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New Album


'SPINIFEX GUM'

NEW ALBUM OUT 27.10.2017

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New Album


'SPINIFEX GUM'

NEW ALBUM OUT 27.10.2017

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Marliya


Marliya


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STORY


PROJECT STORY

by

FELIX RIEBL

STORY


PROJECT STORY

by

FELIX RIEBL

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I was mesmerized by the abstract beauty of the landscape, both in its starkness and myriad colours.  How incalculable the distances seemed from one place to the next.  Rain, for example, appeared as its own object on the horizon.  In contrast, the iron ore trains cut across the land in ruler straight lines, perpetually carrying the stuff they were made of – each carriage a metric unit and a reminder that two very different realities existed here; two different economies, and two very different ways of relating to the land. 

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It was only later, when I teamed up with my long time friend and collaborator Ollie McGill (engineer, arranger, and co-producer), and listened back to hours of recorded noises, that I realized what we had. These sounds; the scratch of feet on gravel, the gliding, crunching, groaning, squealing of trains, the bouncing basketballs, the falling coins, the grinding gearboxes and radio static, the barking dogs, the running, screaming, laughing kids and their shouting parents, the cracking branches, bird song and shaking leaves, the humming conveyor belts and metallic shudders from within the mines, the smashing bottles and the dinging crossing-bells, would become the rhythmic skeleton of the entire album.  We chose moments within that long soundscape, sampled them, and turned them into drum machines.  That production idea combined with the lush voices of Marliya became the sonic world of Spinifex Gum.

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Throughout, we’ve made it a priority to show respect and follow proper channels of transparency, while also being prepared to collaborate and take risks. In every instance where I’ve written about a deceased person or a local story, I’ve been in contact with the families involved and received their permission to record those songs. 

Many of the tracks on this album have Yinjibarndi names.  Singing in language is something the young women in this choir pride themselves on.  Yurala means rainmaker, Malungungu is a creepy spirit, Gawarliwarli means butterfly, Wandangarli means going crazy, but the most important one is Marliya, which means bush honey.  It became the name of the album choir.  Nothing is as sweet as you my friend.  Above all else, the inspiration for this album is the young singers who champion it – their individuality, their laughter and friendship, and the power of their collective voice.

In 2014, while in the studio with The Cat Empire, choir-guru Lyn Williams asked me whether I’d like to write a song-cycle based on the Pilbara for The Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir.  Within a few months we were travelling through Roebourne and its surrounding Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi country, and over the next three years I got to know members of both those communities, went into the iron ore mines, and came face to face with aspects of Australia I’d never confronted at such close range: the intensity of its capitalism, its racism, but also the strength of Indigenous language and Law.  

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At first, I had no idea what I’d write about or how it would sound.  I had the doubts of a non-indigenous person entering a community, wanting to both create and to show respect, which would involve several years of returning there to build relationships.  I was determined not to appropriate any creation stories, or fall into music that was too careful and polite.  I was excited to have the chance to write for something as joyous and life affirming as a teenage choir, and simultaneously troubled by what I witnessed and discovered about the areas I travelled.  I spent a lot of time going awkwardly from place to place with a field recorder.  

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I believe this is an Australian album above all.  It reaches across the country and involves both an Indigenous and a non-Indigenous creative team. Its lyrics are a combination of English and Yindjibarndi, its stories emerged from the Pilbara, and its choir of Aboriginal and Torres Strait teenagers hails from North Queensland.  It’s an album none of us could have predicted, but one that opened itself up to us.  We just followed the music.  The same goes for its politics.  I didn’t go to the Pilbara with my mind set on writing protest songs, but the combination of my experiences and following where the songs went naturally made certain events impossible to ignore.  Both Ms Dhu and Locked Up were instances where songs on this album entered an immediate social and political context.  To me at least, it indicated we were on the right track. 

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Videos


VIDEOS

Videos


VIDEOS

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Song Notes


SONG NOTES

Song Notes


SONG NOTES

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LOCKED UP, ft BRIGGS

Maximum punishment, rehab is minimal, treat them like that you just make them better criminals … Why’re the kids locked up?  Take this silence and blow it up

Locked Up, the album’s bomb-track single featuring Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs (of A.B Original) and Marliya, takes aim at the disproportionate rate and disgusting treatment of Indigenous Youths in juvenile detention.  Its uncompromising and powerful statement – released at the time of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Youths in The Northern Territory – is accented by the voice of Senator Patrick Dodson that echoes over the song’s chaotic outro and closes with – 

“The statistics speak for themselves and the cold hard fact remains an indictment on all of us.”


Miss Dhu, FT felix Riebl

Will we ever see a cop locked up for negligence?
Will we ever see the rock turned up on ignorance?
Will we ever see a government who first listens?
Will we ever see the stats fall in black prisons?
Did Dhu die for nothing? No she didn’t!

Ms Dhu is a protest song. It tells the story of the tragic and totally unnecessary death of a 22-year-old Aboriginal woman who died while in police custody in South Headland in 2014.  I heard about the case while travelling in the Pilbara writing songs and performing with members of the choir who feature on this album, and the joy of that experience made the proximate tragedy of Ms Dhu – not much older than the young singers I’d been working with – all the more terrible to me. We’ve dedicated this song and its proceeds to her family, who continue to search for justice in the face of endemic, institutional racism.  We hope it serves as a statement of solidarity with them and the Indigenous community as a whole.


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LYRICS


LYRICS

LYRICS


LYRICS

MISS DHU

Ms Dhu died too young 22

When they carried her “like a dead kangaroo”

From her cell back to the same hospital

Who’d assumed that her pain must be invisible

 

But she cried three days bout aching while

Constable Bond said ‘Nah she’s faking it

Just another junkie who’s trying to escape

Another black troublemaker well I’m not taking it

 

She’s like a two year old give her paracetamol’

Little did they know a septicemia had taken hold 

It’s white prejudice digging black holes

Every black death in custody’s a blight on our soul

 

But we’re not going away it’s our home, our home

Our heart is breaking in two, but we stand in a row

Said we’re not going away it’s our home, our home

And we’ve been losing our youth for too long

 

Ms Dhu had fines yeah just a few

Three thousand six hundred and twenty two

Got her locked up in the Port Hedland zoo

Where the few rich make millions while they snooze

 

Still they called her a user until she died

Cold truth in her pain, in her eyes

Racism so deep it’s become institutionalized 

What they did to Dhu is the real crime

 

But we’re not going away it’s our home, our home

Our heart is breaking in two, but we stand in a row

Said we’re not going away it’s our home, our home

And we’ve been losing our youth for too long, too long

Too long, too long, too long, too long

 

She comes from the plains where they call up the weather

Horizon so long and a Law without letters

See it come feel it fall like forever

Did it rain so long all our tears made a river? 

 

‘It wasn’t me, wasn’t me I’m innocent’

Say the ones who betrayed her in every sense

Now they’re white washing away evidence 

Will we ever see a cop locked up for negligence?

 

Will we ever see the rock turned up on ignorance?

Will we ever see a government who first listens?

Will we ever see the stats fall in black prisons?

Did Dhu die for nothing, no she didn’t!

 

But we’re not going away it’s our home, our home

Our heart is breaking in two, but we stand in a row

Said we’re not going away it’s our home, our home

And we’ve been losing our youth for too long

 

Ms Dhu died too young 22

When they carried her “like a dead kangaroo”

And we wish that it wasn’t true, but it is

So the next question is what are we going to do?

LOCKED UP

Why’re the kids locked up?

Take this silence and blow it up

Why they go so young?

Falling sisters and burning sons

 

They put our kids in the system

Findings, reports, and royal commissions

Numbers, statistics when they’re making decisions

Assess the risks and build another prison

Got a license for a car they under staffed 

Positions need filling and they need another guard

Who’s lighting their path when they’re frightened in the dark

They got spit hoods understood that it’s for their own good 

And you expect them to act when they get told they’re no good 

Stand them in line and you make them go last

False starts everyone runs past

And you tell them catch up while they’re choking on dust 

Blow it up, throw it up

Carve our name on the frame so they know it’s us

I’ll tell them where I’m at and they can follow me

Remember that they’re kids not a campaign policy

Isolate the individual 

Separated from their families, visits and intervals

Maximum punishment, rehab is minimal 

Treat them like that you just make them better criminals

 

Why’re the kids locked up?

Take this silence and blow it up

Why they go so young?

Falling sisters and burning sons

 

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why’d she go so young?

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why’d she get locked up at all?

 

Not going to disappear

We still here

Scream in your other ear

You will hear

Not going to disappear 

We still here

Just cos they’ve been locked up

Let’s go

This cut’s a cut on us

You feel that?

This shame is all of us

You feel that

This justice isn’t just

No peace

This count’s not adding up

Let’s go

 

Locked up

Locked down

No justice

No peace!

 

“The vicious cycle remains the same.  Indigenous people are more likely to come to the attention of the police, Indigenous people who come to the attention of the police are more likely to be arrested and charged, Indigenous people who are charged are more likely to go to court, Indigenous people who appear in court are more likely to go to jail.  Indigenous youth now comprise over 50% of juveniles in detention.  The statistics speak for themselves and the cold hard fact remains an indictment on all of us.”

 

- SenatorPatrick Dodson