“The outpouring of freedom songs went to the core of the struggle and expressed, as nothing else was able, the hope, belief, desire, passion, dreams, and anguish of the conflict.” Mary King speaking of the power of song during the US Civil Rights movement.
I put this selection of songs and chants for climate justice together with the specific aim of helping us all to find stuff that was simple and catchy enough to use outdoors at protests. I wrote a few and gathered a few from other people but this is only the beginning of my collection and there’s loads of other great stuff out there. The problem is finding stuff that is reallyshort and easy to learn, yet effective. (Kavisha Mazzella’s Mother Earth song is a perfect example of all these things).
As yet – to my knowledge – there isn’t a central place where this specific type of song and chant are gathered but the Extinction Rebellion Choir is a good model and has some good resources available on Facebook. Closer to home, Climate Choir Melbourne is also creating a great collection of resources, available here.
People are writing and sharing new songs and chants all the time. Singing together gives us enormous sense of our shared humanity, makes us feel strong and positive, allows us to express our emotions in these desperate times and communicates in a non-threatening way to people observing and participating in our protests.
Jeannie Marsh, Jane York, Emily Hayes and others have been bringing singing to this week’s Extinction Rebellion protests in Melbourne. I humbly thank them for making this huge contribution to the campaign. Those of us who have the skills to enable people to sing together – now is our moment to make a huge difference to the face of the campaigns and the strength of the movements. Act now!
For recordings of these songs and chants, click below! Feel free to use any of mine as long as your protest is non-violent.
Sing out Strong!
*Photo of the Spring Rebellion in Melbourne, courtesy of Hilary Walker
Now and again an opportunity comes along that speaks to the heart.
In January 2014, I met Terry White at the Turramurra Folk Music Camp. I was there in my capacity as a storyteller, having been invited to run some workshops.
Most likely I was on a riff about the role storytellers might play in connecting folks to Australian landscape and the places they called ‘home’. I carry this niggling idea that it’s actually really important to take some responsibility for the patch of earth that we walk, and this requires a little ‘land literacy’.
It seems that Terry had me spotted as a kindred spirit, and by the end of the weekend, I had been woven into his vision of bringing scientists, traditional land custodians and songwriters together, the purpose being: to create new songs to celebrate old wisdom and knowledge about Country, the kind of songs that can be arranged for community and children’s choirs to sing, celebrate and learn about land.
What followed was over two years of meetings where partnerships were developed, grant applications wrestled and the idea was given a name, ‘Singing from Country’.
The big vision of ‘Singing from Country’ is to divide Victoria into about seven bioregions and commission songs that explore these. However we thought it best to start with a pilot project with four songwriters and focusing on the Central Victorian Goldfields area. The pilot was launched as a ‘festival within a festival’ at the Maldon Folk Festival this year. This experience proved invaluable – giving the committee a chance to navigate the difficulties and cheer when things go to plan.
At Maldon we opened the process to the public with a day of presentations from local naturalists, Geoff Park,Andrew Skeoch, and Rebecca Phillips who spoke about the Dja Dja Wurrung language reclamation project and the protocols around use of this language. Uncle Rick Nelson performed a Welcome to Country ceremony, and a group of children from The Meeting Place (Nalderun) sang the Loddon River Song, led by Kerrie Patmore.
In the evening the four selected songwriters ‘unveiled’ the work they had created in response to the commission to write two new songs each.
After so much thinking and dreaming and so many, many meetings, I was deeply moved by the concert, the vulnerability of the writers who were revealing (in some cases) works in progress, and songs never before aired in public. I was brought to tears by how deeply and respectfully they had explored the concept. Local a cappella choir, ‘The Chat-Warblers’ led by Jane Thompson rose to their feet and sang at the top of their lungs, exemplifying the power of singing about place.
Spring in Victoria has been fabulously wet and the rain has brought the country alive. Swathes of wildflowers have burst through the ground and the birds are singing out loud, building nests and raising chicks. Carl Panuzzo’s song evoking the dance one does when walking through the bush in spring elicited cheers of recognition from the audience. For me the wonder of Terry White’s vision is the willingness of people to come together, share what they know and add to the body of song that will teach and connect people to place, strengthening a sense of responsibility.
I feel gratitude to the four songwriters who committed to the ‘Singing from Country’ pilot, Neil Murray, Kavisha Mazzella, Eva Popov and Carl Panuzzo. I give thanks to the artists who demonstrated their belief in us and assisted our grant application with letters of support, and thanks too, to project manager David Juriansz, for pulling the threads together.
The ‘Singing from Country’ pilot is led by Community Music Victoria in collaboration with VACL (Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages) and Connecting Country, and has received grant funding from the Regional Arts Fund.
I’m looking forward to the next phase of the project as a member of the steering group, and hanging out in the meeting rooms at Ross House with Bruce Watson (chair), James Rigby, Oli Hinton, Paul Paton and of course, Terry.
Jackie Kerin is an author of children’s books and storyteller working in the oral tradition. She is the current president of Storytelling Australia Victoria.