Barunga Beats! Music Remix Program (Barunga Community)

Program Snapshot

Barunga Beats! is an exciting new program involving the Barunga School in a community located 80kms southeast of Katherine, NT. The program aims to empower a new generation of remote Indigenous young people between 9 – 15 years of age by offering access to music production in a simple and affordable way.  The resulting music will be a great source of pride in the community, and the Barunga Festival offers the perfect platform for showcasing the results.

Music is integral to remote Indigenous life, whether as a participant or as an audience member and Barunga Beats! is a chance for remote Indigenous young people to engage in something they love while learning new skills, working with the latest technology and having the opportunity to share their work with an audience.

James Mangohig, Darwin musician from the nationally acclaimed band ‘Sietta’, spent several weeks in Barunga assisting the local music teacher Ben Andrews and delivering a community workshop program teaching kids how to remix their own dance tracks. The results of Barunga Beats! workshops were showcased at the 2014 Barunga Festival where the kids played their tunes and mashed up vocals. Some of the kids were confident enough to run the disco on their own – on the microphone, vocoder machine, voice machines, samplers and DJ-ing. Hundreds of kids danced and hip-hopped and rapped the evening away.

“One thing one of the boys said to us when we dropped them home (after the disco) was that he feels way more confident now” James Mangohig.

Music teacher Ben Andrews hopes to follow up with the production of a quality EP release for the students – and now they have the songs to get there. Given that the participants now have the skills to run their own disco, it is likely there will be more festivities planned in the Barunga community.

How the program worked

1st Workshops: 31st March – 4th April

James Mangohig travelled to Barunga community for the first of two workshops. The aim was to work with the school’s music teacher of 7 years, Ben Andrews, and his students. In the lead up to the program, a small music studio was set up and weekly music sessions were run to get interested students involved and ready. Having a space to walk into where participants already felt comfortable was a great start to the teaching of recording, sound production and DJ-ing.

Over the first week James, Ben and the students worked on a song called “Brotherboy” about some of the petrol sniffing that was happening around. This was great as students wrote their own lyrics and were also able to have some fantastic discussions around the issue. They worked extensively in a music recording program called ‘Logic’ which also helped the music teacher to use it with more skills and knowledge and be equipped to record students’ vocals.

The song “Wildcare Hero” (recorded by Terrah Guymala from Nabarlek and Skinnyfish Music) was really popular when played to everyone, so much so that the cultural teacher used it in her classes that week and came up with local animals for the children to add into the song. Another version of this song was then created and played at the Kid’s Dance Party at the Barunga Festival, and was well loved by the community. All in all the first workshop week was a great introduction and James was able to meet some key community members and build a rapport with the principal, teachers and most importantly the students.

2nd Workshops: 1st – 9th June (incorporating Barunga Festival)

When James returned to Barunga the music teacher had worked on the tracks they had started and it was great to see him really push to take them over the line with the idea of a release. Despite the school being busy with many festival lead-in activities, the school encouraged the students to continue to participate in the music program.

Much of this week was spent preparing participants for the idea of putting on a special Friday night disco at the Festival (Barunga Beats!). This involved choosing songs, including the originals they had worked on, as well as actually DJ-ing them, learning how to use a microphone to host the party while encouraging everyone to dance and have fun. One of the Barunga Beats! students was particularly excited to be putting on the disco and planned to be on the microphone. In the event that any of the students were too nervous to take to the desk and the microphone, samples of their voices were recorded and used in a sampling machine to trigger vocals. Preparation for the disco continued over the course of the week as James continued to build on the relationships he’d developed on his first trip.

In terms of challenges – it was sometimes hard to get regularity in attendance but a small group remained consistent  – even coming in after school.

On the day of the disco the Barunga Festival production team set up a small stage with a wall of balloons, which set a great atmosphere. The students were really excited but also nervous. About half an hour before the disco started the key Barunga Beats! participants were nowhere to be seen. James stepped in, and just as he pressed play on the first track, one of his star pupils (Shane Ladd – pictured above) made his way to the stage and grabbed the microphone – also triggering his voice through the sampler. After two songs he completely took over running the disco. A second student then joined him and the two of them ran the whole event, not only triggering songs but using the microphone and special effects to encourage dancing and welcoming people to Barunga. The basketball court was filled with hundreds of young people and the Barunga Beats! Dance Party was a resounding success all round.

“I found this to be quite emotional for me as in all my years running beats programs on communities I have never actually seen the young people run a whole night on their own. I encouraged Ben (the music teacher) that a lot of his hard work with these young people was the reason that they felt confident and were equipped with the skills to run the disco” James Mangohig.

The Barunga school and community were incredibly supportive of this program. Anita Painter (teacher) visited James and the students regularly in the studio and integrated aspects of Barunga Beats! into the program in her cultural classes. Adrian Trost (school principal) engaged with James and was very encouraging of the program the whole way.

Many young visitors to Barunga Festival – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – have reported that their favourite part of this year’s Festival was the Friday night kids’ disco.

Equipment used in the Program

Equipment used – Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Condenser/Sm58 microphones, Midi keyboards, Traktor S2 mixer and program (Dj set up), Roland VT – 3 Vocal Effect.

Program Outcomes

  • Imparting technical and IT skills and developing those of teaching staff so that music production can become a year-round activity at the school.
  • Exposing young people to new ideas, technology and skills necessary to produce their own music, which they can continue to develop independently year-round.
  • Developing self-confidence for students through their achievement and experience.
  • Creating pride when participants’ work is on display to the public at Festival time.
  • Giving young community members a chance to shine and showcase their talents.

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The Barunga Beats! Program is proudly supported by The Northern Territory Government (Arts NT),  Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation, The Barunga School and The Barunga Festival 2014.

Young Women’s Self Esteem Project – Barunga Fashion Parade

Project Snapshot

An exciting first at the 29th annual Barunga Festival 2014 in the Northern Territory was the presentation of the inaugural Barunga Festival Fashion parade by 23 young women from the YMCA Katherine Young Women’s Program.

The aim of the project is to increase self-awareness and self-confidence for girls aged between 10 and 18 years from Katherine and remote communities in the region. With a focus on health, nutrition, well-being and grooming, plus their interests and creativity in clothes and design – particularly Indigenous fabric prints and garments – the program tied in perfectly with the opportunity to present the inaugural Barunga Fashion Parade.

Young Women’s Self Esteem Project

Far too often teenage girls miss out on opportunities for involvement in activities that interest them such as music performance and football, which are nearly always dominated by the boys, despite the fact that it has long been identified that teenage girls in remote communities are particularly at risk. To address these issues YMCA Katherine delivers a weekly evening program which aims to increase self-awareness and self-confidence for girls aged between 10 and 18 from Katherine and the region. One area of interest was obvious – access to hairdressing, cosmetics, make-up artistry, clothes and other things that teenage girls elsewhere in Australia just take for granted but are simply not available in remote communities.

In April 2014 the NT News photographed the girls in action.

Barunga Festival Fashion Parade

For the first time in the Festival’s history, and with the assistance of the Gurrumul Foundation, a Fashion Parade was programmed, giving the 23 girls and 8 adults from the YMCA Girl’s Project an opportunity to showcase and celebrate their talents – a reward for all the hard work that has taken place during the year.

The modelling team and behind the scenes crew all contributed to preparations which included stage setup, selecting music, hair & makeup, organising dresses & shoes, practising running order and timing of the catwalk. The girls modelled a selection of day wear and evening wear dresses and walked to the music of their role model – Jessica Mauboy.

After the Parade the whole team were completely pumped and buzzing, as organisers expressed how proud they were of the huge team effort and success – all the hard work and dedication had definitely paid off.

“We would like to acknowledge the great leadership and team work skills shown by the girls. Since the Parade their confidence and self-esteem has absolutely shone through the roof… the whole Barunga Festival was a fantastic experience and we can’t wait till next year”
– Chantal Ober, Youth Worker, YMCA Katherine.

Program outcomes

  • Improved self image, physical fitness, general health and body awareness.
  • An artistic outlet teaching discipline and team-work.
  • Developing a sense of accomplishment, pride, renewed confidence and self esteem.
  • Giving young female community members a chance to shine and showcase their talents.

2015 and onwards

The aim is for a long-term program, tied in to Barunga Festival celebrations, that could become a model for involvement of young women in many other remote communities.

For 2015 the Westpac Foundation and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (Eldon & Anne Foote – Donor Advised Fund) are joining YMCA Katherine and the Gurrumul Foundation as major supporters of the Young Women’s Self Esteem Program.

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The Barunga Festival Circus Project 2014

Program Snapshot

The strong interest in circus training for young people from the Barunga area, and the benefits of the many skills, health improvement and related disciplines that flow from it led to the formation of a partnership between the Gurrumul Foundation and the Flying Fruit Fly Circus (FFFC) with support from the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation (TFFF), and the Australia Council for the Arts.

The Barunga Festival Circus Project was run in collaboration with the local school.The program was designed to develop performance and circus skills with the kids of the Barunga area, culminating in theatrical performances for the entire community as well as thousands of visitors, at the remote Barunga Festival in June 2014.

The long-term aim of this project is the development of a local circus troupe, ongoing training by this group of younger children , and opportunities for secondment, skills exchanges and employment with nationally acclaimed circus groups. The intention is to broaden the program to accommodate children from other schools in the region.

How the Program Worked

A rigorous circus skills program was conducted over 3 visits to the remote community of Barunga in the Katherine Region, by FFFC, with a performance outcome at the Barunga Festival.

The project was carried out over 3 phases -:

Phase 1 March 31 to April 4, involved the FFFC Artistic Director and Head Trainer visiting Barunga to assess skills levels and identify potential group leaders.  Program ideas were discussed and negotiated. The children were given a program and asked to practise until the next FFFC visit.

Phase 2 April 28 to May 9, involving more members of the FFFC including Head Trainer who visited Barunga for two weeks. Sessions continued with early learning, primary and secondary school students during school hours, in two- hour blocks. The team identified some ‘stand out’ kids and involved them in intensive training sessions, preparing them for more speciality acts.

Phase 3 May 26 to June 10 had the FFFC team return to Barunga for a two week stay. Additional members increased the team to 10. The team continued sessions with early learning, primary and secondary children which included refining and practising for the festival event. 12 students were subsequently recognised for their talents and identified for larger roles.

The performance was showcased twice at the Festival with an open one-hour taster on the Sunday for all young people at the festival.

Program Outcomes

The project was heralded a huge success by participants of all ages, teachers, trainers, community members and festivalgoers who witnessed the two performances.

  • Specific outcomes of the Circus project included -:
  • Improving general fitness and health of participants
  • Improving focus and concentration
  • Improving self image
  • Building self esteem and self confidence
  • Offering opportunities to remote Indigenous young people

Adrian Trost, The Principal of the Barunga School reported that:

‘2014 was the first year of circus in Barunga. The organisation and preparation was a massive task for everyone. I was very pleased with the commitment from all parties. The whole circus experience was valuable and worth the incredible demands it placed on everyone. It was a gigantic team experience that united everyone who participated.

Attendance at the school generally sits at around 65%. During FFFC visits there were days of attendance up to 85%.

Students participated well and developed new skills. Attitudes were positive for most of the preparation. Attendance was much higher for most of the circus preparation. Great effort was put into preparing and motivating students for the performance. The challenge of public performance was too great for some but we expect in the coming years this may get easier.

The Fruit Flies worked tirelessly and sensitively. I was quite amazed by their patience and emotional intelligence. They were professional, compassionate and friendly to the end.

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