The world of Aboriginal and First Nations music is so heavily interwoven with intricate storytelling and detail, decades of struggle and history has found its way into the music of artists from past and present.
Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow takes audiences on a journey through the music of icons Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach, two artists that have arguably led the way in the world of music not only in their culture, but the culture of all of us. On top of taking audiences through the journey of music, it also celebrates the phenomenal songwriting abilities of the pair.
Audiences come along for the ride as the reimaginings are shaped for a concert that took place back in 2004, at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall with Paul Grabowsky and his 22-piece Australian Art Orchestra.
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It’s a performance of the duo’s co-released album, Kura Tungar – Songs from the River, and throughout the film, each song is presented to audiences in three different ways, one in a laid-back setting, in what appears to be a house, where the pair are telling the stories behind the songs, one in a rehearsal space with the orchestra, trying to work out different arrangements, and finally, the finished product at Hamer Hall.
Hearing the stories in these different settings brings the viewer in and almost includes them in the writing process, it’s like you’re sitting alongside the pair in their home and hearing firsthand the struggles and stories of their upbringing, which helps in understanding the true emotion behind the music, it’s bound to move you.
In the rehearsal space, Ruby and Archie are performing alongside the Orchestra, with their voices not really standing out, then eventually, we hear the songs performed at Hamer Hall, where the pair are front and centre, and it gives a semblance of conclusion to the song that we’ve been experiencing.
One thing to note was the innate chemistry between Ruby and Archie, the love and adoration between the pair is so infectious, and their talent comes together to create an enjoyable show. A B-story also comes out about how the pair met, and how they have joined forces in the world of music.
Director Phillipa Bateman also does an impeccable job in creating characters behind Archie and Ruby, in the 80 minutes we are with them, we are able to understand their personalities and what drives them, which makes it a lot more enjoyable, and builds a rapport.
Amidst their struggles and tribulations from being a part of the Stolen Generation, they were genuine moments of humour, which was able to break up the at times heavy moments of the stories they were sharing with the audience.
The concert film concludes with a massive performance of ‘Took the Children Away’, there’s solos, dancing, and really marks a great finishing point for the film.
Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow will bring this music into the ears of people all across Australia, but perhaps most importantly, help to keep the integral stories alive.
Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow is in cinemas now.