Vocal Chords recordist Catherine O’Mahony talks about meeting Aborginal musician Nardi Simpson for Vocal Chords
Since arriving in Australia in 2012, I have been fascinated with Aboriginal culture and mused to myself on many occasions that it’s not too dissimilar to Ireland. Both were indigenous tribal people oppressed by a more powerful occupying force, but yet managed to retain their history and language through oral tradition and song. So when I met Aboriginal musician Nardi Simpson and discovered that she’s part Irish, I was delighted to learn that I was right. We have more in common with Australia’s native people than we think, especially when it comes to music.
Nardi is a member of Stiff Gins, one of Australia’s best known and most loved Indigenous acts. Their music is rich with harmonies and storytelling, marrying the vocal techniques and language of their culture with the modern style of folk song. Nardi spoke to me about her own background growing up in New South Wales, her musical influences and her passion for keeping the oral tradition of her people alive. She explained to me the role of song in the Creation and Dreaming story and how the songlines crisscross Australia, interconnecting the land, sea and people. I was also lucky enough to watch her perform with clapsticks and sing acapella in her mob’s language. It was a brilliant learning experience and definitely makes me want to research the link between our two cultures more.