We are honoured and privileged to be working with national music icon Joe Geia to support the release of his latest album North South East and West.
Joe Geia is a renowned singer/songwriter, guitarist, didgeridoo player and influential figure in the development of contemporary Indigenous music. He writes music of bravery and beauty, telling of Aboriginal life in Australia, of the quest for justice and belonging, of history, family and love. He is widely regarded as a pioneer of contemp￼orary Aboriginal music, first coming to prominence as a member of the influential Aboriginal band, No Fixed Address.
“I want to promote change and understanding, melodically and harmoniously,” Joe says, “while still sharing the little known aspects of Aboriginal history.”
He is perhaps best known for his song and album of the same name “Yil Lull”, regularly described as Australia’s unofficial Indigenous national anthem. “Yill Lull” has been covered by many of Australia’s best-known recording artists. His much loved song “Uncle Willie” is about one of seven leaders (alongside Geia’s father, Albert) instrumental in the historic 1957 Palm Island strike that won Indigenous people the right to work for wages rather than rations. A monument dedicated to these men stands proudly in the centre of Palm Island. This sense of social justice resonates through Joe’s songs.
Joe has never stopped producing new music and touring – having taken his powerful performances around the globe for decades. And now comes his latest offering North South East and West. We asked Joe to tell us a little about the songs on the record.
Gurri Ngindin Narmi
“Traditional Welcome and Farewell song (Waka, Waka, Gabi-Gabi). For many thousands of years people from all over gathered for the Bunya Nut Festival. Two lines of men would sing Gurri Ngindin Narmi and the visitors would walk in between them as they sang and danced the welcome song. This song was revived in the early 70s when Indigenous people were protesting the inequalities brought about by the Queensland Government Act. At the time governments were announcing that Aboriginal and Island culture, and language was extinct.
I was given permission to perform it firstly through dance as a member of a dance team and then to sing it – to show that our culture and language is still strong.”
“This song was recorded originally live from the Brunswick Music Festival for Nunga Koori & Murri Love album (my second) and I had the desire to re-record it in the studio trying the didj out with all types of music – when I am performing I like to lift people’s spirit – and get them up dancing – nothing like a bit of funk with Indigenous flavour to do that!”
North South East & West
“I have travelled across Australia and the world and this is a song about home but also my concerns about the environmental destruction I see around me. Indigenous people respect the land and lived in harmony with the Earth for thousands of years. The world is starting to learn that it is the First Nations People who are the leaders in protecting the land not destroying it.”
“This song is about love and loss – written by my older brother Cedric Geia. It is a song that the Geia family is very familiar with. My brother Cedric is a talented and accomplished musician who toured Australia in the 50’s and 60’s. It was even harder then for Indigenous musicians. While he was on the road touring the whitefella’s used to tell him to say he was a black American (Aboriginal people were not allowed into the venues that Cedric was playing). He was the one who inspired me to follow in his footsteps – a life in music.
The song has the flavor of music of those times – early swing/soul.”
Gimme a Mercedes
“This came about as I was travelling down the motorway in Germany with a member of the Wild Pumpkins at Midnight, Danny Tuffy, who I was touring with. A Mercedes zoomed past and he casually mentioned, “you know the silicon used in Mercedes Benz cars is taken from your mother’s land (North Queensland) without compensation. You should tell them to give you a Mercedes Benz!”
Freedom West Papua
“My West Papuan brothers and sisters are close to my heart. West Papua is our closest neighbour and the world turns a blind eye to the genocide. The Freedom Flotilla in 2013 inspired me to write this song. An idea brought about by the meeting of the newly-arrived West Papuan exile Jacob Rumbiak and Aboriginal elder “Uncle” Kevin Buzzacott. Buzzacott saw the connection as deeper than shared victimhood. He traced their ancient historical and cultural relationship back to prehistoric times with its common past and ancestry. The Freedom Flotilla went from Lake Eyre in Australia’s arid heart to Cairns and then by boat to West Papua. Carrying water from this spring near Lake Eyre and ashes from the Tent Embassy fireplace, the quest came to symbolise a re-connection of these two ancient peoples and a uniting in the struggle for sovereignty.”
Let Us Pray
“I have experienced many hard times – drugs and alcohol, homelessness, racism and despair but – “He restoreth my soul”. I have found that music is a healing force and I wanted to write a song reflecting how my life was turned around by coming back to the faith of my early years.”
“A traditional song taught to us through my Grandather Genami Geia who was from the Torres Straits but it is a song I first heard on Palm island where both Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people were taken from their land and suffered many injustices but music has always strengthened the community and kept us strong. We used to sing this one as Oh PI.”