You’ll find the town of Yarrabah about an hour’s drive south-east of Cairns – an indigenous community of about 2500 people. It was formed in the 1890s, when Anglican missionary Ernest Gribble encouraged the area’s indigenous people to move to the site of the present-day town.
By the early 1900s, Yarrabah had its own indigenous brass band, beginning a rich tradition of instrumental music in the area that thrived until the early 1970s. The Queensland Music Festival hopes to spark a revival with next month’s Yarrabah Band Festival.
The Festival is on Monday July 22, with performances by the newly-formed Yarrabah community band and indigenous school bands from across Cape York Peninsula. Kids aged six and up have been working and playing music with QMF teams at Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy campuses in Coen, Hopevale and Aurukun in preparation for the Festival.
I got to hear two of the school bands in action on our recent Cape York road trip. At Coen, we found the kids rehearsing through their lunch break, and at Aurukun, we were there when the band played for the whole school for the first time. It was a great day for the Aurukun school community.
LISTEN Click on the red arrow to hear the Aurukun band’s first concert performance and meet their musical mentors
We heard Queensland Music Festival project coordinator Emma Kurik and Australian jazz legend John Morrison with reporter Phil Staley. The Yarrabah Band Festival begins at 4.30pm Monday 22 July at Bishop Malcolm Park Yarrabah – it’s a free event. http://www.qmf.org.au/public/public/?id=300
As part of the celebrations, visiting musicians Darren Percival (The Voice), Thelma Plum (Deadly Award Winner) and the Morrison Brothers will take to the stage before an all-in, massed-band finale.
You can watch a video of the Aurukun band at https://open.abc.net.au/openregions/qld-far-north-28qv9td/posts/brass-band-babies-94ez0gc