With the easing of travel restrictions within Western Australia, Tura New Music has in record-time organised the 2020 Sonus2 Tour for local communities in the far north of the state from August 23 to September 6, which will head through the Kimberley and up the Peninsula to play free concerts, collaborate with song and dance groups, and deliver workshops to primary and high school students.
Thanks to funding assistance through the Lotterywest COVID-19 Relief Fund and Healthway promoting the Act-Belong-Commit message, the Sonus2 Tour will see Kimberley singer-songwriters Olive Knight and Stephen Pigram with an ensemble of instrumentalists – Iranian percussionist Esfandiar Shahmir, cellist Tristen Parr and flautist Tos Mahoney – engage with communities in Kununurra, Warmun, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Kooljaman, Djarindjin, Lombadina, One Arm Point and Beagle Bay, before ending the tour in Broome as part of Shinju Matsuri’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
It’s a meeting of cultural forces ancient and contemporary, through songs of outback Australia and commissioned music for the tour. New songs, new works and new arrangements feature in a program reflecting the Kimberley communities and landscape travelled through.
Each of the artists on the tour are renowned in their own right and they’re coming together for the first time to present new music as well as captivating collaborations with local artists.
Olive Knight (Kankawa Nagarra) is a Walmatjarri Elder, international blues and gospel singer-songwriter, teacher and mentor, and political activist. She helped develop the Walmatjarri dictionary in the ‘60s and is a strong and passionate advocate to raise awareness about the social challenges in Indigenous communities. In 2015, she released her third album 'Heroes and Laments' and last year returned to the stage to tour internationally with Hugh Jackman in ‘The Man. The Music. The Show.’
Olive is joined by Stephen Pigram who has been collaborating with Tura since 2006. Stephen has been described as the ‘king of Kimberley song’ for his over 35 years of composing and performing both solo and as part of the Pigram Brothers. A Yawuru singer/songwriter, Stephen has been paving the way for the ‘saltwater country’ genre, a distinct Broome sound that captures the multiculturalism of the area.
Stephen and Olive share a devotion to the preservation and sharing of Aboriginal language and culture, and the Sonus2 Tour is an opportunity to collaborate through the Kimberley with local artists in a celebration of culture and place.
They will be joined by Iranian instrumentalist Esfandiar Shahmir who plays the Persian daf (frame drum) and other percussion interlacing his ancient and cross-disciplinary sounds with their songs of country. The ensemble also features cellist Tristen Parr and Tura Artistic Director and flautist Tos Mahoney. Tura New Music’s Artistic Director Tos Mahoney said as with all of Tura’s award-winning Regional Programs, this tour (and its ability to be organised so quickly upon the easing of COVID-19 restrictions) has come about from 19 years of engagement and deep relationship building with communities in the state’s far north. “We’re delighted to be bringing this diverse and vibrant group of artists together for communities to experience empowering music and sound worlds,” he says.
“Performing with guest artists like Fitzroy Express founder and leader Danny Marr alongside dance and song groups such as the Waringarri Performers in Kununurra – this exchange of music and knowledge has formed a dialogue of artistic collaboration, providing a new platform for communities to celebrate the sounds of their country.”