Barunga Beats

Congratulations everybody! The Barunga Beats Appeal has not only reached, but exceeded its target of $15,000.

What does this mean? It means that music workshops and other skills development opportunities will be available to the Barunga Beats mob for the next two years. The Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation thanks each and every one of you for your generous contribution to this appeal.

Barunga Beats is arguably the most successful program the Foundation has supported and helped nurture to date. The program was initially the idea of Ben Andrews, the music teacher at the Barunga School. In 2015, a partnership was formed between the school and the Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation. The students are involved in musical activity throughout the school year, with the Foundation providing additional workshops leading up to the Barunga Festival. The skills of the young musicians are showcased during the disco, which is a huge draw card for locals and visitors. Now in its third year it is an example of what can be achieved when solid partnerships are formed and funding and support are guaranteed over a number of years.

In 2016 the Foundation delivered a highly successful workshop program in partnership with the Barunga School. The workshops were facilitated by James Mangohig, Ben Andrews and Nathan Feijo. Up to 15 children became involved in workshops that covered song writing, beat-making, and the skills and discipline required for rehearsing and performance. Groups often came after school where they brought ideas they had already started, presenting them to the group, and developed them further. Time was also allocated to drumming, experimenting with the electronic gear and rehearsing singing.

The workshops focused around creating rhythms and songs with a hands-on approach.  Sometimes favourite songs from local Indigenous bands were used, as well as remix tools to add their own creative ideas. James reported that there was significant interest from young women in the program, an increase on 2015.

The big finale for Barunga Beats was at the Barunga Festival in June and was a huge success. The students ran the disco, MC’d it, played electronic drums, and worked with the samplers and other gear they’d been learning to use. Their confidence was boosted by having their music idols – members of B2M, Saltwater Band and Bininj Band supporting the students with a number of live sets. Performances at the festival were in front of not only their own community, but several thousand visitors.

One of the most exciting experiences for the students was to hear their own songs and music in full concert mode on the big PA system and with a great lighting rig. They now have more skills that will be used regularly at local events, and there is already planning for how the students can keep up the momentum with more workshops towards the next Festival, and other community celebrations.

In 2017 the students of Barunga School once again kicked off the music treats with a night of remixes of their own compositions at the Barunga Beats Disco on the Friday night. This performance was the result of multiple workshops created throughout the year.  The Barunga school kids were once again mentored by ARIA nominated producer James Mangohig. The student DJ’d the event using microphones, the vocoder machine, voice machines and samplers. Spotlights and coloured lights focused on hundreds of young people from all over the Territory while they hip-hopped, freestyle rapped and breakdanced the night away.

In 2016 this program did not attract funding from outside sources so it was funded using untied donations to the Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation. In 2017 some funding was sourced from Arts NT. However, the Foundation needs to develop a strategy to ensure funding and support for this program into the future.