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Down by the River launch pays tribute to UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages

The inaugural Down by the River song writing project acknowledges the diversity of Indigenous Australian languages with a concert launching the program presented by Semaphore Music Festival 2019 during Umbrella: Winter City Sounds.

Down by the River launch features prominent Indigenous singer songwriters Frank Yamma, Vonda Last, and Corey Theatre in a performance that celebrates UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages. These important Aboriginal artists will share their culture through storytelling and song writing at Tandanya Ngunyawaiti Theatre, on Saturday 27 July at 2pm.

Semaphore Music Festival Founder and Director Deb Thorsen says the song writing project is an excellent opportunity to celebrate language, music and culture.

“It is an honour to work with these artists and see how they have developed over the years. I feel humbled and moved listening to their stories and songs,” she says.
With a stellar line up featuring Frank Yamma, a Pitjantjatjara man who speaks five languages and sings in both Pitjantjatjara and English; Vonda Last a Wongai woman with over 25 years of musical experience as a songwriter and performer whose work in community music has focused on the revival of Indigenous languages and cultural maintenance through composition of contemporary music; and Corey Theatre, a young Gunditjmara/Gunai Singer Songwriter who recently recorded his first album Ngathuk Ngalina, a collaborative journey of language revival and musical expression.

Through his song writing, Corey is helping to revive, preserve and maintain his Gunditjmara language and he says he is looking forward to being on the bill of this important event.

“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.

“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.”

Down By The River will explore narratives around connection to country and family, merging cultures, friendship, transformation and reconciliation through the stories of these three South Australian based artists.

The Down By The River program launch takes place at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute on 27 July at 2pm, as part of Umbrella: Winter City Sounds.

Please contact Debra Thorsen or 0401076560 for interviews and further information.

The SMF is proudly sponsored by the South Australian Government through Renewal SA, Arts South Australia, the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, APRA AMCOS, and is auspiced by the Port Community Arts Centre Inc.

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The Semaphore Music Festival team acknowledge and respect that we are living and creating on Aboriginal Lands of the Kaurna people, and we are committed to working together to honour their living cultures.