• Christine Anu awarded for Contribution to Australian First Nations Music. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
My Island Home may have propelled Christine Anu into the archives of Australian music history - but more than 10 years later, the Torres Strait Islander woman continues to be praised for her contribution to Australian First Nation Music.
By
Laura Morelli

22 Nov 2017 - 11:38 AM  UPDATED 22 Nov 2017 - 11:40 AM

Tonight, amongst Australian songwriters, music industry representatives and music lovers, Torres Strait woman Christine Anu will be recognised at the National Song writing Awards in Sydney.

Archie Roach, the Tiddas and Yothu Yindi were just some of the Indigenous artists breaking through mainstream barriers of Australian music during the 1990s - the same time Christine's career was establishing. Reflecting back 30 years later, Christine knows it was these artist's beats of culture that inspired, informed and empowered her as a musician.

"Up until then we weren't hearing songs on Australian radio that had Yolngu-Matha or Kala Kawaw Ya languages on the airwaves - it was ground breaking stuff!," she told NITV.  

"As long as we play the drums and music, the voices of the old ones will always be with us."

With Torres Strait strong in her blood; her mother from Saibai Island, just off the south coast of Papua New Guinea and her father from Mabuiag Island, closer to the center of Torres Strait, she wanted her music to reflect her culture.

"I wanted to write songs where I could put the KKY and KLY languages, my own mother tongue into my songs and I did that with my debut song off the album Monkey and the Turtle which is in Torres Strait creole."

Tonight Christine is set to perform one of her hit tracks, Kulba Yaday, another piece she wrote in her own first-language about the importance of keeping culture alive.

"The song translates to 'Old Yarns' and it is a lament to our old traditions and storytelling and how everything in our culture would not be there if it wasn't for oral words," she said.

"In the song there is a metaphorical line where it talks about the sounds of drums which represents the voices of the old ones that are continually involved in our historical preservation through songs and stories we get told. As long as we play the drums and music, the voices of the old ones will always be with us."

Another hit song she will be performing is Cos I'm Free, a song that is named after the Tattoo on Cathy Freeman's arm. 

"I was living in London and feeling homesick so we went and watched her run at the Spain Championships which she won - but before the race they showed this brand new tattoo on her, it was goose-bump kind of stuff," she explained. 

"All of the doors that have opened up for us would not have happened if the old ones hadn't gone before us and fought to open up the doors and now we can say we do what we do because we are free."

This is the very first time the Lifetime Achievement Award for Contribution to Australian First Nations Music has been launched.

Australian Songwriters Association Chairman, Denny Burgess says it’s necessary to highlight the Achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and who better to kick that off with than Christine herself.

“Her performance of My Island Home at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics is something well remembered around the World, but the glory is that she’s not just a wonderful singer. Christine is an accomplished Australian songwriter as well, and this is worthy of great recognition,” Burgess said.

Christine’s career has blossomed from iconic songs and albums to a deeper meaning behind Australia and First Nations peoples. Since her early 20’s her career has been jam-packed with highlights from her singing success.

From winning ARIA awards to performing for world leaders such as Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela, as well as earning a long list of accolades across film and TV, Christine has been regarded as a role model, not only for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but as an icon to the Australian popular culture as a whole.

Celebrating Indigenous achievement and talent from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country doesn’t stop there. The award will be presented by Casey Donovan, a Gumbainggir woman who recently starred in the Queen Musical, We Will Rock You.

Christine says Casey is just one of the contemporary First Nations artists at the moment who is utilising her music to share Indigenous stories and shape Indigenous Australia through the airwaves.

"Their voices are unique and the stories are there own personal imprint and that is power, that is powerful. We are talking about Jessica Mauboy, Casey Donovan, Isiah, Mau Power, A.B Original - the list bloody well goes on and on and on," she exclaimed.

"These Indigenous artists are changing the world we live in and they are shaping the world of First Nations music for the next generation to come. it's evolving so fast and watch out!"

With each artist Christine mentioned, there's no doubt about how very different their voices are but also common the significance and power is within them.

"These Indigenous artists are changing the world we live in and they are shaping the world of First Nations music for the next generation to come. it's evolving so fast and watch out!"

 

Christine Anu will be recognised for her Contributions to Australian First Nations' Music tonight at the National Songwriting Awards 2017 in Sydney at 6.30pm. For information of the event, go here

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COMMENT | They used to say that ‘sticks and stones may break by bones but words will never hurt me’, but the link between language and self-esteem is clear. Words can affect a person’s identity for better or worse. In Christine Anu’s case, they made her stronger.