December 16, 2015

The Research

Research and song hunting is an ongoing component of the Mission Songs Project. Beginning officially in April 2015, Jessie Lloyd has traveled around Australia in search of stories, songs and songmen and songwomen to explore and revive the first contemporary Indigenous works that were performed in the early 20th century.

From Brisbane to Broome and the Torres Strait to the Bass Strait, research and interviews were conducted and are continuing with more songs and stories being revealed as the project evolves.

Below are some of Jessie Lloyd’s notes and advisers to Mission Songs Project;

My Story:
By Jessie Lloyd

It has been of utmost priority for me to start Mission Songs Project at the beginning; with my Geia family and the community of my family, Great Palm Island. It has been important to research and understand my own history and cultural identity as a contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musician, or as I see it, a cultural practitioner of modern Aboriginality.

My great grandfather Genami Gia, of the Kaurareg people of the Torres Straits, was a seafaring man and traveled from the north down the Palm Island as a free working man. He arrived around 1913-1918 and worked to help build the American naval base on Palm Island during WWI, of which time he married an Aboriginal woman by the name of Elizabeth Kyle. Genami was known as a songman and would host social gathering and sang island songs of home as traveling seaman from the Torres Straits would pass through.

In 1981 ‘Palm Island Settlement’ was set up under the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act of 1897 and was used to confine Indigenous people who were regarded as problem cases, social nuisances or deemed uncontrollable on native reserves where the QLD’s Indigenous population had been relocated. During this period, Palm Island had turned into a government managed penal colony.

Genami and Elizabeth’s first child Albert (aka Albie) Geia, my grandfather, was born on Palm Island in 1919. He was followed by his brothers Esrom, Thomas and Malcolm. Albie was an exceptional musician, an avid student of hymns and chorals and was the leader of the Palm Island Brass Band. My grandfather Albie married my grandmother in 1938, an Aboriginal woman by the name of Alma Coutts. Alma was a part of the stolen generation and taken by force at the age of 6yrs by police horsemen just outside of Cooktown around 1925-1926 and sent to Palm Island to be trained as a domestic servant. Alma too shared many talents, being an expert seamstress and well known cake maker.

Due to unfair working conditions and slave like labor, my grandfather Albie Geia with 6 other men staged a strike on Palm Island in 1957. The QLD police responded by shutting down the rebellion at gun point and exiled the 7 men and their families from Palm Island. Albie and Alma Geia were sent to Woorabinda settlement and never returned to Palm Island, only to be buried many decades later.

Albie and Alma had a total of 13 children, by father Joe Geia being the second youngest was born in Ingham in 1959. As a young man in the late 1970’s my dad Joe was living on Palm Island and that’s when he wrote his well known song Yil Lull, a few years later he left Palm and traveled south to Brisbane and met my mother Esme Lloyd. I turned up in 1981 and Dad went on to pursue his career by joining the band No Fixed Address in Adelaide with fellow Aboriginal music legend Bart Willoughby. Dad then moved to Melbourne in the mid 80’s to pursue his solo career and partnered with Jacqui Geia (nee McCoy), together they released to Aboriginal classic album ‘Yil Lull’.

So in saying all that, I grew up in a very musical family. I was raised by my father Joe’s sister Lynelda Tippo (nee Geia), who her and her sisters, are very diligent members of the Christian faith. I grew up listening to them singing hymns, country gospel and island songs of worship, singing four part harmonies by ear and rotating instruments such as the guitar, ukulele, piano and piano accordion. This was a very normal environment for me.

Looking back through my own generations I see legacy, inheritance and tradition. I see inter generational cultural practice and oral traditions, I see modern day songlines living and breathing from 1916 to 2016. This is what makes up my cultural identity and cultural practice, and this has inspired me to conduct the Mission Songs Project.

Archie Roach (Melbourne)VIC:

I first approached Archie Roach and his management team about the Mission Songs Project idea in Melbourne in September 2014, over the next six months funding and partners were sourced to made the idea a reality. Archie Roach is a close adviser to the project, giving his own thoughts, accounts and stories of the music that he grew up with as well as his experience traveling this great nation as a senior songman.

Archie also supports the Mission Songs Project through the Archie Roach Foundation.

IMG_5081Prof Marcia Langton (Melbourne):

Prof Langton has provided invaluable support and advice in these areas as well as the basics in ethnomusicology. She has also given her own personal experiences of early Indigenous music growing up in a native camp in the 50’s in South Queensland. Thanks to her support, I have conducted research at the National Library of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive and the Australian Institutes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra. I have also received extensive support from Melbourne University and the Victoria College of the Arts through the Wilin Center and the Center for Music.

HALIFAXCedric Geia (Halifax):

Uncle Cedric Geia is my father, Joe Geia’s oldest brother and also the senior representative for our Geia family. He is a well known Indigenous jazz guitarist and during his early career he had played for artists such as John Farnham, Kamahl, Jenny Morris, Dinah Lee and Maria Dallas. His experience and advice to the project has been invaluable as well as arrangements and musical contribution to some of the works, he is an amazing musician and a rare gem in the Indigenous music scene. Other Geia family advisers and influences are Lillian Geia, Lynelda Tippo (nee Geia) Delphine Geia, Ella Geia and Joe Geia.

PALM ISPeena Geia (Palm Island):

An important destination for me was Palm Island and it was here that I spent time with my Aunty Peena Geia. Aunty Peena is one of the oldest members of our extended Geia family, she is an excellent singer and used to be a hula dancer in her young days as part of the Palm Island Hula Group. She shared with me many stories and songs about Palm Island in the mid 20th century, she also remembered a lot of the songs my great grandfather Genami Geia used to sing. He long time friend Frank Anderson also contributed to the songs as well as grandad Dudley who sadly passed away 2 months after I visited. Aunty Peena is a wealth of knowledge and valuable asset in the history of Palm Island.

TSISeaman Dan (Thursday Island):

I was lucky enough to travel to the Torres Straits, home of my great grandfather and our Kaurareg people. I spent some wonderful time with Seaman Dan, we had lunch together and he shared stories and songs from his pearl diving days. He gave me a copy of his book and I purchased several of his CD’s, all of which I listen to often when I miss the tropics of Far North Queensland. Many of the songs he performs are also early works from the 20th century so he is an amazing contact in regards to connecting to the old days through the old songs.

IMG_1417Cessa Mills & Margaret Gabey (Thursday Island):

While on Thursday Island I spent a wonderful time with Aka Cessa and Margaret, they sang me songs and shared stories of old TI and seafaring days, it was at this time that I started to find similarities been songs with variations depending on which community was singing them. This is where I learned that songs too change and adapt to the times over the era’s, one song may be sung three different ways from Palm Island, to Cairns to Thursday Island. Proving to me that these songs traditions and oral cultural practices are alive and well. I look forward to spending more time with Margaret down here in Melbourne to hopefully record many of the old tunes she knows.

IMG_1275Will Kepa (Cairns):

While in Cairns, QLD I manged to spend some time with fellow musician Will Kepa. Will has been working on recording many of the songs from the islands over the years with musician and anthropologist Dr Karl Nuenfeldt, both have compiled a significant collection of works recording and preserving the music of the Torres Straits. Will was able to share with me many of the recordings that he had and experiences on collecting these songs, he provided a great insight into the musical culture of the Torres Straits which gave me a good bases on how to approach the Mission Songs Project on a more national scale.

YARRIElverina Johnson (Yarrabah):

I had the privilege of spending a short time over in Yarrabah community, just outside of Cairns. I had come across a lot of research and archiving from Yarrabah in Canberra at AIATSIS and was excited to meet Elverina and see her collection first hand. Elverina also shared with me songs from Yarrabah that were recorded in Cairns in the early 80’s which are a great resource, she has also done extensive research herself on the Indigenous brass bands of Queensland and has a museum exhibit set up in Yarrabah.

NSWRoger Knox (Toomelah):

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

TBC

DARWINKathy Mills (Darwin):

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

TBC

BROOMEBaamba Alberts & Stephen Pigram (Broome):

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

TBC

11208629_1104454152916724_5800437289313794073_nChris Sullivan & Partner (Lillian Rock):

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

TBC