As I came away from The Black Arm Band’s performance of Murundak at the Fremantle Arts Centre, I overheard people saying that the event was “awesome” and “fantastic”. Overall, it felt flat to me.

I did not go because of the folk or world music. Although my taste in music is somewhat eclectic, this is one genre that I will change stations from. My expectation was that it was a social commentary through the history of indigenous music. It was in a sense, as Rachel Maza-Long provided narration between the songs, and the screens on either side of the stage displayed what was on stage (from roving camera) and film-clips of indigenous children and family, communities, and political rallies. But for some reason this felt too well orchestrated, and I would have preferred for the music to tell the story by the performers getting up and playing and or singing their part in the story.

The evening began with the Welcome to Country. This also included a potted description of indigenous history and the meaning of ‘murundak’. Although the programme and reviews state that murundak means ‘alive’ in Woiwurrung, the indigenous woman that read the introduction said that it meant ‘savage and strong’. I thought that this was a great start to what promised to be a special and powerful event.

Highlights of the evening included being able to put faces to names such as Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach, Mark Atkins’ amazing didgeridoo playing, Kutcha Edwards singing ‘Is This What We Deserve?’, and at least knowing one song (Yothu Yindi’s Treaty) led by Shellie Morris.

Reflecting on Murundak this morning, I have sought out references to The Black Arm Band, individual artists [1], and the History Wars while listening online to Murandak, Mark Atkins, and Paul Kelly. Also, thinking about what I learnt in school about indigenous life did not match my experience as a child in the Pilbara. It’s no wonder that I’m confused – still.

One of the hopes that I have for the future is that Sorry also means that history and cultural studies texts will be rewritten to include all history and cultures.

[1] The Black Arm Band: Archie Roach, Ruby Hunter (*), Bart Willoughby, Stephen Pigram, Peter Rotumah, Kutcha Edwards, Mark Atkins (Maguari Productions), Lou Bennett, Joe Geia, Emma Donovan, Dan Sultan, Ursula Yovich (Vibes Australia), Rachael Maza-Long (*), Shellie Morris, David Arden and Shane Howard. Special Guests (Perth): John Butler, Jessie Lloyd and Della Rae Morrison.

* The Black Arm Band web site also includes biographies and links to other people involved in the music and production.


2 thoughts on “murundak

  1. you wrote – “the indigenous woman that read the introduction said that it[murundak] meant ’savage and strong’.” Actually she said “moorditj mundak” which means “strong and savage” in Noongar. Easy to mishear if you don’t know Noongar. It was a bit of an in joke (a pun) for the Noongar members of the audience.
    I suspect that the reason it felt a bit flat was because the “apology” in the previous week had changed the social dynamic in which much of the music was written. So it was a protest turned celebration. For my money the highlight was the second finale with Steve Pigram and Shellie Morris(?) dueting on ‘Over the rainbow/Wonderful World’ which captured the moment perfectly.

  2. @kyangadac
    Thank you for stopping by and explaining the interpretation of the Noongar spoken at the Murundak event.

    I agree with you that it was ‘protest turned celebration’, but felt that the event would have been the more powerful rather than taking the wind out of the sails.

    It was the first time that I had seen Shellie Morris perform. Her smiles and facial expression when singing I think makes you feel that she is singing just to you. The duet appeared to be very much heartfelt.

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