Frank Yamma plays Down By The River as part of Umbrella: Winter City Sounds.
In 2019, the UNESCO Year Of Indigenous Languages, Umbrella: Winter City Sounds helps celebrate the diversity of Indigenous Australian languages with the launch of the Down By The River programme.
Down By The River will be held as part of Semaphore Music Festival later in the year, but will launch their programme at Umbrella with a special performance from prominent Indigenous singer-songwriters Corey Theatre, Frank Yamma and Vonda Last.
Originally from Western Victoria and now based in Adelaide, Corey is of both Gunditjmara and Belgian descent. Through his songwriting, Corey is helping to revive, preserve and maintain his Gunditjmara language. “These are some of the oldest languages in the world,” Corey says.
“It’s a precious resource because it provides an insight into a different way of looking at the world. If we can maintain that, we can increase our broader knowledge and ways of looking at everything. Some people say song came before language; people sang before they spoke.”
At Down By The River, Corey, Frank and Vonda will explore narratives around connection to country and family, merging cultures, friendship, transformation and reconciliation.
The performances will aim to connect people back to place and community through real stories told with authenticity. “I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges from it and what happens,” Corey says.
“I’ll be doing an acoustic performance, just stripping it right back to that old, raw blues and roots style that I started with; so that’s an older form that ties in with this old language. I’ll be doing some old material and hopefully a new song, which should be written especially for this project that will be around the theme of the river and the importance of water.”
Corey found his way to learning his Gunditjmara language through learning to play guitar and the work of Frank Yamma. “A friend suggested I write a song in my language, Gunditjmara, and I was thinking ‘I don’t really know much Gunditjmara language’, and that’s what started the journey,” Corey explains.
“The journey towards learning my Gunditjmara language started through music, through this desire to be able to sing in the language.
“Frank Yamma is one of the people that inspired me to write in language. I was learning some of his songs when I started. I’m really looking forward to working with Frank and Vonda; I’m not sure what’s going to come out of this project, but I know it's going to be something special and something new.”
Down By The River programme launch takes place at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute (Adelaide) on 27 July (2pm), as part of Umbrella: Winter City Sounds.