Kuren grew up in Central Western NSW in the tiny town of Hillston – with a population of just 1,500.
“Musically and creatively, you are very, very, very limited in a small town like that,” he tells NITV.
Not that the aspiring musician let that stop him as an ambitious young teen. He’s already building a strong following across the country, playing at this year’s National Indigenous Music Awards in Darwin after winning the opportunity via Triple J Unearthed.
“That’s why the internet is a good place and going out and sorting these opportunities for yourself,” Kuren explains, of how he broke into the scene.
Now, it’s the internet that is playing host to his latest musical project – providing the dreamy musical soundscape to My Grandmother’s Lingo – a new interactive from SBS online that aims to highlight the plight of, and help preserve, Australia’s disappearing Indigenous languages.
“I thought the project was so awesome,” says the Wiradjuri musician.
“I thought the idea of it was really inspiring and it’s something very, very important that I think is overlooked nowadays and it’s a great feeling to be a part of it and try and do something about it.”
Bringing to life the critically endangered language of Marra, My Grandmother's Lingo aims to help preserve the language through a unique animated online game that is powered by the voice of the user.
“I really didn’t think about [the issue of language loss] until it came across my desk,” explains Kuren.
“It hit me how important it really was to keep the languages going that have been around for years and pass it down from generation to generation.”
The project was inspired by the words of Angelina Joshua, a local to the remote Arnhem community of Ngukurr, on the Northern Territory’s Roper River, who is fervently working to learn, preserve and pass on her language, of which there are only three fluent traditional speakers left in her community.
In My Grandmother’s Lingo, Angelina narrates a story in Marra, encouraging the user to join in and bring the animated interactive to life. As well as Angelina’s vocals, Kuren’s ethereal sound design can be heard throughout, combining his signature electronic sound with a gentler beat and incorporating the traditional sounds of indigenous music.
“A lot of my stuff is electronic based but I haven’t used didges before,” says Kuren. “I haven’t used instruments like that in that way before.”
“Being able to explore different paths like that was such an amazing feeling.”
“We wanted to use traditional instruments, traditional sounds that were of the Aboriginal culture and use them in the music to represent what the whole [interactive] is about both visually and sonically.”
As well as taking a new direction musically, Kuren says he also took on more of a sound designer role than his typical composer one in order to create a bespoke soundscape that complemented the story.
“Being a sound designer is something that’s quite new to me,” says Kuren. “I’ve always been in the lab making music and also performing it and playing it out to crowds and shows. But I’ve always wanted to explore something like this.”
Now, as Kuren’s specially tailored soundtrack interweaves with Angelina’s story and Jake Duczynski’s stunning illustrated animations, a new generation of Australians are able to learn and interactive with the indigenous language and help keep Marra alive.
“I hope they understand the importance of what it is to learn languages,” says Kuren. “Having them passed down through the generations - and helping to preserve them.”