New Songwriting And Digital Production Course For Indigenous Australians In SA

Musician Reggie Black Image credit: Duncan Glen, ABC News
Graham Strahle
| July 24, 2019

The Aboriginal Sobriety Group Indigenous Corporation (ASGIC) in South Australia has a new digital music production and songwriting program that is underway in Berri in the state’s Riverland region. Consisting of a weekly series of workshops that began in May, it is designed to develop the talents and abilities of members of the Aboriginal community in songwriting and digital audio workstation skills. It places an emphasis on creating original compositions, and production methods such as sampling and editing are taught in well-equipped studio setting. Participants are able to work in their area of choice across traditional and contemporary styles.

The aim of the workshops is on acquiring skills that can be transferred to other areas of life, with goal setting and project completion being encouraged. The program also seeks to reinforce cultural identity through the use of traditional instruments such as the yidaki (didgeridoo) and whichever other instruments the participants wish to bring along.

One of the teachers is Grayson Rotumah, lecturer at the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM). He told ABC News that the digital music production and songwriting course “is about ceremony, storytelling, preserving language and entertainment”. Those who have taken part so far have spoken about how the experience is bringing people together, helping with mental health issues, and combatting the social stigma surrounding substance abuse.

See and hear snippets of their work here. The course maintains a Facebook site full of inspirational and positive messages – “It’s great to watch a family encouraging each other to drop all the inhibitions that can come with learning a new skill & supporting each other to reach a common goal!”, reads one.

The ASGIC is a non-profit organisation based in Berri that helps individuals and families in the Aboriginal community deal with substance abuse issues, and it provides a range of services including temporary accommodation, crisis care and advocacy. “ASGIC values Aboriginal culture, customs, tradition and spirituality. We respect our clients, colleagues, partners and the community. We act with integrity, honesty and accountability and implement quality service provision to ensure positive outcomes for our clients,” says its website.

CASM’s contribution to the Aboriginal Sobriety Group Indigenous Corporation and to the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous Australians more widely goes back many years. Dorothy Leila Rankine (1932­1993), an Aboriginal musician and community worker who along with ethnomusicologist Catherine Ellis founded that unit in 1972, was involved in ASGIC along with many other support and advocacy organisations during her lifetime.

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