‘Smoking Ceremony’, a new single released today through acclaimed producers SkinnyFish Sound System, has brought together three diverse acts to be a voice in the discussion around January 26 and encourage ‘a society that can move forward with respect and mutual understanding.’
The catchy, synth-driven track opens with Tiwi RnB/pop group B2M singing a traditional chant which is commonly sung during smoking ceremonies in their community in Ngui (Bathurst Island). Emotional and hard-hitting verses from Butchulla MC Birdz, and Gumbaynggirr rapper Tasman Keith follow, lending a diverse and impactful edge to the track.
Keith says the idea for the track came initially from SkinnyFish and B2M, where he and Birdz were brought in to add a collaborative power. The fact that all artists are from different Indigenous nations across Australia, they wanted to send a strong message in the way that traditional sound and language from the Northern Territory can work with hip hop from communities further south.
"For us as artists living where we do, hip hop is our culture as a lot of us don’t have access to our traditional ways still around, so to be able to mix the two is very important,” he said.
Throughout Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the smoking ceremonies are seen as a foundational tradition with the intent of cleansing malevolent spirits and protecting family, friends and country from any harm. It’s also a way of honouring ancestors and the country, both land and sea.
Using this concept as the basis for the song, the artists wanted to offer Australians the opportunity to "clear the air and start again"
“For me, the smoking ceremony, no matter where I am, always reminds me of home," Keith told NITV.
"Smelling that smoke and knowing how good it feels. Relating that to where we are as a nation at the moment, this kind of thing is something that is needed and it’s something that needs to come from us, First Nations people, and get us to a better place," he said.
With a film clip directed by Harry Hunter and Joey Hunter, shot by Tom Black in the urban setting of abandoned areas of Cockatoo Island, in Sydney Harbour, the visual story that accompanies the track speaks of the potential of ridding demons, cleansing and starting a new to breathe life into desolate and barren spaces.
Keith says that as an artist, music is his choice of giving voice to his challenges and those of his wider community, where talking and debating on platforms like social media can fall flat, lost in a crowd of voices.
“The way forward for reconciliation really lies in a better understanding [of Indigenous reality]. I think a lot of people still get very defensive when they hear about Indigenous issues, like wanting to change the date of Australia Day," he said.
Real change isn’t possible until there’s a clearer understanding of where we are coming from. I think it’s possible, I’ve had people message me after conversations and say ‘hey sorry for the misunderstanding, I know where you are coming from now’.
For me, music is where I’ve decided to voice my thoughts, it’s where the message really has importance.”
Join NITV for a week of programming which showcases the strength, courage and resilience of our people. #AlwaysWillBe starts Sunday, 20 January on NITV (Ch. 34)