Journey to the Tiwi Islands with Mamanta

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A moving performance honouring the past and celebrating the future.

Building on their international touring acclaim, B2M (Bathurst to Melville), are embarking on their first major national tour. This seven-piece band from the Tiwi Islands will showcase their unique blend of contemporary and traditional sound in a new performance that reveals the full breadth of Tiwi culture and identity!

Mamanta – meaning “friend” in Tiwi – is a vibrant cultural experience told through a mix of music, multi-media and song. In an historic show of support from the Tiwi Elders, B2M have permission to use traditional Tiwi chants and blend them with modern musical elements. Combined with vivid multimedia imagery of contemporary arts and cultural practices, Mamanta brings the Tiwi Islands to life.

We talk with Jeffrey ‘Yello’ Simon about B2M.

How would you describe the music you make?

RnB with a traditional Tiwi twist to it. We are strong Tiwi men who write, record and perform music that transcends cultural, social and geographic boundaries. We draw on a strong tapestry of stories, including our own songlines that have never left the Tiwi Islands before. Mamanta is unlike anything ever seen.  We have never created a show that shares our experience this fully.

How did B2M come together? 

We started in 2004 in our home community on Bathurst Island. Back then, the Tiwi Islands had the highest rate of suicide per capita in the world, so it was a very hard time for our elders and on the whole, for our people. Our people don’t have a word for suicide, so we decided to use music as a vehicle to curb the issue and try and help where we could and sing music and try and pass on messages about drug and alcohol abuse … to try to encourage change wherever we went.

RnB and traditional chants seem so different from one another, yet they both seem very percussion heavy with a strong beat. Is there any similarity there? Is that why it worked?

Yeah, definitely; the main similarity is that there’s an inner rhythm that you feel when you’re participating in corrobboree and in ceremonies. You feel it, but you don’t hear it. This rhythm hasn’t got a sound; you must feel it first. You’ll be driving to work and you are almost dancing in a way, you know? So to find that similarity with RnB and our culture is really unique.

What inspires you to make music?

We understand that music is the universal language of the world and singing in our language gives us a sense of pride, but it also gives us an opportunity – a platform where we can pass on messages to the next generation coming through. That has been the driving force behind this band. I think we’ll be doing this for a long time yet. Like the paintings that reflect the depiction of country, our songlines demonstrate our journeys, our history and our community.  

How much of a role does the identity and culture of Tiwi Islands play?

I guess the Tiwi Islands are at the centre of B2M. We always say that B2M has grown into something that’s bigger than us now, and we’re just driving this vehicle. At the centre is a precious cargo – the Tiwi Islands and its culture, its stories, its tradition and its customs. We carry that forward, and we deliver that wherever we go. We get cultural advice from our elders, little things like pronunciation of certain words, the correct stories, song lines, traditional chants.  

Describe B2M’s song writing process?

It’s very non-traditional. The way songs come about is that someone has an idea. We talk about it, someone picks up a guitar, and we sing and there’s a lot of debate. There’s a lot of harmonising. I think we’ve never sat down as a group and made a song. It’s been like two or three of us come up with an idea, we work on it, and then we take it into the studio. If we like it enough, we get to record it. 

The creative process is always there when we get together. We talk about this idea of a new song, then we go ahead. There’s a strong chemistry between the boys. We’re all related. We’re all family.  We bounce off each other. There’s also a lot of humour, which helps the creative process.  Writing music becomes easier when you’re having fun.

Tell us about the national tour. Where are you playing?

It’s finally happening! We’ve dreamt about this for such a long time. We’re going to be lucky enough to travel this beautiful country of ours, meet beautiful people, have fun, share. 

B2M – Mamanta kicks off on in Port Pirie, South Australia, followed by a three-month tour to 30 venues.

I understand you also present workshops for youth?

For us, the message that B2M shares is the most important facet of our music. Steering clear of catchy love songs, we focus on bigger issues, like drug and alcohol abuse. We made a commitment a long time ago to sit down with people and share stories and talk about issues. 

We understand that everyone has different problems, everyone’s unique in their own way, but we wanted to help out the next generation, making sure we have a positive impact on youth and making them aware that sometimes you do lose your way in life, but there’s always a brighter day. There’s always a next step, and keeping positive is the main thing. There’s always room and time for a change. 

That’s a commitment we’ve made a long time ago, and we’ve been doing it ever since.

What do you hope people feel or take away from your performance?

I hope they feel our culture. Our culture is very secretive. It took us ten years to get permission from our elders to use our traditional chants. Tiwi people are proud people with strong culture. When we had this idea of a tour, we wanted to go out and help bring the nation together, to create a positive conversation between black and white and the idea of moving forward together. If there’s anything people take away from our show … the key word is share. We love to share. We just hope the audience enjoy the stories and the humour. The music, that’s the most important thing, and creating a positive conversation around certain issues.

If you’ve never had an opportunity to travel to the Tiwi Islands before, B2M are sure to take you on an illuminating journey. From ancient stories to life today, Mamanta honours the past and celebrates the future. 

Directed by Gail Evans and produced by Artback NT and Skinnyfish Music, Mamanta is a rare gift to audiences – a captivating, moving and upbeat work that shares Tiwi history, culture and identity with the nation.

B2M Musicians: 

Shelton Murray, Greg Orsto, Fabian Kantilla, Daniel Cunningham, Damien Narul, Darren Narul, Jeffrey Simon.

 

THE PLUG

Capitol Theatre, Tamworth.
Wednesday 19th September, 8pm.
Tickets: www.capitoltheatretamworth.com.au

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