BRISBANE | Aboriginal percussionist Andrew Gurruwiwi generally performs in front of a few hundred connoisseurs in the far north of Australia. It’s a paradox, but the confinement will have allowed it to reach an audience of 120,000 people, all over the world.
His group has indeed been the revelation of a series of concerts entitled “East Arnhem Live” and broadcast on the internet while Aboriginal aboriginal communities were even more isolated from the rest of the world, due to the epidemic of coronavirus.
The four members of the Andrew Gurruwiwi Band could be seen playing in the open air for 20 minutes in the late afternoon light with the intense green of the vegetation on ocher cliffs in the background. And the ocean.
“The coronavirus implied that there were no more shows, more music, nothing more,” observed the artist, explaining to AFP that these sessions were launched to “make people happy”.
Musicians around the world took refuge on the internet when the epidemic closed concert halls.
But organizers of East Arnhem Live admit that the online craze for their concerts in Arnhem Land, a vast region in the northeast of the State of the Northern Territory, has exceeded all expectations.
“We share our story”
Each week, the sessions touched tens of thousands of people who otherwise might not have heard of the local culture, that of the Yolngu people.
“It’s hard to understand how we have won so many people,” concedes Nicholas O’Riley of Yolngu Radio.
“When the live broadcasts start on Saturday evening, it’s amazing to see where people are looking at us,” he said.
“The sun is shining here in Spain, and the threat of the virus in my neighborhood is close to zero,” wrote in particular a surfer in a “small village” a few weeks ago. “So this music transformed my day, and it’s only in the morning here! Thank you!”
“Magnificent! Kisses from France! ”Reacted another.
“East Arnhem Live” was originally conceived as a series of four concerts to encourage the 10,000 residents of the area to stay connected during the epidemic. Its sessions have continued, and the last, the ninth, is scheduled for Saturday.
Andrew Gurruwiwi, whose work is influenced by reggae or African music, sings both in English and in the Yolngu language, denouncing in particular the sufferings of his people since colonization.
“The balanda (foreigners) do not know how much the Yolngu people have suffered all these years,” he said. “The world wants to know our history. We share our history and our knowledge of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land. “
The production of the live showcases images of the coast and local nature shot by a drone, which makes the “East Arnhem Live” a superb tool for promoting this region still little affected by tourism.
Ryley Heap, of the local tourist office, hopes that these concerts will encourage travelers to push as far as this remote corner of Australia.
“The region, overall, is very little known, and as it is little known, it is also intact. And it’s absolutely spectacular, “he says.
“It is obvious that we would like to highlight it more, and these concerts contribute to it. So we hope for positive repercussions. ”
Aborigines have lived in Australia for more than 40,000 years, long before European settlers arrived in 1788. But there are only 670,000 in the country, out of a population of 23 million.
Most importantly, successive Australian governments have all been unable to bridge the standard of living gap between Aborigines and other Australians, a reality that Prime Minister Scott Morrison again called “national shame” in February.