Newslines Radio: Musical legends, Bunna Lawrie
- Nathan Ramsay
- Bunna Lawrie, 2012 NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award winner, SA
PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, an Australian Government program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
LAWRIE: Wherever we go in our concerts we see people dancing, it gives me power and energy because we know we’re giving enjoyment to the hearts and souls of Indigenous people and helping them as well.
PRESENTER: That’s Bunna Lawrie, the Mirning man from the Nullarbor in South Australia, who, as the lead singer of the band Coloured Stone, has long been at the forefront of Australian music.
This week on Newslines Radio we’re talking to one of our country’s most respected musicians about his life, his music and how he is using his fame to help other Indigenous people.
Earlier this year Bunna Lawrie’s influence on Australian music and culture was recognised when he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National NAIDOC Awards in Hobart, an event funded by the Australian Government.
Newslines Radio’s Danika Nayna caught up with Bunna for a chat.
LAWRIE: We played in Jakarta in 1994 for the Austrade Festival in front of 100 000 people on the Saturday night and 90 000 on the Sunday. I see all these people dancing and going crazy. At that point I realised “our music is as good as any”.
And “Black Boy” was in the top ten in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Pacific Islands and at the time Michael Jackson was number one. At that time there were no CDs. There were tapes and things like vinyl, so they got it over there and it made the top ten. And Lo and behold they put Michael Jackson no. 2 and “Black Boy” goes first. So a number one. I’ll never forget that.
NAYNA: Coloured Stone was one of the first Aboriginal bands to really break through.
LAWRIE: No one’s really done what we done.
NAYNA: And do you think now, in modern times, there are a lot of Aboriginal bands getting played in the mainstream, so you’ve seen it come a long way and you’re the leader.
LAWRIE: There’s lots of opportunities now. I tell people “get out there – you want to be a musician, you want to be a footballer. Everything’s there.” The most important thing is that you look after yourself first, keep yourself healthy and fit, eat the right foods, and then you can look after your families and your brothers and sisters but if you’re not healthy and fit you’re not going to be in any position to look after your brother or sister, help them or carry yourself to walk that journey you want to pursue.
My biggest achievement is that I have encouraged and inspired a lot of Indigenous youth, kids, not only youth and kids but men and women, through my music and the workshops we do, teaching them to do the right things and the songs I sing. Songs like “When am I gonna learn is bout when I used to drink and smoke and When am I gonna learn, my life is burning, when am I gonna learn, I’m going to start living today. Songs like “Black Boy”, “the colour of your skin is your pride and joy”. It gives hope to all our people.
There’s a lot of bands up and coming now that listen to me and they say “when I heard that song ‘Black Boy’, that changed my life. I used to sniff petrol, I used to take drugs, I used to be a wild boy but now I’ve got a band.” You hear stories like that, that makes me feel good because I’m teaching them a song about courage, inspiration.”
PRESENTER: That was 2012 NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award winner Bunna Lawrie singing the classic 1984 song ‘Black Boy’.
To find out more about how the Australian Government is working to support up and coming Indigenous musicians looking to become the next Bunna Lawries, check out the links on our website: Indigenous.gov.au.
You can also follow Closing the Gap on Twitter, and friend Indigenous Newslines on Facebook.
I’m Nathan Ramsay, thanks for listening to Newslines Radio.