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Queensland trio in hunt for top Indigenous music honour


This 2020 National Indigenous Music Awards will be streamed into loungerooms across the country on Sunday night, with Queensland artists featuring heavily among this year’s nominees.

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Three Queensland musicians are in the running for Artist of the Year, including Thursday Island rapper Mau Power, Brisbane-based singer-songwriter Thelma Plum and Emily Wurramara vying for the top gong, alongside Baker Boy, Electric Fields and Jessica Mauboy.

This year’s NIMAs, which are being held in Larrakia Country (Darwin), will screen live across Australia from 8pm Sunday on NITV, and will also stream on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook and will also be simulcast on both Double J and the National Indigenous Radio Network.

The event will also feature live performances from Archie Roach, Plum, Miiesha Mambali, JK-47, Emma Donovan and a collaboration of ‘My Island Home’ featuring Christine Anu, Mau Power, Neil Murray, Jim Moginie and Rob Hirst.

Wurramara moved to Brisbane from Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory at age six, and has recently relocated to Tasmania.

“I’ve only been here since November last year and I think this is the longest time I’ve actually been in one place, to be honest, and I’m not touring so I’ve been getting to know myself a bit more and really unpack my mind,” Wurramara said.

Wurramara has been working on a follow-up to her acclaimed 2018 album Milyakburra, and said she was surprised to be shortlisted for Artist of the Year for NIMA.

“I think it’s really amazing that I’m even recognised, I haven’t done much,” a modest Wurramara – who over past year has featured on singles from Mulali and Kiuya James, collaborated with Bad Dreems, Mulali and Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett. That collaboration involved a cover of Warumpi Band’s ‘Black Fella, White Fella’ for Triple j’s Like a Version. She also toured with Paul Kelly.

But Wurramara – who sings in both English and her traditional language, Anindilyakwa – said she was thrilled to be a part of the awards again this year, regardless of the result.

“When one of us comes up the whole lot of us come up together with them and I just think that that’s so empowering,” she told InQueensland.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, we wouldn’t even have dared to try and make a national awards ceremony just for Indigenous people. I just think that we’ve come so far, and the amount of talent across this country is incredible.”

Since expanding from what were originally the Northern Territory Indigenous Music Awards in 2010, the NIMAs have been growing in size and stature every year, with a record crowd at last year’s event at Darwin Amphitheatre.

Overseen by Creative Director Ben Graetz, the NIMAs will be live from Darwin, with artists joining in from around the country performing live virtually, accepting awards and joining in the national celebration of Indigenous music.

“What makes this year so exciting, is that we are able to involve and showcase many more of our First Nation artists and musicians through the virtual platform,” Graetz said. “Also to be able to connect regionally and remotely is extremely exciting.”

The NIMAs will employ a 100 per cent First Nations camera crew for this year’s production, as well as a majority First Nations production crew as it moves towards a path of First Nations self-determination.

Head of Indigenous Content at SBS and NITV Channel Manager, Tanya Orman, said the NIMAs always held a special spot on the broadcaster’s events calendar.

“In a year that has been particularly challenging, we can’t wait to celebrate the biggest and brightest talents in the First Nations music community and share the experience Australia wide,” Orman said.

Wurramara said the national platform the awards now had was in stark contrast to the representation of First Nations women in the music industry or on television when she was younger, saying she “could maybe name them all on one hand when I was growing up”.

“I think that for our youth, especially, it’s empowering and inspiring, because you know not everyone has access to the opportunities that a lot of us have had the privilege to have access to,” she said.

“And so seeing a First Nations person on TV winning these awards will just show them that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can do it, as long as you’re willing to put in that hard work, and those hard yards.

“It is so bloody hard, but it’s worth it and I hope that these awards just help create a new wave of amazing musicians for our future, to archive and preserve our culture, our language our story and our history.”

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