• Gaba Musik is a way for First Nations music across the Pacific to thrive. (Supplied) (Gaba Musik)Source: Gaba Musik
A First Nations-owned music business is gearing up for a series of shows in Melbourne and hoping to shake up the way the industry works with local and Pacific Indigenous artists.
Rachael Hocking

9 Mar 2021 - 11:57 PM  UPDATED 9 Mar 2021 - 11:57 PM

Connected through the oceans and a common language word, Yalanji artist Deline Briscoe and Papuan producer Airileke set-up Gaba Musik as a way for First Nations music across the Pacific to thrive.

‘Gaba’ means rain in Kuku-Yalanji and drum in the Motu language of Papua New Guinea, something Ms Briscoe says speaks to a deep connection between the cultures.

“The borders weren’t there before, we were all trading and speaking,” she told NITV News.  

“The more we connect, the more that we share, the more that we stand in solidarity, the stronger we are as Indigenous peoples in the region.”

That solidarity will be in on display in the first two weeks of April, with Gaba Musik taking their first two shows to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne as part of its Live at the Bowl series. 

The first, under the banner Blaktivism, will see three generations of musicians come together to share music inspired by the fight for First Nations rights.

Ms Briscoe said after the resurgence of the global Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 “a lot of doors opened to be able to present these works” and shine a light on First Nations voices in the music industry. 

“There’s a few things about Blaktivism that I think a lot of us can connect with,” she said.

“But also a lot of things that aren’t actually acknowledged or recognised, and one of them is the Black arts role in the activism, and that’s happened throughout the last couple of centuries since colonisation”

Among the new wave of artists performing as part of Blaktivism are Yorta-Yorta composer Allara, Kuku-Yalanji Jirrbal soul Kee’Ahn and Gumbaynggirr rapper Tasman Keith.

Ms Briscoe will join them on stage along with fellow acclaimed vocalist, Gumbaynggirr singer-songwriter Emma Donovan, and the legendary Bart Willoughby - who empowered a generation with his signature bush reggae in No Fixed Address.

A healing ceremony is also planned, with Ziggy Ramo and musicians from PNG and West Papua in Sorong Samarai sharing the stage.

Ms Briscoe said a highlight will be Yothu Yindi’s performance of the landmark track Treaty.

“You know that’s been an anthem for a very long time and it’s still the same messaging after 20 years later, we’re still singing the same tune,” Ms Briscoe said.

The second show for Gaba Musik, titled Pasifix, aims to amplify the voices of the Pacific Islander community.

Ms Briscoe said it was originally slated for an international stage, before the global coronavirus pandemic hit.

“So it’s a national celebration of our Pacific Island communities… bringing together all different genres and different styles,” she said.

“From the cultural mob, to the drill hip hop, to Ngaiire whose got the electro pop going strong.”

“And I really like that both shows have a strong representation of female leaders in our industry, and that’s something I strongly believe in.

“With both of these concerts, there’s women in there that the next gen can look up to.”

Push for ‘collectively owned music’

Gaba Musik, which released Ms Briscoe’s debut album Wawu in 2018, is also planning to shake up the music industry in other ways, particularly when it comes to ownership.

“At the moment and for a long time there’s been no way of collecting for traditional songs, because they don’t support collectively owned music or collectively managed music,” she said.

“We’re working with lawyers and a team to work out the ICIP around our music and protecting that for the people that we work with.”

“So that people can share songs, so they can monetize their music within their cultural protocol.”

They plan to set up publishing companies in Far North Queensland and PNG, and work with copyright management organisations APRA AMCOS to get better rights for First Nations musicians across the Pacific. 

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