Music, Film and the Revitalization of Indigenous Languages

Two new projects have come across the RPM radar that are part of the continuing, and growing, revitalization of Indigenous languages movement.

The Song Peoples Sessions is the first collaboration of its kind in Australia, bringing contemporary Indigenous musicians to learn traditional language and record music with song people from their own families.

The Age reports in New chapter for ancient songbook:

For Shellie Morris, a circle is now unbroken. Morris’s grandmother was a child of the stolen generations and Morris was adopted by a white family in Sydney. She learnt opera singing before she began recording folk and rock ballads. Now she has recorded an album in the language of her grandmother backed by the traditional singing of Borroloola women. Morris says the project ”will affect my songwriting for the rest of my life.”

Morris spent three weeks learning Yanyuwa pronunciation and studying the traditional songs. Then with guidance from the song women, she wrote ballads that celebrate Yanyuwa stories, melodies and rhythms. Traditional singers overlay rhythms to produce hypnotic patterns not unlike those in Aboriginal painting

The result is a beautiful, layered and textured song. Listen to Shellie Morris‘  Li-Anthawirriyarra:

Song People Sessions – Li-Anthawirriyarra by Song People Sessions

In the last 100 years, 600 Indigenous languages have been lost – a heartbreaking statistic from indpendant filmmaker Brian McDermott who is developing the documentary film Lost Words. Lost Words follows a group of Indigenous people working to save their endangered languages. It also shares the story of the government’s push to eradicate Indigenous language and the related traumas suffered, and still affecting, Indigenous people today.

“If you don’t have a language, then who are you?” asks Conrad Fisher in the Lost Words trailer.

Lost Words Trailer from Brian McDermott on Vimeo.

Brian is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to complete the film. Contribute to the Lost Words campaign here.