• Barunga Festival, a celebration of music, art, culture and sport returns this year running from Friday, June 7 to Sunday, June 9. Pic: Duane Preston (Supplied)Source: Supplied
This year Barunga's music stage will host three-generations of Gambaynggirr musicians, as well as a guest artist from Taiwan.
Emily Nicol

26 Apr 2019 - 12:39 PM  UPDATED 26 Apr 2019 - 12:44 PM

Held in the small town of Barunga in the NT, about 80 km from Katherine with a population of approximately 300, the Barunga Festival is not only unique in location, but come early June, a significant spike in foot traffic occurs on Jarwoyn country. 

The crowd that it attracts every year has over 65 per cent of First Nations attendees, making it a calendar event marked by both Australians and overseas visitors seeking a genuine immersion and connection with Aboriginal culture and people.

The three-day celebration of music, art, culture and even sport returns this year, with a solid line-up of local musicians including, Mambali Band from Numbulwar, who has been gaining national attention with their single release 'Fish Hawk'. 

Rapper Tasman Keith (Gumbaynggirr) is excited to be taking the stage with his legendary father Wire MC and also his grandfather Billy Jack, making it a three-generation celebration of talent.

Also performing is the Nabarlek Band (Manmoyi), Wagilak & the Australian Art Orchestra, Billy Jack (Gumbaynggirr), Justine Clarke, Mick Coates and Archer.    

Keith says that performing with his dad and granddad is a sentimental opportunity and one that brings him immense pride. 

"Family is everything to me," Keith said in a statement. 

"I grew up around it with my Dad and my grandfather.

"Now that I’m on a similar path as them, I can see how hard they would’ve worked, and I’m proud to step up with them."

This year, the festival has also invited a special guest from the First Nations cultures of Taiwan, singer Sang Mei-Chuan from the Taiwanese Paiwan tribe.

Currently working from her studio in Chingshan village, Mei-Chuan teaches local children the traditional songs of the Paiwan people, a passion for her after she was forbidden by her government to speak her native tongue once she reached school-age.

She is excited to bring her own story to the Barunga Festival.

“Music is of great importance to the Taiwan First Nations Peoples, especially to the Paiwan tribe. Music and songs not only record our daily lifestyles and express emotions but also record our histories, beliefs and cultural identity,” she said.

“Tribal music and songs are like roots that absorb the nutrients from the land in Taiwan. For those First Nations groups that do not have writing systems, music and songs are one of the most important mediums in passing down their cultural identity.” 

Following the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declaration of 2019 as the year of Indigenous Languages, the festival will be focusing on this theme throughout its programming.

In keeping with its healthy family and community values, the event remains 100 per cent drug, smoke and alcohol-free and will offer patrons a range of cuisines. 

This year Barunga Festival runs from 7 - 9 June. For more information head along to their website.