You could feel the excitement surrounding NaranaFEST as you entered the doors to Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre’s first festival in eight years. With an especially made Boomerang Stage hosting some of the biggest names in Indigenous music through the day, families and locals came for a unique and entertaining experience.
Opening with a Welcome to Country that acknowledged the past, present and future people of Wathaurong country, early arrivals took part in a Smoking Ceremony before Deadly Duo started the day off. Complete with food trucks, a cultural exhibition with stunning artworks, and the opportunity to chat to the Narana staff and volunteers at the café, NaranaFEST was more than your average music festival; it was a celebration of the artistry and resilience of Australia’s first peoples. Performers came from all over for the event, engaging the crowd in discussion, moving stories and laughter. The One Conexion dance group gave a brilliant display of Indigenous dance and styles, and even allowed us to join in. Kutcha Edwards was a crowd favourite, returning after eight years away, and he delighted us with new and old tunes. Flying in from L.A., Fraser A. Gorman provided the indie/blues vibe needed to cruise through the day, and Chris Russell’s Chicken Walk got everyone dancing with their rock infused set.
Local talent Yirrmal left the crowd breathless in the evening, his ethereal tones and acoustic guitar reminiscent of Ed Sheeran in contemporary music, yet mixed with the stunning organic feel of traditional Indigenous artists. His rendition of ‘Young Blood’ was stunning, and he wowed festivalgoers so much that he stayed for an encore. Finishing off the festival with the legendary Archie Roach, the poignancy of the event was driven home as Uncle Archie spoke about his own life and performed ‘Took The Children Away’. The beauty of NaranaFEST was its ability to engage us in stories and music, transcending cultural differences and crossing generations. With promises that NaranaFEST 2016 is a certainty, we can only hope for more music, more great talent, and more reasons to listen and learn about Indigenous culture in the region. Thanks for allowing us to enter your world Narana. It was a privilege, and we can’t wait for next year!