Migrant students at a Perth secondary school have taken part in a music video that delivers a strong message about how they are finding their feet in a new country and enriching Australian society with their individual stories.
Coinciding with Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March, Same Drum is a multilingual rap song that 38 students from Aranmore Catholic College made under the direction of Perth filmmaker Poppy van Oorde-Grainger.
It is sung in four languages – Swahili, Dinka, Kinyarwanda and English – and is performed by eight rappers, singers and percussionists from the school. In the process of making it, the students were led in a series of mentor workshops by Optamus (aka Scott Griffiths) from the Perth-based hip-hop group Downsyde, plus other outside professionals.
The result is an upbeat celebration of multiculturalism that impresses in its high production values.
“The aim of the project was to empower young people and increase diversity on screen,” explains van Oorde-Grainger. “The project was externally evaluated by the research and evaluation team at DADAA Ltd (a Fremantle-based registered provider of supports under the National Disability Insurance Scheme) who showed that it had increased the participants’ sense of belonging and self-esteem and facilitated their ongoing participation in arts and in the wider community.”
Aranmore Catholic College, in the north-west suburb of Leederville, is a co-educational Year 7-12 school with 700 students from some 50 different ethnicities. It has a New Arrivals Learning Centre and an Intensive English Centre on campus that caters for the language needs of students who arrive from refugee and migrant backgrounds.
Declan Tanham, the school’s principal, says Same Drum was important because “It gives the students an opportunity to showcase their talents and tell their stories about from where they’ve come, why their culture is important to them and the bond that exists between them, across cultures.”
“There’s sometimes a negative perception of people that come from other countries, particularly given the current political climate that exists in this country at the moment. We are a welcoming country in one way, but sometimes we can be a little bit resistant to particular peoples and particular cultures that settle in this country. It’s great to be able to say to the wider community that these are fantastic kids, they love doing the same things as the local people and their interests and aspirations are similar to those of other people in Australia. It’s breaking down boundaries.”
One of the rappers in Same Drum, 17 year-old Frank Mucho, attests to that. “We are all living in different cultures, so we decided to make a song about that,” he says. “Sometimes some people look down on others that don’t speak English but this project gives us kids an opportunity to explore our ideas and talents and break those stereotypes.”
Same Drum’s message is one of acceptance, adds one of its singers, Juk Yuang: “I just hope people will accept each other as one, cos we’re all the same, it doesn’t matter where you come from, your culture, who you are, we’re basically human beings.”
SBS and ABC networks have shown the music video, and it was accepted into the Refugee Film Festival in Sydney and Melbourne. It is viewable on YouTube and Vimeo, and a behind-the-scenes documentary describing how it was made can be found here. See more of the young people’s projects here.