This week, people around Australia have been celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, recognising their contributions to our country during NAIDOC week.
In celebrating our Indigenous Australians, here’s a Deadly collection of First Nations artists who have wowed Woodford audiences over the past couple of years. If you haven’t heard them already you are seriously missing out!
Shellie Morris (Yanyuwa and Wardaman)
Deadly Award-winning singer-songwriter Shellie Morris can sing in 17 different languages – 17! The Sydney-raised performer is a proud Yanyuwa and Wardaman woman has spent the last ten years touring the world with the Black Arm band and now lives in the Northern Territory. She’s a frequent visitor to Woodfordia, and has graced our stage almost every other year. As well as performing her contemporary folk and acoustic ballads, Shellie works with Indigenous youth and communities throughout Australia using music as an educational and healing tool.
Injinoo Dance Group (Injinoo)
From the most northern point of Australia come rituals as old as time itself. These songs and dances are still an integral part of birth, marriage, hunts, harvests and coming-of-age ceremonies in Injinoo and some of those shared at the Woodford Folk Festival by the Cape York troupe take more than 30 minutes to perform.
Emily Wurramara (Anindilyakwa)
Some artists you can just listen to again and again, hearing something new every time. Emily Wurramara is one of those artists. Emily grew up on Groote Eylandt, NT and writes and sings in English and Anindilyakwa, speaking loud and proud about issues close to her heart.
A compelling storyteller who easily switches between her Indigenous language and English, to watch Emily perform songs from her EP Black Smoke is to gain a greater understanding of community and connection to country.
Isn’t this a great photo? A young Indigenous artist from Arnhem Land, Yirrmal Marika is an emerging songwriter and guitarist with a beautiful voice who sings about his culture with feeling and depth beyond his years. From the community of Yirrkala, Yirrmal played at the Woodford Folk Festival 2016/17 for the second time in his short career, at 4 different venues.
Thelma Plum (Gamilaroy)
Thelma Plum is a singer-songwriter who captured the hearts of Australians 5 years ago when her first demo ‘Father Said’ won Triple J’s Unearthed competition in 2012. Since then, the Gamilaroy woman has continued to create a soothing library of soulful melodies you can get lost in. Thelma’s also now a seasoned live performer described by one captivated visitor to the Woodford Folk Festival 2015/16 as ‘the bomb’.
Briggs (Yorta Yorta)
Adam Briggs wears many so hats; as a writer, record label owner, actor and rapper it’s hard to know how you might know him best. Last year he popped up on the ABC as a comedy writer and actor on the series Black Comedy and then again on Cleverman, and in 2017 he became a regular cast member of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering. Raised in Shepparton, in regional Victoria, Briggs is as funny as he is philosophical and his passion on stage when he’s waxing lyrical is infectious.
Writers note: I bought Briggs CD ‘Briggs & Friends’ at the Merchandise tent at the 2015/16 Woodford Folk Festival after seeing him perform in the Larrikin tent earlier in the week and it’s still in high rotation in my car 18 months later.
N.B. The Woodford Folk Festival has been fortunate to play host to many great Indigenous artists in the festival’s 32-year history. This list, by no means exhaustive, is merely a celebration of a few artists who have contributed to our festival in recent times.