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Djarmalak

Some of the hottest Indigenous performers from around the country will head to the remote community of Beswick for a new series of concerts, celebrating the legacy  of Balang T. E. Lewis.

By Tamara Howie

Lewis spent his life bridging the gap between black and white Australia through art and music. ‘Culture as identity, art as medicine’, was his consistent message to community and visitors alike.

To honour his legacy, the inaugural Concerts on Country series celebrates traditional culture and contemporary Indigenous music with three concerts over the Dry season.

Djilpin Arts manager and  Lewis’s wife Fleur Parry says the intimate events were born out of a project the acclaimed actor and artist was working on before his sudden death in 2018.

“Last year [Lewis] was working on a project at Beswick called Djarmalak," Parry says.

"It was about the white cockatoo, a traditional dance that’s really special to Beswick. This is a continuation of that idea and his vision to bring people together to celebrate culture.” 

The concerts kick off this month with a powerful line-up of Indigenous acts from across the country, and a strong focus on female performers making their mark in the Australian music scene.

Kira Puru headlines the May event, with Mojo Juju, The Merindas, and Oetha among the performers set to hit the Beswick stage over the next three months.

“We really wanted to get the exciting, emerging, new and contemporary artists balanced against the traditional practices of Beswick and Arnhem Land, and we wanted to see what other Indigenous artists are doing around the country and bring it remote and straight to the people,”  Parry says.

“There’s quite a big focus on women, which is another thing that Balang was really keen on. He was always encouraging women in the community to come forward a bit more and always asking his sisters to get up on stage. It was something he felt strongly about – bringing women to the front. We’re following that lead as well.”

Multi-talented artist and pop powerhouse Kira Puru is excited to share her music at such a significant event. 

“Pop music embodies a freedom that is universal and beyond language or taste to a degree," she says.

"Even if you listen to classical music primarily, there are at least one or two pop songs that you know and love, right? I like to write music that feels celebratory has a strength at its core. I think this is because I spent a long time feeling disempowered and I want to be the type of artist that I wish I saw on the screen growing up.”

“A big part of our individual identity can be accessed through the sharing of music, food and culture. Celebrating community is such a lovely way to feel connected to your history, land and self, or learning more about others.”

Each event will be MC’d by Constantina Bush, and feature indigenous DJs, Beswick’s own Wugularr Drifters, workshops, museum tours, art sales, overnight camping, food and barista coffee.

Parry says the intimate performances will be special for the locals and visitors to the community.

“For people living in Beswick, they don’t really get to see concerts or music events, so it’s about bringing it to their home, and the other side, it’s special for visitors to come in to a very intimate environment and an opportunity to get a glimpse into community life and culture. Hopefully they take that away with them and spread positive messages.”

Djarmalak Sat 25 – Sun 26 May | Djilpin Arts, Beswick | $65 | $135 Gold Pass | shakespeareaustralia.com.au

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