Recent weeks are a blur of livestreams as politicians and chief health officials have taken into Facebook and YouTube to declare Australia’s emergency steps to include the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Saturday evening, I logged onto Facebook, and over 50,000 other people, to delight in a livestream of a entirely different kind. It was the very first in a string of four East Arnhem Live music concerts to be streamed.
It not only provides a welcome respite in the social isolation many Australians are currently feeling, but it’s also an ingenious solution for Arnhem Land’s prolific musicians to share their songs with audiences across the world.
When there are no known instances of COVID-19 at Arnhem Land, the area’s financial equilibrium relies heavily on musicians earnings, which can be significantly supported by local tourism throughout the rainy season and global touring to festivals throughout the year.
Streamed on Saturday, April 24 and available on the internet, the initial East Arnhem Live concert showcased singer Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu, the present frontman of rock band Yothu Yindi, together with Arian Pearson on acoustic guitar.
In a period of four tunes over 14 minutes, this is a tantalisingly short event that left me wanting more.
It awakened deep nostalgia to my experiences in Arnhem Land within the previous 25 decades and long collaborations with local musicians .
Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu’s four-song set exemplified the top of Yolŋu songwriting, building considerably on the significant traditional influences of this design created by Yothu Yindi around 1990.
The effect of Manikay, the ancestral tune heritage conducted by Yolŋu communities within their public ceremonies, is ever-present in Yirrŋa’s very own tunes. This is evidenced with the bilma (paired sticks) he played with during the concert.
Without more than a couple hundred mature Yolŋu Manikay singers alive now, the current danger of COVID-19 brings into sharp relief the charm and uniqueness of Manikay as a quintessentially Australian musical heritage.
This actually is a national treasure of international value that deserves to be supported and precious in Australia and internationally.
A Song For Our Day
The concert’s opening tune was Sweet Arnhem Land, a balladic ode into the area’s immense beauty which includes an immediate quotation in the Manikay Concept of Yirrŋa’s clan, the Gumatj.
This Manikay quote references the fantastic ancestral hunter, Ganbulapula, along with its own melody should be immediately recognisable to anyone who has attended the Garma Festival and seasoned people ceremonial repertoire being done by the Gumatj clan.
This was a fitting homage to previous leaders of favorite music from Arnhem Land, for example as Witiyana Marika along with the overdue Mandawuy Yunupiŋu AC of Yothu Yindi, that had been the first to gain global acclaim.
The next tune, We Boost, is nothing short of an anthemic success. Its stirring sentiment of solidarity in the face of fantastic change and hardship will easily resonate with lots of Australians at this tough time.
Once more, it includes an immediate quotation from conventional Manikay repertoire, this time comes in the Rirratjiŋu clan’s legendary Morning Star tune series.
With over 53,000 perspectives on Facebook because Saturday night, this very first East Arnhem Live concert was an outstanding achievement.
While I greatly anticipate this day when I could fly into Arnhem Land again to watch beloved friends and listen to audio there in person, this concert series is a welcome replacement that provides a remarkably intimate and upsetting experience.
Plus it shares the fantastic beauty of Yolŋu tune against the background of the natural surroundings from which it appeared.
Tradition And Innovation
The Yolŋu individuals have engaged using new technologies while keeping their own sense of freedom.
This latest invention in streaming podcasts via societal networking platforms is in keeping with their pre colonial deals with seeing Asian seafarers.
It was the exact same longitudinal dialogue between innovation and tradition that created the songs of bands such as Yothu Yindi potential.
The following three Saturday nights guarantee to be equally unique using unmissable concerts by the Andrew Gurruwiwi Band on May 2 and Yirrmal Marika on May 9, along with an unparalleled final flow of conventional service from the Rirratjiŋu clan on May 16.