Thursday, 29 December 2011

Dreaming festival crosses cultures

Article originally published by TIM DOUGLAS

SHE may have her roots firmly planted on the other side of the world, but veteran singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie identifies strongly with Aboriginal Australia.

Canadian Cree musician says her indigenous people - one of the largest First Nations cultures in North America - and Aboriginals share a strong, unwavering sense of place.

"The notion of land as place is vital for anyone who has become landless by virtue of exploitation," she says. "Europeans talk of going home to the 'old country'. Well, for indigenous people, this is the old country. All we've got. And often what we've got is nothing.

"We share many tragedies but we also share a lot of positives when we're together."

The musician, famous for writing the Academy Award-winning song Up Where We Belong (from the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman), touched down in Queensland this week ahead of her performances at the Dreaming and Woodford Folk festivals in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

This year marks the first time the Dreaming festival, an international celebration of indigenous music, arts and culture, has been staged as part of the larger Woodford event.

Sainte-Marie says she is honoured to be in the company of Australian indigenous musicians, such as rising melodic rock duo Busby Marou, Pitjantjatjara guitarist Frank Yamma and hip hop artist Candy Bowers, as well as international artists including Melanesian musician Wantok Kolektif and Hawaii's Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole.

"I've always enjoyed finding like-minded friends determined to stabilise and revitalise our cultures," she says. "It's interesting for me to see the 'pure' as well as the 'pop versions' in indigenous music and culture. Our cultures are like language: tools for communication about whatever we want to share, traditional or contemporary or both together. This kind of event is a great outlet for that.''

The Dreaming, now in its seventh year, will also feature exhibitions of art, writing and theatre in its own precinct inside the larger Woodford festival.

ARIA-award winner Gotye, hip-hop troupe the Herd and didge-roots exponent Xavier Rudd will play alongside Scottish folk legend Dougie MacLean and rising Australian blues singer Hollerin' Matt Southon at the main festival, which started on Tuesday. Some 200 performers, from as far afield as Tibet and the Congo, will feature at the event over its seven days.

Woodford director Bill Hauritz says the variety of acts is exciting. "There is such diversity in the type of music," he says. "From traditional folk to reggae to hip hop, we are sure that there is strength in the program to match the audience."

Photo Robert Tinker.

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