“When one of us shines we all shine”, Archie Roach reminded us as HOTA celebrated Indigenous Australian music on a beautiful Saturday evening under the stars. When we think of Australian music we think of shared stories, culture and identity. Hosted by the very funny storyteller/comedian Steph Tisdell, Deadly Hearts was an absolute treat.
Brisbane based DJ and Producer artist HVWKS kicked off the celebration with a set to prepare the ground by hitting it with his trademark heavy beats pulsating through the amphitheatre. After the Welcome to Country, The Kinship Collective – a young bunch of local talented artists – impressed with performances that were energetic and authentic.
This year’s winner of triple j unearthed Indigenous Initiative, Aodhan, began his set by expressing gratitude for his award and how honored he felt to be onstage at HOTA. His soulful voice and gentle romantic nature were on display as he dedicated his song ‘Butterflies’ to his girlfriend in the crowd. Six piece Gold Coast and Brisbane-based band Selve added a paradoxical element to the afternoon, the band dressed onstage in black and white with lead singer Loki Liddle’s incredible vocals sounding a little like Nick Cave and fitting into no one particular genre – they took us on a wild ride.
On the subject of inventive wild rides, HOTA, as part of the Home Series, presented OSADiA street performance artists all the way from Barcelona. OSADiA amazed the crowd as they took to creating out-of-this-world hair and makeup designs, transforming volunteer audience members in their barber chairs into fantastic characters.
An amazing group of young Indigenous dancers led by local Aboriginal elder and respected artist Luther Cora then led us through a ceremony. Eagles and Boomerangs were bought to life through dance and song, the familiar sound of the ancient didgeridoo taking us into the traditional smoking ceremony.
Archie Roach was then accompanied onstage by Paul Grabowsky on piano, Sam Manning on double Bass and Steve Magnussen on guitar. You could have heard a pin drop as Archie began telling stories or “truth-telling” as he so eloquently described it. With Paul gently playing piano in the background, Archie told us stories of both his biological and foster parents and of course his wife Ruby. There is no more beautiful way to hear a story than through music and his gentle yet commanding voice was so authentic and compelling. There were few dry eyes in the house when Archie played ‘Took the Children Away’, the song that launched his career after he was discovered performing it on the ABC show Black Out by fellow Australian music legends Paul Kelly and Steve Connolly from The Messengers.
Mojo Juju also joined Archie onstage to sing ‘Took the Children Away’ before she began her set accompanied only by her brother Stevie T Bone on drums. Mojo told us she never gets nervous but singing with Uncle Archie made her nervous and grateful. Mojo felt that tonight was not about “showbiz” it was simply something real as we all were sharing the authenticity of each other’s experience. Heavy themes were covered during her set but with gentle force. Mojo finished her set with a song she wrote two years ago when she was thinking of giving up on making music. Thankfully for us the only way she could deal with that feeling of uncertainty was by writing a song ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.
Jessica Mauboy bought the house down to close the night. With great energy, passion and love for music, Jessica had the audience jumping. Performing hits like ‘Jealous’, ‘Waiting So Long’, ‘Inescapable’ – her pop escape, Jess danced and got in amongst her adoring audience up front. ‘Little Things’, a song written about her Mum, was delivered with a lot of feeling and packed a punch. Jessica’s new song ‘Blessing’ is a real sassy track reminding me of a young Kate Ceberano. It was a wonderful end to a brilliant night of music, dance, art, laughter and tears told through stories at its finest.
Images (C) Simone Gorman-Clark