WILIN SINGE THE FRINGE

I acknowledge the traditional and rightful custodians of the land on which I stand, live and work, the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to their elders – past, present and emerging. I acknowledge the ongoing legacy of sacred storytelling, ceremony, ritual and performance which has blessed this land for over 60 000 years, the ancient wisdoms and knowledges of this nation’s First Peoples, and their sovereignty on this land, which was never ceded. I recognise that treaties have not been signed and that genocide and systematic oppression are ongoing. I acknowledge my position as a settler living on these stolen, sacred lands, and work to position myself in solidarity with my Indigenous whanau//family of these lands. I extend my respects and acknowledgement to all First Peoples who may come to read this, and to any who are practising culture, lore, custom and language, in resistance to colonialism and cultural genocide.

In the Main Theatre of the Lithuanian Club North Melbourne, students and fellows of the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development created a once-off improvised musical event. Brother John Wayne Parsons acknowledged country in both spoken form and then in a breathtaking extended song form, using loops and echoes introduced by James Howard. The people gathered to witness this were still and silent. In the gaudy glow of this old space, it was obvious that the turnout was far below capacity – it made one’s throat clench and sting thinking of those who missed this opportunity.

In a Fringe so dominated by frothy white noise that can feel hugely egotistic, it was something really special to see people humbly coming together for music, and having fun. Colin Andrews on keys, Fred Gesha on lead guitar and Allara Pattison playing double bass were all absolutely formidable, totally engaged and listening. The audience gaped at what was being played out, and sung: the truth. You know it when you hear it.

The set was simple; only about 4 songs with extended grooves and solos guided by Howard, who had the trust of all performers and a great sense of play in the moment. Drummer Michael Julian is undeniable and vocalist Brother John has a gospel sensibility which simply soars, bringing a flow of tears. The words touch on human stories of men cutting cane in Queensland and marrying at 19, and to more ethereal lyrical paths.

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