Australia: In full containment, the global success of an aboriginal group

Australie: En plein confinement, le succès planétaire d'un groupe aborigène

BRISBANE | percussionist aboriginal Andrew Gurruwiwi generally plays in front of a few hundred experts in the far North of Australia. It is a paradox, but the confinement enabled him to reach an audience of 120,000 people, to the four corners of the globe.

His group has been the revelation of a series of concerts entitled “East Arnhem Live” and broadcast on the internet so that aboriginal communities aborigines were even more isolated from the rest of the world, because of the outbreak of coronavirus.

We could see the four members of the Andrew Gurruwiwi Band playing in the open air for 20 minutes at the light hanging from the end of the afternoon with, in the background, the intense green of the vegetation on cliffs of ochre. And the ocean.

“The coronavirus meant that there are more shows, more music, nothing more,” observed the artist, explaining to AFP that these sessions have been launched to “make people happy”.

Everywhere in the world, the musicians are refugees on the internet when the epidemic closed the concert halls.

But the organizers of the”East Arnhem Live” to recognize that the craze online for their concerts in Arnhem Land, a vast region of the north-east of the State of the Northern Territory, has exceeded all expectations.

“We share our history”

Each week, the sessions have affected tens of thousands of people who otherwise might have never heard of the local culture, that of the Yolngu people.

“It is difficult to understand how we, loyal as much to people,” concedes Nicholas O’riley, of the Yolngu Radio.

“When the first direct Saturday night, it is extraordinary to see where people look at us,” he continued.

“The sun is shining here in Spain, and the threat of the virus in my neighbourhood is close to zero,” wrote, in particular a user in a “small village” a few weeks ago. “So this music has transformed my day, and this is the morning here! Thank you!”

“Beautiful! Kisses from France!”, responding to another.

The East Arnhem Live” was originally conceived as a series of four concerts to encourage the 10 000 inhabitants of the area to stay connected during the epidemic. Its sessions continued, and the last, the ninth, is scheduled for Saturday.

Andrew Gurruwiwi, whose work is influenced by reggae, or african music, and sings both in English and in the language, Yolngu, denouncing in particular the suffering of his people since the time of colonization.

“The balanda (outsiders) don’t know at what point the Yolngu people has suffered all these years,” he says. “But the world wants to know our history. We share our history and our knowledge of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land.”

The realization of the live is full of beautiful images of the coast and local nature tours by a drone, what do that of the East Arnhem Live” a superb tool for the promotion of this region is still relatively untouched by tourism.

Ryley Heap, the local tourism office, hopes that these concerts will inspire travellers to grow up to this remote corner of Australia.

“The region is, overall, very little is known, and as it is little known, it is also intact. And it is absolutely spectacular,” he says.

“It is obvious that we would like to enhance it, and these concerts contribute to it. Then we hope to have a positive impact.”

The Aborigines have inhabited Australia for over 40,000 years, well before the arrival of european settlers in 1788. But they are only 670.000 in the country, out of a population of 23 million.

And most importantly, the successive governments of australia have all been unable to bridge the gap in living standards between Aboriginal and other Australians, a fact that the first minister Scott Morrison has still qualified in February of the “national shame”.

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