Spinifex Gum @ WOMADelaide, Botanic Park, Adelaide 7/3/2020

There is moment towards the end of the incredibly uplifting performance of Spinifex Gum when rap artist Briggs joins the Marliya Choir to sing the last verse of Archie Roach’s Took the Children Away

The children came back
The children came back
Back where their hearts grow strong
Back where they all belong
The children came back

I was standing pretty close to front and noticed that I wasn’t the only one whose eyes were welling up with tears of emotion. To be honest, they were tears of pride, joy and hope in the fact that these amazing performers and ambassadors were at the cutting edge of change. This was a show that not only raises awareness about racism, aboriginal deaths in custody, and being disenfranchised, it is all about hope and working together.

Spinifex Gum is a project that brings together the Marliya Choir – 12 young indigenous women, choir director Lyn Williams, choreographer Deborah Brown and The Cat Empire performers Felix Riebl and Ollie McGill.

Protest is at the core of this show

Some things stick like spinifex gum
Like ants on honey like money on scum
And big business cops most of it
Gonna build a dam
They don’t give a damn.

In the song, Ms Dhu performed by Felix Riebl about a 22 year old woman who dies in custody in a Port Hedland jail, he rightly says, “every black death in custody’s a blight on our soul.” And the challenge is put right out there – “will we ever see a government that listens.”

The Marliya Choir and the whole Spinifex Gum project are not waiting for someone else to do the talking – they are taking the message right out there, to concerts and festivals around the country. And they do it with such boundless energy. Not only are they well trained singers, every song is choreographed and the whole package is so uplifting.

The best thing about Spinifex Gum is that collaboration extends right through to the costuming, make-up, lights and projections. The projections really add to the whole experience with images of the Pilbara and protest marches.

At times the vibe is one of being at a protest rally and then it switches to some really cool jazz and hip hop infused beats

There is passion to right the wrongs and there is a strong message of hope and love

Open up your heart
And Dream on Baby
Now sing along
And add your voice

This is the challenge to the audience, to add their voice to right the wrongs and to make this a better place where the spirit of the Uluru Statement finds a place in public policy.

There is a call for Treaty just like indigenous bands from the past have done.

Spinifex Gum has earned its place alongside bands like Yothu Yindi and the Warumpi Band in taking up the challenge, and doing it style.

Terms like an unforgettable and emotionally uplifting experience should not be thrown around lightly but it was a privilege to have been in the audience of Spinifex Gum for one of the most moving shows I have ever witnessed.

WOMAD Review By Bob Becker

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