Butchulla hip hop artist Birdz gives the perspective of a young warrior witnessing Captain Cook's arrival on his homelands in his new single "Bagi-la-m Bargan'.
Featuring Fred Leone, the song was one of several commissioned 'to create a modern-day songline for 21st Century Australia' in NITV's new documentary 'Looky Looky Here Come's Cooky'.
The documentary, which will premiere on the channel tonight, gives a new perspective of the arrival of Captain Cook by telling the First Nations story of resistance and survival.
Birdz told NITV he didn't hesitate when he was approached, along with MC/Producer Trials, by the filmmakers.
"When they told me about the idea and the other artists they were going to be approaching to be involved, I thought it was a great opportunity straight away. I knew it was going to be special," he said.
"For Trials and I, it really worked out for us in terms of what we're already building for my album and then it translated into the doco as well."
Inspired by the story of the Butchulla people seeing James Cook sail past Kgari (Fraser Island), the song is written from a young warrior’s perspective while defending his country.
Director Steven McGregor, whose credits include Sweet Country and Black Comedy, presented Birdz with the concept, who then brought in his cousin Fred Leone.
Leone is one of a few Butchulla songmen, and the creative starting point for the song came from a chant that he shared with Birdz.
"Fred's always been like a mentor to me. We're family but he's always guided me as well and especially in terms of the cultural stuff and when I told Fred about it, he showed me a Youtube video of him performing this chant at K'gari on Fraser Island in ceremony. I was like, "Oh, that's amazing." And it just really, really suited concept wise." Birdz explains.
When he asked Fred to sing the chant over a beat that Trials had produced, he knew it was meant to be.
"WIthin about 20 minutes, he sent back a voice memo on the phone of him singing it over the beat. I knew straight away when I heard it, I was like, "That's incredible." It nearly made me tear up. And then, and that's pretty much the longest part of it was me trying to get into character and sort of draw from my personal roots to write the verses."
My verses are written from a character perspective of a young Butchulla warrior whose home, people, and overall existence is under threat. Tapping into the mindset of someone preparing for war. The dominant narrative of Australian history neglects the fact that there was active Aboriginal resistance against European invasion. The song is inspired by this resistance.
Having seen an advance copy of the documentary, Birdz said he was impressed.
"Yeah. I think it's great. WIth this documentary, they've made it very accessible. I feel, just in terms of being very engaging, having music, personally I think it's phenomenal, from all the artists. But also on top of that, you got Steven Oliver with his humor and I think it does an amazing job at showing all the different sides to it and all the different elements in representation that make us black and make us who we are. I love that about the film."
Having grown up in the town of Katherine in the Northern Territory, Birdz credits his father as being an inspiration in helping him to see past the one-sided story of history.
"At school you learn this dominant narrative in terms of this idea of who Captain Cook was and really brushing aside us as indigenous people." he said.
"That really conflicted with what I was learning at home, and especially from my father, and I say this because he's still probably one of my biggest influences in terms of just being proud of who I am and chasing my dreams."
He says the knowledge his father passed on helped him shape his ideas but it was a struggle, particularly growing up in the state with a white mother and black father.
"(history) was just really whitewashed. It was so normalised, and you could see that how that translated into everyday life there as well. But, I've been very fortunate to have my father and my family be there to guide me and sort of give me the strength to be able to walk out the door and face all the bullshit." he said.
Now with a young son, Birdz sees his role as an artist as being able to have a strong impact with his music and to leave a legacy.
"I think moving forward in terms of being an artist, moving forward, I'm thinking about representations in my music that, for my son to see, and to be able to see himself in, as things that I might not have had when I was growing up," he said.
"I'm always really conscious of that he's always watching. He's always listening."
Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky premieres tonight on NITV and SBS VICELAND at 8:30pm and can also be streamed on SBS On Demand.