Telling stories through song and creating strong regional networks in the process is the focus of a project now underway in the Orana region.
The Song to Sing Project aims to create a regional music network across the three regional arts boards of Orana Arts, Outback Arts and Arts NorthWest, providing workshops and professional mentoring with musicians from The Black Arm Band Company, a performing arts company founded in 2005 by Steven Richardson, and involving Archie Roach and his late wife, Ruby Hunter. The Company focuses on the use of music and theatre to express the Australian Aboriginal experience and identity.
The project title comes from a Roach song of the same name.
It’s taking in three locations – Dubbo, Bourke and Tamworth, with three workshops at each location.
The first is about establishing an online network for musicians in the region – a place where they can share information and inspiration with one another.
The second workshop involves intensive workshopping with mentors from The Black Arm Band Company, before finishing up with a professional development session covering topics such as branding, marketing, and copyright issues.
One of the mentors in the project, Fred Leone is an Australian indigenous hip hop soul artist; front man and founder of crew and record label Impossible Odds.
He says the importance of this project comes from his own experience of needing to have a voice and form of expression, and sometimes not knowing it’s okay to do so when you’re young.
He recalls the importance of being mentored through the early stages of his career by a wide range of artists – including John Butler, Blue King Brown, Xavier Rudd and Archie Roach.
“It’s empowering working with communities and giving people a sense of the skills to be able to express themselves.
“We encourage everybody to share their stories, because it’s all important in a holistic sense. Your personal story helps influence your music, but it’s also more than just the music – there’s so much to know about navigating the music industry.
“It can get very overwhelming. For 17 years I’ve been making my own music and I’ve seen people come and go because they’re either not mentally ready or they don’t have the right skills to be an independent artist.”
Leone says this project isn’t so much about unearthing talent in rural communities, but sharing how to connect spirit with the music.
“When you see somebody go from just writing lyrics to writing a song that connects their heart and the passion behind what drives them to those lyrics – the quality of that sound once they’ve made that connection, and to be able to see that, is amazing.”
One young musician from Dubbo, hoping to pick up as many skills and direction from the project is Dylan Goolagong.
“It’s great to have a mentor. They’re somebody to look up to and they give you such knowledge.
“Jamming with other people and finding out what they like and how they write their songs helps me.”
Goolagong has only recently started writing his own material and he is keenly interested in how to express his views and thoughts through his music.
“I’m still new to the whole writing thing and these guys (Leone and David Leha aka Radical Son) can definitely help me with technique.”
Project participants will be given live performance opportunities, with some then going on to travel to Tamworth in 2015 to take part in the Tamworth Music Festival Indigenous Showcase.
Leggett says Song to Sing Project is something very much needed in regional areas.
“Musicians often work in isolation from others, especially when they live in the region.
“Creating a regional music network through the project should allow greater collaboration to occur, creating new partnerships and new works.”
Funding for Song to Sing Project has been provided through the Arts NSW Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Strategy.