soul and hip hop, anthemic rock and even shades of country.
Musically directed by Brian Ritchie of Violent Femmes fame and with a sound design by artist Lawrence English, ‘The Spirit of Churaki’ is both an incredibly professional production as well as a vastly moving one. Darker content, such as the slow blues number knocked out of the park by young Budjerah Slabb (“because of my colour, I’ve been locked up for 200 years”) sits comfortably alongside more uptempo tracks, with powerhouse Colin Usher’s vocals a highlight. Famed singer / songwriter Leah Flanagan brings heartfelt vocals to the night with a solo number about Churaki inspired by a poem written by elder Aunty Joyce Summers, a wistful and nostalgic moment, complete with ukulele. There’s even a reggae-inspired track performed by Jarulah Slabb. (Seriously, how talented is this family? Bee Gees eat your hearts out.)
The diversity of the show’s musical genres is also reflected in instruments played on stage; boomerangs alongside bass guitars, cajons and a violin, digeridoos and electric guitars all feature in ‘The Spirit of Churaki’.
The evening closes with a laid back surf-guitars performance by The Break – an Australian rock legend super-band made up of Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey (Midnight Oil), Jack Howard (Hunters & Collectors) and Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes).
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Feature image courtesy Peter Wheeler.