First Nations musical-luminary Kutcha Edwards says public knowledge of the struggles of Indigenous people is sorely lacking in Australia, and Indigenous figureheads often face backlash when sharing their cultural and historical insights. It’s in this climate that Share The Spirit festival becomes one of the most important events on the Australian summer calendar.
It comes at a time when Australia’s stellar First Nations artists are sharing their knowledge to the next generation. Baker Boy, Dan Sultan and Jessica Mauboy have all been recently appearing on children’s television to teach young people about Aboriginal culture and share their intriguing music, which is full of informative references to their heritage.
Edwards, an artist who has maintained a vital place in the Australian music industry over his 20+ year career, is a very notable recent addition. His YouTube series Carpool Koorioke has brought his incredible insights to a younger demographic.
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Now he’ll be performing at Share the Spirit festival, taking place on Survival Day at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Held on the significant yet controversial date January 26, Share the Spirit is a timely celebration of Indigenous connections to their land.
“Share the Spirit is a beautiful opportunity for the Aboriginal community, and people who understand our connection to this place as Aboriginal people,” Edwards says.
“I understand non-Aboriginal people who believe in their connection to this place, their patriotism to these places, but meanwhile they might be standing next to an Aboriginal person whose connection to this place goes way beyond years since The First Fleet. I’m not discrediting non-Aboriginal people’s connection to this place, all I’m saying that is we have a different mindset and a different spirit.
“But that’s what we’re doing when we’re celebrating it on such a day, we’re not doing it in spite, we’re doing it because we have a connection to this place too. We just want people who understand that, and we don’t refuse entry to people who want to come and enter into that conversation. We just want people to understand and have empathy for what has transpired over the 200 and something years.”
Edwards says Australia’s talented array of famous First Nations figures, whether they’re actors, musicians or TV hosts, are working towards a shared goal of a better future for Indigenous children and their future generations.
He notes that technology and the modern era has given them a larger voice and greater audience, but he also decries the negative reactions spokespeople often face as just one example that there is still so far to go in educating broader Australia.
“I liken it to hopping in a canoe and paddling upstream, trying to create a better tomorrow for our kids, our children, our grandchildren, and so forth,” he continues.
“I was born before the referendum, so I was born not a citizen of this place, and that plays on an individual. To know that I didn’t have rights, yet I was born here.
“We just want to live in a country where we feel like we belong. Fingers not pointed at us every single day in some form, and when we do stand up, we’re considered activists. We just want people to understand who we are, where we’re from and where we belong,” he adds.
As a member of the Stolen Generation, Edwards’ upbringing is often used for his music, a cathartic journey for the performer. An emotional memory from reuniting with his mother, along with many other childhood memories, manifested itself onto his latest release, Circling Time.
“In an Aboriginal context, time is not linear, it’s circular (hence Circling Time). So, the context of the album is, in a sense, your memories and your childhood tapping you on the shoulder and taking you back to that moment.
“‘Mrs. Edwards’, the third song on the album, is very poignant. The day our mum came to visit us when I was six-years-old in the children’s home, we got informed over the speakers that we had a visitor. We ran all the way from school to the children’s home. I was seeing my mother for the first time after four years; I got taken off her when I was 18 months.
“I didn’t like the feeling of the fact that I was scared of my own mother. That pains me to explain that, especially what went through her spirit: her little baby was scared of her.”
When performing these pieces in the studio for the first time, Edwards mentions that he felt his mum in the studio with him, creating an experience that allowed him to perform the song to the greatest of his abilities on the first take.
Edwards also mentions that his producer, Andy Stewart (Gotye) had a visceral reaction after the first take. He says it was truly an important moment for the creation of the album.
“When I was in the studio recording the song, I did one take, the producer wouldn’t turn around, I thought it must’ve been shit!” he laughs.
“He turned around and said, ‘To me, in this studio, it’s probably the best vocal I’ve heard’. When I sang it, I felt like the old girl was in the space. Listening to it, I was truly back there, I was with mum; it’s interesting how songs can do that.”
It’s clear that the songs are extremely important to Edwards, helping him deal with a range of emotions, remember important moments in his life, and continuously connect him to his land.
Edwards will be bringing Circling Time, in what promises to be a very special performance, to the live stage this month during the Share the Spirit festival.
He’s just one of an incredible line-up of Share the Spirit performers that span multiple eras, including Dan Sultan, Bumpy, Christine Anu, and many more. Each of these artists bring unique insights into Indigenous culture and will make the festival one to remember.
“I met Christine a long time ago, it was at a Survival Day concert. I think it was ‘95, I’d just cut my dreadlocks off,” he laughs.
“I’ve known Christine for a long time. Then I’ve also done stuff with Dan, like Carpool Koorioke. We’ve both had our journeys through Fitzroy and have a connection to that place, and with his connection to Play School, it’s been beautiful to watch.
“Then we also have BUMPY, Philly and Miss Hood, it’s a great balance of people representing their own families, their clans, and their tribes. Coming together in such an iconic venue will be amazing.”
To buy tickets and find more information about Share the Spirit, head here.