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Review: Bungul Review at the Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall

Review by Benjamin Lamb

Hamer Hall has been home to a high assortment of events over the years, everything from rock shows to comedy to performances from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The latter happens more than the others, with a older demographic often being a staple. Tonight’s performance of Bungul brought a wide range of people, all keen to see the Yolngu songmen and dancers in action.

The performance featured music from deceased Aboriginal performer Gurrumul, recreating music from his popular record Djarimirri (Child of The Rainbow). Backed up by the MSO, a collection of Aboriginal dancers and vocalists brought the music to life and gave it a new dimension. The show featured songs like ‘Wak’, ‘Djarmirri’, and ‘Gopuru’, each full of emotion from Dr G’s vocalists alongside the vocalists within the Yolngu songmen.

Immediately as soon as the first note was played, a special energy was in the air, we were all transported into the world of Dr G. The large Hamer Hall stage brought the MSO to the background and a large dancing space to the foreground, which was immersed with sand. Each song saw the group of Aboriginal dancers use this space and give a new life to the music we were hearing.

The MSO perfectly encapsulated what makes Gurrumul’s music so special, the sounds of the

country, effortlessly brought to life from minute details in the orchestration. There were three

elements to the stage, with a screen showcasing a variety of elements as well.

The screen began with showing the dancers at the front of the stage, as often they would only

work on the ground, and couldn’t be seen by people at the back of the theatre, this also was great when there was need to see the dancers from a different point of view . This was done

nice and minimalistic, and did not interfere with moments where you needed to pay attention to

the music.

When the screen wasn’t showcasing the work of the Yolngu songmen, it was showing images

from the environments that inspired a great deal of Gurrumul’s work, and was perfect when the

track was in a quieter moment and didn’t need accompaniment from dancers.

The performance quickly travelled through the record, which was filled with happy moments and sad moments, the crossover between the songmen and orchestra working well together. Gurrumul’s voice was heard throughout the hour-long performance, which was filled with an immense amount of emotion, and rally helped carry a lot of the songs we were hearing.

With such a strong source material, its hard to find a specific highlight throughout the 90 minute show, every moment and section was heavily thought out and perfect, there’s not too many shows out there like this anymore.

It’s exciting to see that a strong crowd responded so positively to music that often doesn’t get front and centre, it’s hope for the future. As we all made our way out of the Hamer Hall theatre, we all knew we saw something very special.

Image Supplied


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