If you were one of the lucky souls attending Bluesfest this year I hope you managed to shuffle over to the Juke Joint Stage where Emily Wurramara was serenading us. In celebration of National Reconciliation Week (27 March – 3 June) I got to have a late night chit-chat with this empowering musician from Groote Eylandt off the NT about Indigenous music culture, supporting the environment and what went down when she won a Queensland Music Award.
Brought up in a musical environment, Wurramara would often watch and listen to her uncle’s band, sometimes even joining in on the keyboard and singing along. She tells me that women from her community rarely sang in public. She reminisces “We were young, we didn’t have that restraint… What I am trying to do with my music is show all of the women from these shore communities that you can still love your culture and protect it no matter what.”
Wurramara has been non-stop pursuing her career in the music industry since she finished high school. She signed to Wantok Music – a not-for-profit label representing Indigenous and world musicians – and released her EP Black Smoke last year along with a magical video clip to go with her rootsy, folk-tinged tones. She also took out the Queensland Music Award for Best Indigenous Song this year. “I was sitting down against talented musicians, just texting away thinking ‘Nah not this year, I’m not going to win’ and then in that exact moment they announced who it was and my manager tapped me on the shoulder saying ‘Get up and go grab your award!’ I looked up puzzled as I went up and got the award, feeling completely lost but utterly honoured,” she remembers with a laugh.
Following an awesome triple j collab with WA producer Steady for National Reconciliation Week this week, next up she’s playing LoveBusk – the world’s first online, live streamed, multi-purpose festival which was set to return on 5 June to mark World Environment Day after its inaugural event last year. Unfortunately the festival has been postponed until further notice.
Founded by Brett Hlywa to raise awareness about climate change, the festival’s funds were set to be donated to organisations that support the UN’s Global Goal #13 Climate Action. Unlike your typical festival, the idea is that music lovers from around the world can enjoy the event from the comfort of their choice of location (bed and pyjamas, anyone?) “The perspective is very different; actually feeling connected through a one-on-one-like performance,” she explains.
Having a strong connection with nature and her heritage, Wurramara performs her songs in both English and Anindilyakwa. She shares some personal thoughts with us in response to climate change: “It’s there, it’s happening and it’s so sad how people are so ignorant to it, passing off the idea. But let’s be real – the ice is melting and there are natural disasters occurring. The more we build and the more pollution we give out to the earth, she’s not going to like it and will eventually destroy us.”
Aiming to inspire and create positive change, she furthers “I’m very much a nature person, my songwriting revolves around nature as well as my culture. My mother and grandmother have shared a lot of traditional stories so I like to incorporate these into my lyrics especially when I sing in my language.”
30 June, The Wesley Ann, Melbourne
2 July, The Lion Arts Centre, Adelaide
6 July, Cardigan Bar, Brisbane
9 July, Lazy Bones Lounge, Sydney
17 July, Chambers Crescent Theatre, Darwin
23 July, Walking With Spirits Festival, Katherine
11 August, Milk Factory, Brisbane
5 – 8 September, BIGSOUND, Fortitude Valley