Musical journey embraced

Elise Van AkenThe Kimberley Echo
Tura New Music percussionist Esfandiar Shahmir, vocalist/guitarist Stephen Pigram and cellist Tristen Parr.
Camera IconTura New Music percussionist Esfandiar Shahmir, vocalist/guitarist Stephen Pigram and cellist Tristen Parr. Credit: Sarah Duguid

The Tura New Music concert is an annual Kimberley highlight, holding its own against higher-profile events such as the Ord Valley Muster and Stars on Bastion.

But fate (or good governance) has allowed Tura to continue its love affair of more than 30 years with the region an bring the Sonus 2 tour to Kununurra, in the face of the global pandemic.

On Sunday evening, more than 100 residents and a few fortunate tourists swarmed the grounds of Waringarri Arts to take in the talents of Kimberley singer-songwriters Olive Knight and Stephen Pigram, who were joined by Iranian percussionist Esfandiar Shahmir, cellist Tristen Parr and flautist Tos Mahoney.

The group had planned their set well in advance but in fact only met the day before to put the show together.

But any opening-night hiccups were hardly noticeable as the experienced and diverse band blended their sounds together, creating a stunning performance which exuded soul.

Olive Knight performing in the Tura New Music Sonus2 Tour at Waringarri Aboriginal Arts Centre.
Camera IconOlive Knight performing in the Tura New Music Sonus2 Tour at Waringarri Aboriginal Arts Centre. Credit: Sarah Duguid

Organisers described the tour as “a meeting of cultural forces ancient and contemporary, through songs of outback Australia and commissioned music for the tour” featuring “new songs, new works and new arrangements ... in a program reflecting the Kimberley communities and landscape travelled through”.

This was certainly realised during Pigram’s musical tales, with a highlight of the night for locals being his performance of Crocodile River, which tells of a police chase through Wyndham and down the Great Northern Highway.

His crooning vocals and impassioned strumming of both the guitar and ukulele took the audience on a journey through familiar places and beyond, complemented by the breeze-like whistles of Mahoney’s flute, the crocodile slivers from Shahmir’s Persian-frame drum, and vibrating beat of Parr’s cello.

Knight (Kankawa Nagarra) is a Walmatjarri elder, international blues and gospel singer-songwriter, teacher and mentor and political activist — she sings and plays to her own beat.

Tura New Music flautist Tos Mahoney performing during the Sonus2 Tour at Waringarri Aboriginal Arts Centre.
Camera IconTura New Music flautist Tos Mahoney performing during the Sonus2 Tour at Waringarri Aboriginal Arts Centre. Credit: Sarah Duguid

This may have proved a challenge for the instrumental ensemble but produced a full sound with her original songs, which were already toe-tappingly fun, when played acoustically.

Knight’s charming story about finally getting her hands on a guitar in her patriarchal community and inviting of the audience to sing back lyrics in her traditional languages added levity to the evening and cemented the connection between the audience and ensemble.

The free concerts, collaborations with song and dance groups and workshops for primary and high school students are being held across communities in Kununurra, Warmun, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Kooljaman, Djarindjin, Lombadina, One Arm Point and Beagle Bay.

The tour ends in Broome as part of the Shinju Matsuri festival's 50th anniversary celebrations.

If you are fortunate enough to have the collective perform a free concert in your community, it won’t be a night wasted — and if you’re able to get to a ticketed performance, it will definitely be money well spent.

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