Tomorrow some of the brightest lights of the Indigenous music world will descend on the iconic Darwin Ampitheatre to celebrate and ignite diversity, innovation and leadership at the 15th National Indigenous Music Awards.
Since 2004 as the NT Indigenous Music Awards and catapulting nationally in 2012, the NIMAs have continued to propel the next generation of artists while honouring the stalwarts of the industry - and 2018 is coming in hot armed with a huge array of finalists and performing artists from the Australian community (including Jessica Mauboy, Kardajala Kirridarra, Kasey Chambers and Garrumul).
One of the artists leading the charge this year is the divine Brisbane-based Emily Wurramara; a poised and powerful artist revered not only for her craft but for her balanced commitment to Indigenous recognition, empowerment and preservation. It's little surprise that this serene songbird is boasting two nominations this year, but as she tells The Soundcheck there is so much more to her art and her most recent album 'Milyakburra' than personal accolade, and we grabbed a few moments with the lady herself to chat success, changes and storytelling. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Emily, and thanks for your time. Firstly, congratulations on the amazing past few months you’ve had - your debut full-length ‘Milyakburra’ dropped, you’re a finalist at this year’s National Indigenous Music Awards, and, of course, the birth of your daughter late last year! Have you had any time to catch your breath of late?
EMILY WURRAMARA: Thank you so much, it’s been an amazing year so far! I’ve been pretty full on with the ‘River Eylandt’ tour with Alice Skye, being a Mum, NAIDOC week was crazy! Also travelling to PNG and Garma which was absolute amazing, but I have time now to just chill and relax with family and friends before my schedule gets hectic again.
TIANA: And you’re nominated for Album of the Year for your divine album ‘Milyakburra’, an opus that captures and conveys your ancestral roots and childhood experiences. You give us a blissful glimpse your world with this one, and an honest sense of comfort and home. Were you ever hesitant to let the world in to such personal memories and experiences?
EMILY: It is an absolute honour not just for myself but the artwork is done by my Grandmother and for her art to be recognised means so much to me - she was so talented and her legacy continues on with my music. I’m very proud and thankful. These stories and memories I’ve chosen to share - NEED to be archived and preserved, music is such a universal language as is stories these songs are my identity and I am proud of where I come from.
TIANA: And for ‘Milyakburra’ you teamed up with the iconic David Bridie, what was it like working with him?
EMILY: He is amazing! This album was all so much fun! In the studio and having Benny Walker and Alice Skye feature on it, it was amazing. I’m so thankful for his hard work and for being so patient with me, he’s wonderful to work with.
TIANA: And it’s not just your album that’s being recognised and celebrated at this year’s National Indigenous Music Awards, you’re also up for Best New Talent in a year that has (from an outsider’s perspective) seemed to have experienced significant growth and development for Indigenous Music. Have you personally noticed a shift towards increased recognition and opportunities in the past twelve months?
EMILY: Most definitely, I’m so grateful and the nominated artists are so amazing, it’s an honour to be nominated alongside them all. I think yes in many perspectives but no, Indigenous music is a universal genre that deserves recognition on all platforms on all media and showcased on all festival slots. We are slowly getting there but we have an amazing range of inspiring and empowering Indigenous artists who are making big noise and making waves all around the world, it’s incredible.
TIANA: I believe you started playing music from a very young age, and the last time I checked, you play six instruments (but it would not surprise me in the slightest if you’ve mastered a few more in-between taking over the musical world). What instruments can you play and do you have a secret favourite to play?
EMILY: Haha well it takes a lot of practice to keep me maintained on this but at the same time it’s nice to have a range. The most important process in my songwriting is instrumentation and I utilise those instruments to capture my message and emotions in songs. My favourite would definitely be the ukelele (plus so easy to travel with).
TIANA: You’ve played some incredible shows in a very short space of time, from Blues Fest to Woodford, and even over to the States for some showcases. What’s been your most memorable performance so far and why?
EMILY: My most memorable performance so far would be when we were on the “River eylandt” Tour and Lisa Mitchell jumped on stage with me and Alice for “Black Smoke”, I was fanning soooo hard she’s been my Inspiration for years!
TIANA: The finalists for this year’s NIMA’s is packed full of outrageous talent – do you have a particular favourite artist amongst the countless talent?
EMILY: I don’t have a favourite they are all equally amazing and talented in their own special unique way. I am inspired by each and everyone of them and am so grateful to have such a supportive mob in this industry that just strive to empower, inspire and they’re leaving a legacy behind for our future.
TIANA: And do you have a particular bucket list band or artist you’d love to hop on tour with one day?
EMILY: I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to tour with Nai Palm or Corrine Bailey Rae one day.
TIANA: And beyond the NIMA’s, as mentioned at the start you’ve had a pretty intensely busy year. But what is next for you in this musical journey?
EMILY: I’m currently in an intense songwriting session, the last couple years I’ve been growing as an artist and a human and I love playing and mixing genres so creating new sounds and collaborating with their artists as I go and travel and do gigs, I’m looking forward to creating more magic with deadly musos.
THE 15th NATIONAL INDIGENOUS MUSIC AWARDS KICK OFF TOMORROW, FEATURING EMILY WURRAMARA ALONGSIDE A GALAXY OF INDIGENOUS MUSIC SUPERSTARS.
FOR MORE NATIONAL INDIGENOUS MUSIC AWARDS INFO HEAD HERE.
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BY TIANA SPETER