RONA: ‘I want my music to embody stories that I have an authority to tell’
14.06.2022

RONA: ‘I want my music to embody stories that I have an authority to tell’

RONA
Words by Jacob McCormack

In light of her maiden EP release that came out on May 20 this year, Kaytetye woman RONA. uses electronic music as a means of telling stories and sharing alternative narratives to those which have dominated Australia since the arrival of colonists.

Although music has been a significant outlet in RONA’s storytelling, she has only been producing electronic music for just over five years: “I started producing in 2016, when I’d been in Naarm for a few years,” RONA. says. “I’d been in bands before that playing instruments like guitar and violin.”

It was the infectious nature of a conglomeration of culture and the expansive electronic music scene that lured RONA. into actively participating in the community ubiquitous in Naarm/Melbourne. Naturally this stemmed into to experimenting with synths and digital production to express feelings and emotions through soundscapes.

“I was really inspired by the cultures that are expressed all across the city of Naarm, and the clubs and the energy and music that you find down there. I got really into electronic music and starting tinkering on synths, and it took a few years before I finally found my sound.”

Read Melbourne’s most comprehensive range of features and interviews here.

 

Despite the newfound connectedness RONA. has discovered in Naarm/Melbourne, she constantly recognises the importance of her relationship to Country and community. Especially that of Mparntwe/Alice Springs and the surrounding central desert.

“I was living in Naarm and moving back and forth from there and Mparntwe/Alice Springs. It was in that period of winter where I was working in a high intensity job, and I was a bit burnt out and was feeling this yearning to be back in Country and to be surrounded by and held by Country.”

It was this very longing that inspired the title and first track on the EP – ‘Closure’, which features eastern Arrernte knowledge custodian Helena Buzzacott. Originating from a poem that embodied the pining to be back on Country, RONA. then developed the soundscape around that and invited Helena to speak language on it.

“I wrote a poem and started writing around what that poem meant to me and it was some words that really spoke to walking through Country with our old people, and how important that is as a process, but also what our old people teach us about Country.

“When we’re held by Country, and we look after Country, it looks after us. When I got back to Alice Springs a few months later I sat down with Helena, who is a good friend of mine and she really reflected on a similar experience she had when she often left Alice Springs to go down south, and she wrote those words and translated them into eastern Arrernte.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by RONA. (@rona.ngamperle)

Within RONA’s storytelling lies a deep respect and understanding of the importance music maintains within Indigenous cultures. The collaboration with Buzzacott echoes this sentiment but expands on the long and rich history of music on this continent by adapting storytelling into the context of electronic music.

“For First Nations communities, music was one of the first forms of cultural expression and a way of sharing knowledge. I want my music to be able to share knowledge and embody stories that I have an authority to tell, but also stories that are able to connect people to Country and place.”

RONA. regularly outlines the importance she places on wanting her music to connect with people all around the continent, despite it being created in response to specific Country. Although the EP hasn’t been out for very long, she is already seeing the connection that audiences are having to her tracks.

“It’s been amazing playing my tracks to an audience, and even though it only just came out I could really see people connecting to it. It’s been the same wherever I play it, often it has been at parties or doofs in the desert, people know it and connect to it.

“Being able to play it on Country that it’s not connected to, but to hear her words out in eastern Arrernte felt really grounding and connecting. It embodies this feeling and emotion that anyone can connect to and dance to.”

As RONA’s storytelling through the soundscapes she creates expands and permeates throughout Australia, seemingly, we as a nation are reshaping what has been a destructive and ignorant relationship to Indigenous peoples.

“As an artist I am looking for ways that I can centre the stories of our community in the work, as well as create space for other mob to be able to come through that are able to hold different narratives outside of those that I might be holding.”

Listen to RONA’s Closure EP here.