Phil Walley-Stack opened the evening with a soulful didgeridoo performance and warm Whadjuk Welcome To Walleyup Country.
Hosted by local soul-singing legend Odette Mercy (Ofa Fotu), the night flowed with multiple award presentations and performances by nominees J.F.K., The Justin Walshe Folk Machine, Feels and DJ Chicken Wing.
Winner of the grand prize, Song Of The Year, and the Pop award for 'Boys Will Be Boys' (a song that tackles issues of rape and abuse towards women), Stella Donnelly, currently on tour in the UK, thanked WAM and the audience for her awards via video message.
“Thank you so so much for my award for Song Of The Year,” Stella said, flanked by two, fluffy canine companions.
“I just want to thank the venues that have always given me shows, the people that book the shows, the amazing staff, and all of the other amazing musicians in Perth and WA. I’m so so lucky to be in such a supportive scene and I can’t wait to see what it looks like next year. Thank you so much.”
For Fremantle’s indie-pop golden girl, the win tops off a massive breakthrough year that saw her pick-up Levi’s Music Prize for most outstanding talent at BIGSOUND Music Conference, named Triple J’s Unearthed Artist of the Year, earn five WAM Award wins and showcase at WAMFest.
Known as the voice of the Kimberley, and having performed to a standing ovation at the 2018 National Folk Festival, Bidyadanga man John Bennett scored two awards for 'Country Is Calling' (Indigenous & Regional), a track that sings to country and connects with the yearning to nurture family and the environment.
The track features Fremantle-based instrumentalists David Hyams and Lucky Oceans, who John met in the recording studio during the making of his first album. The three have been collaborating ever since; at festivals and for art and social change company bighARTs 'Murru' project in Roebourne, which led to their opening the Melbourne Festival in 2014, with an all-star band.
'Same Drum' by Akolkol Dastan Gesa, as recently featured on ABC News, took out the World category. A collaboration in name, music and video, the song includes three languages: Swahili, Dinka and Kinyarwanda, and calls for all cultures in Australia to be united and live in happiness and peace.
The song and music video, created by students of Aranmore Catholic College’s Intensive English Centre, and devised by artist and filmmaker Poppy van Oorde-Grainger, is a beautiful show of unity and love for culture and peace.
Clearly humbled by the win, singer Frank Mucho accepted the award with the group onstage: Kalungila Lutombo, Juk Yuang, Jack Rex, Ahmed Shihab, Rita Yousif, Sota Kikuyama and Sara Hendi, thanking sponsors and everyone involved in the project.
“WAM’s Song Of The Year is an important opportunity for artists to showcase their songwriting skills and have their music considered by experienced industry professionals,” WAM CEO Mike Harris said.
“As ever, we are astounded by the quality and breadth of entries across all genres. Grand Prize winner Stella Donnelly is a WA artist on the move; one with an international profile already. Congratulations to Stella and all the other winners, finalists and all the entrants for taking the time to create the music that makes our local scene so vibrant.”
See below for the complete list of winners.