Their infectious, high-energy show 75,000 years in the making is a mix of pop culture, dance and storytelling with traditional dance from contemporary Yolngu culture from North East Arnhem Land. Djuki meaning ‘chooky’ with a Yolgnu accent and Mala meaning ‘mob’ – is one show to get early tickets for.
After 2.8 million views of their infamous interpretation of ‘Zorba the Greek’ back in 2007, the humble group of insanely talented dancers, have been recognised many times over in various areas of the arts, and most recently working with and owning their space in Mojo Juju’s brilliant, unequivocal music video ‘Native Tongue’.
With former members of the group making a solid mark on the entertainment industry, such as Baker Boy, who has supported artists such as 50 Cent, Dizzee Rascal, and also toured with festivals such as Groovin The Moo and the upcoming Laneway Festival, the very real and grounded talent within current members of the group, are no different.
Dancers and actors, Baykali Ganambarr, Yalyalwuy Gondarra, Tibian Wyles and Watjarr Garmu, not only work as a team, but independently across the arts. Among many of their individual achievements and awards was Baykali’s recent win for Best New Talent at the Venice Film Festival for his performance in the greatly anticipated movie 'The Nightingale', directed by Jennifer Kent. Baykali travelled to Venice to accept the award from Naomi Watts.
“My inspiration pretty much comes from Djakapurra, who danced with Bangarra, a Yolngu bloke also from Arnhem land. When he performed on the stage, as a little kid, he inspired me to become a dancer, then watching my sister Rarriwuy Hick being a dancer and also getting into the TV Series 'Clever Man' and watching her, really inspired me and I told myself, 'if my sister can do that, why can’t I?'. I just pushed myself and here I am,” Baykali says.
“Right now, we’re working on creative development for a new show, which I’m really excited about, it’s going to be hectic. We’re working with amazing international guest choreographers like Richard 'Swoop' (Whitebear) and for the first time in Djuki Mala history, we’ll have 2-3 female dancers in the group,” he explains.
When asked what words of wisdom he would give to the youth who are inspired by his and the group's work, he replies, “All the kids that are wanting to be a dancer or an actor or a sportsman or whatever dream you want to achieve, if you stick your mind to it, you can achieve that dream or goal, nothing's impossible.
“Also, the show is about youth suicide. Because youth suicide is a big thing in the world and in Australia, I just want to say that it’s never too late to get help, speak up to get support, there’s always someone who can help you and guide you through your struggles. I want to prevent youth suicide because it’s getting way out of hand. Speak up. Support is always there.”
When asked what he would like audiences to take away from the show at this year’s Fringe, Baykali replies:
“The show is about sharing our culture and we also mix our culture into the western contemporary dance, there are heaps of different cultures in the show and basically, it’s just love for each other, respect for each other, to just feel the love out of Djuki Mala. We also share our culture, where we’re from, and where it all started.
“If you haven’t seen Djuki Mala, now is the time to get your tickets!”
Djuki Mala play The West Australian Spiegeltent at The Woodside Pleasure Garden 18-25 January and 9-17 February.