09 February 2008

Fringe dabber didj

The Multicultural festival is here again, and there are a few artists I’m hoping to catch up with. Last night, I managed two at the Fringe Festival marquee in Civic Square: Circle of Fire and Tjupurru.

The Fringe is a good place to see most of the visiting acts. It’s stylishly bohemian although it attracts all types, it’s free, and you have plenty of space and tent openings to move around, change your view, dance, chat, or just mill about. There’s seating too: tables and couches like a comfy lounge room, although I noticed the carpet was a bit squishy after recent rains. And it’s free. A nice combination. There are events on at the Fringe tent each evening for the next two weeks, from 7pm to late. See the program of acts at the Multicultural Festival’s site.

Circle of Fire are three drummers: tabla, western kit (although not always played with standard technique) and mixed percussion. The players are Greg Sheehan, Bobby Singh and Ben Walsh (I’m not sure who’s who). This was rhythmic set, as you’d imagine. The call for quiet for a tabla feature, in recognition of his years of training, was rather twee in this festival environment, and the finale of two players alternating on western kit was showy, but it went over well as a performance. The show was popular, there were lots of dancers, and the rhythms were genuinely complex and interesting, although not hypnotic. The venue didn’t really lend itself to hypnotics, anyway.

During and between the music sets we were presented with a performance art show of slowly moving bodies under colourful lighting. It certainly added more interest than the canvas curtain walls, and made for mobile and colourful surroundings. I understood this group was called Writer in a Box.

Tjupurru followed with a set of modern, Aboriginal music, at least I guess that’s what it was. He essentially performed a one-man-band set with that mesmeric combination of didgeridoo and voice, but this had a very modern twist. The traditional was there with a self-confident Aboriginal pride and respect for the traditional owners of the land, but there was also a very modern black awareness. The didj was a slide instrument, it was wireless miked and amplified along with his voice, the richness of the corroborree was created by layering voice and didj with digital loops. This was the past brought into the present: a fascinating performance and pleasingly and genuinely Australia. And to confirm the Aboriginal pride, there was a good deal of politics, too: well received by the audience, and well matched to this time of Sorry saying and the hope that comes with a new government.

Good music all round, and near enough for jazz.
  • National Multicultural Festival
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