Formerly known as The Chooky Dancers, six talented indigenous performers who now call themselves by their traditional Yolngu name Djuki Mala will perform at Adelaide’s Fringe Festival this month.
It was in 2007 that the Djuki Mala boys would have their first taste of fame after a YouTube video of their performance notched up millions of views in a matter of weeks.
Djuki Mala Executive Producer and Director Joshua Bond talks about their rise to international stardom and life on the road with the boys. He speaks of the humble beginnings with the 'Zorba and the Greek' performance and just how far the boys from the tiny community in Elcho Island have come.
“When we made the show it was really retrospective… Autobiographical tracking the genesis of Djuka Mala over the years,” Josh says. “It kind of invited the audience to some of the more intimate moments of the group over the years as well, the highs and the lows.”
Being family and relatives, Josh says his favourite part of working with the other performers is the antics of being on the road, experiencing the journey together and being a large catalyst for closing the gap between Indigenous and mainstream culture: “Whether we know them or not or whether we’re related or not, it’s like ‘there’s my countrymen’ you know,” Josh says of other Aboriginals who have also made a name for themselves within the industry.
He and the performers are so proud to see more indigenous communities and families represented in a space, showcasing their culture in such a joyous and celebratory way.
“Whether it be Miranda Tapsell winning a Logie award or watching a Dan Sultan play, we also get proud even though they might not be our direct family,” Josh says.
Not only have these boys created a national sensation, their unique performance has been danced all over the world. Josh says one of the biggest highlights was performing at the Cairo Opera House’s Open Air Theatre in June last year, but at the end of the day, his favourite place to perform will always be in remote communities in Arnhem Land.
“Getting to perform for those who don’t get to go to the Sydney Opera house and pay those big theatre ticket prices… Getting to perform for people out bush and perform for our own communities is great,” Josh says. The performance embodies a fusion of traditional aboriginal dance with Bollywood, Motown, pop lock and 'Singing In The Rain' style, just to name a few. In his 15 years of working in the industry, Josh says he has never seen another performance quite like it.
“I haven’t really worked with anyone else before that has had such a broad demographic of audience from seniors, families with kids, the hipsters, just all crowds,” Josh says. “I think that’s the beauty of Djuki Mala, is that it ties in all the pop culture and other cultural references and traditional elements of the show which everyone can relate to.”
The Artistic Director and the performers are looking forward to dancing for the first time in Adelaide at The Vagabond. “It’s a little bit of a different set up, but I think it’s going to suit our show really well,” Josh says.
“It’s a beautiful big room… Looking at the seating plans and the lighting plans it looks great and we’re really excited, I think it’s going to go off.”
Djuki Mala Tour Dates
17 February-5 March – The Vagabond at The Garden of Unearthly Delights (Adelaide Fringe)9 March – Country Club Resort Showroom (Launceston)11-12 March – Spiegeltent Hobart