I wrote recently about the Womadelaide Festival 2016 and shared my experiences as a long term Womader (maybe I made that word up) and an interview with the wonderful Cat Empire. I am thrilled to share my chat today with another great musician on the bill for this year at Womadelaide Festival 2016 – and a personal favourite – Kev Carmody.
Kev is an award winning Indigenous singer song writer who has created some of our best music over the years. Kev told me that Music to him is “based on sounds and the feel that it evokes…. the constraints that are inherent in the 12 divisions of the western, classical tone scale can be creatively expanded into quarter tones. Very early in life I was exposed to the organic natural sounds of the earth. 98% of my 40 odd years performing has been as a solo musician and as a support act”.
Kev Carmody at Womadelaide Festival 2016
When did you first start creating music? Who was the biggest influence in your life when it came to music?
I started the exploration of sound in the 1960’s with guitar and harmonica. The mouth harp was taught to me by my Aboriginal Uncle who could play the chromatic harmonica. The biggest influence from a sound perspective was my Aboriginal Grandfather who made me (as a young child) acutely aware of the natural sounds of the environment. He said, “If you don’t know the sounds of the Earth…you’ll never survive in the bush”.
Can you tell us a little about your experiences with your PhD? What was that like to have people who were open to learning in a different way?
In my undergraduate degree, for the first tutorials in history I was allowed to use the oral tradition to present my tutorials until I could get up to speed with a written presentation. I was allowed to enter uni on one year’s probation. At the D.D.I.A.E. we had great lecturers who encouraged research, creativity, scholarship, enquiry and debate.
Do you see music as another form of language, one which can be used and understood across cultures?
From an indigenous perspective sound and music is a language. Song Cycles (dance, sound, stories), are associated with a specific geographical location. Hundreds of these song cycles are connected together to cover every square metre of each nations’ country. These song cycles can stretch into song lines thousands of kilometres long across the continent. From this standpoint different cultures can use and appreciate other cultures music and sound…..but it is difficult and another thing entirely ……to understand it.
You have worked with marginalised children as part of a community education program at Logan City to encourage the kids to come up with artistic ideas, find their spirit, and, most importantly, their self-esteem – can you tell us more about how important art and music are to the whole development of our children?
Music is crucial in any child’s life. It transcends cultures and bridges racial divides. Doing musical workshops with marginal youth fosters their creativity, emotional expression, cultural self-esteem etc. It also assists community cohesion and dignity.
Sound and feel come before lyrics for you – what kinds of sounds inspire you, can you give us some examples?
When we decided to record some of the songs I had never recorded (dating back to 1967) for the 4 cd deluxe edition box set called “Recollections…Reflections…(A Journey)” we recorded hundreds of organic, natural sounds. E.g. local birds, tractors, chooks, dogs, frogs, blowflies, the wind, thunder, bicycle pump, hand-saw chains, blocks of wood, old car rims, 200litre and 50litre steel oil drums, the grandkids musical toys, butterknife, handmade tea box bass, homemade stringed instruments, playground equipment etc. What inspires me are everyday sounds, like the wind in the leaves, thunder, birds, animals, factory sounds, human voices, running water and night sounds etc.
What do you like about Womad and why do you think it is important?
Having performed at a number of Womad festivals in England, Spain, and Australia, I am always excited and surprised by the global musicality and unique cultural performances Womad presents. I think Womad is important because of its global and cultural musical connectedness that underpins and binds us together as Homo-Sapiens.
Can you tell us about one of your favourite performances?
One of my favourite performances was jamming with Indian and African drummers and Roma Gypsies with the didgeridoo (yadaki) at the Womad Festival in Granada in Spain.
From Big Things little Things Grow is such an iconic song now, (it is actually my mobile phone ringtone!!) – why do you think it has had such impact and longevity?
It tells a cultural story. It describes a struggle that brought people together from all walks of life to achieve a recognition of our rights as this country’s first sovereign people. Appreciation and awareness of the song came from word of mouth between people… no commercial radio airplay over a period of 25 years. Many, many people have taken ownership of this song, it has become ‘everyones’ song not Paul’s or myself.
I call it a cultural love song.
What are you looking forward to in your music next?
Perhaps recording a 50 minute soundscape piece that oscillates between Traditional Corroboree, Beethoven-Bach, John Cage and Charlie Patton.
What an amazing man! Get excited people, we are now into 2016 and Womad will be here before you know it! Grab all the information, tickets and programme details, as well as stay up to date via newsletters on the Womadelaide site