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Ngarra-Burria: First Peoples Composers

Ngarra-Burria are Dharug words meaning to hear, to sing.

Ngarra-Burria is a program that builds bridges for First Peoples musicians to step forward, further develop their composing skills, and connect with the art music* sector. The program was initiated by Dharug composer Chris Sainsbury, and is delivered by a partnership between Moogahlin Performing Arts, the Australian Music Centre, ANU School of Music and Ensemble Offspring, with funding support from APRA AMCOS, and in-kind support from EORA College of TAFE.

* Art music is defined by, but not limited to, the spectrum of contemporary classical/new music; contemporary original jazz and improvisatory practice; the broad spectrum of experimental practice, embracing sound art and installation, computer music, and more.

Ngarra-Burria was a recipient of the Classical:NEXT Innovation Award 2022

Classical:NEXT Innovation Award Recipient 2022

Ngarra-Burria 2021

The Ngarra-Burria composer development program for 2021 kicked off with participating composers Aaron Wyatt, Marlene Cummins & Mark (Monk) Ross. With lockdowns affecting several states at various times over 2021, the major part of this program has been postponed to 2022. Updates to follow.

Ngarra-Burria 2020

In 2020, Ngarra-Burria's participating artists were Eric Avery, Marlene Cummins, James Henry, Will Kepa and Nardi Simpson. Composer-mentors through 2020 were Kevin Hunt, Chris Sainsbury and Jessica Wells.

The final performances for the year took place in Sydney at the Old 505 Theatre on 4 November.

Elizabeth Sheppard, Rhyan Clapham, Kim Cunio, Lamorna Nightingale, John Davis,
Ali Murphy-Oates, Claire Edwardes, Freya Schack-Arnott, Jason Noble, Jessica Wells
after the final concert in Sydney on 4 November.

In 2020 the program provided for its participants:

  • The opportunity to write work/s for recording and performance by Ensemble Offspring, one of Australia’s leading new music ensembles.
  • Periodic face-to-face and online mentoring sessions with program facilitators, developing the work/s
  • 2 workshops with the performers during the year, developing and refining the work/s
  • Involvement in ANU School of Music sessions
  • Attending rehearsals, recording, and a final performance in Sydney
  • A modest honorarium, along with travel costs to attend workshops/recording session.

Eric Avery

Violinist and contemporary dancer Eric Avery's practice explores the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous forms and narratives through the combination of dance and music. His recent solo (Dancing with Strangers - Marrugeku) explored stories, of first contact/invasion, from his family, and also his own story of reconnecting with his language (Ngiyampaa).

> Eric Avery - biography

Marlene Cummins

Marlene Cummins is Australia’s foremost Indigenous blues performer. She is a singer, songwriter, musician, painter, broadcaster, actor, dancer and activist who was born in the southwest Queensland town of Cunnamulla. Marlene is a proud Guguyelandji, and Woppaburra woman, who and expresses herself through her music and art.

> Marlene Cummins - biography

James Henry

Due to his diverse skills and broad interest across genres, James Henry has been in high demand in recent years as a composer and sound designer. He has been the musical director of 'Tanderrum', the Melbourne festival opening ceremony for three years running, sound designer for various Ilbijerri productions as well as City of Melbourne commissions. He has performed as part of the Black Arm Band on tours of the UK and US, Archie Roach's 'Into the Bloodstream' tour, and Buried Country's national tour, just to name a few. He performs as a singer/songwriter in his own right, influenced by 1960's pop/rock/folk melodists such as the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. He has also worked as a electronic music producer, DJ and songwriting workshop facilitator.

> James Henry - biography

Will Kepa

Will Kepa is a Torres Strait Islander multi-instrumentalist, audio engineer and producer based in Cairns, Far North Queensland. He is a much sought-after musician (drums, bass, guitar and ukulele), songwriter and arranger, and has performed with the likes of Johnos Blues Band, Phil Emmanuel, One Drop Reggae, the Briscoe Sisters, Wilma Reading, David Hudson, Kamerunga, Tribe Of Jubal, and Seaman Dan. His skills have taken him to many of the major festivals around the country as well as overseas.

> Will Kepa - biography

Nardi Simpson

Nardi Simpson is a Yuwaalaraay writer, musician, composer and educator from NSW's North Wast freshwater plains. A founding member of Indigenous folk duo Stiff Gins, Nardi has been performing nationally and internationally for the past twenty years. A participant of Ngarra-Burria since 2019, she writes about her experience:

Ngarra-Burria, put simply, has reinvigorated my ears, my mind and my spirit. It is not only a music program. It is a program about cultural responsibility, about singing land and story and country, and about what we Yuwaalaraay call the strengthening of dhuwi - our deepest breath, our essence - our soul.

Read a blog article by Nardi Simpson about the program in 2019 (Resonate)
> Nardi Simpson - biography


If you have further questions about this program, please with the message subject Ngarra-Burria or call the AMC on 1300 651 834.

Program partners

Ngarra-Burria First Peoples Composers is a partnership between Moogahlin Performing Arts, ANU School of Music, the Australian Music Centre through the AMPlify artist development framework, Ensemble Offspring, the Royal Australian Navy Band, and Eora College, with financial support from an APRA AMCOS music grant.