There was no Welcome to Country at this particular arts event. No need, really. The production was a kind of welcome to country in itself. More to the point, a welcome to various cultures from various countries around the globe.
Djuki Mala is a troupe of dancers who hail from Elcho Island off the north-eastern corner of the Northern Territory that pay tribute to various international dance styles, interspersing these with a Yolngu style of dance that harks back to 40,000 years.
Their name translates to ‘chooky mob’ and you sense the guys’ love of humour throughout most of their show.
The production kicks off with traditional Yolngu dance to the sounds of light corroboree, but by song two, the troupe have dived into an amazing rendition of Zorba the Greek, the beats per minute getting faster and faster. You might have seen them on YouTube with a video of the guys doing Zorba having gone viral (over 2.7 million views).
The music cross-pollination doesn’t end there, with the Djuki crew moving through all manner of genre from Hollywood musical (Singing In The Rain) to Bollywood, hip-hop to disco, each and every number received with rapturous applause.
Between the songs, all of which are expertly lip-synched to, are stories from family and friends projected onto a big screen, with most of Djuki’s colleagues agreeing they love seeing the guys marrying traditional Aboriginal culture with pop culture.
There aren’t very many Fringe shows that get a standing ovation from the entire house, and Djuki Mala got two on the particular night I went to see them.
These guys are doing something we haven’t seen before. The melding of musical genres we’ve seen, yes. The lip-syncing to familiar songs we’ve seen, yes. But the taking of Indigenous Australian culture and tying it beautifully into an international tapestry of song and dance is totally new and utterly amazing to see and hear.
I could have done with another half hour on top of the 65-minute show. In fact, I wished their encore wasn’t laced so much with ’90s club anthems and gestures because I really would have enjoyed witnessing more traditional Yolngu dance moves. Antonino Tati
Djuki Mala perform until Tuesday 14th February in the Salon Perdu, Pleasure Garden, Northbridge, Perth. Tickets are available through www.fringeworld.com.au.
Photograph by Sean Young.