Kutcha Edwards is a renowned Indigenous Australian artist who has been combining song writing and activism since 1991. As a member of the Stolen Generations, he communicates his own experiences and speaks on behalf of those that have gone before him. His music touches the soul and should be heard by all.
Kutcha has just released the powerful and moving ‘We Sing’ single ahead of his fifth solo album, Circling Time, out early 2021. Featuring nearly 100 voices from across the country in a chorus of song, ‘We Sing’ is a relevant anthem to the past and current political climate and global issues. It is driven by Kutcha’s urgency to provide connection across humanity and give a voice to Aboriginal people in Australia and cultures around the world.
Kutcha gave us his perspective on the music industry and valuable advice in this week’s Savvy Seven. Check out his words of wisdom below.
What inspired you to pursue music as a career?
I never sought music out. I believe it’s pre-destined by my ancestors for my role as a Songman to tell my people’s story. When I’m not here, my spirit will still be here in song, still singing on country, for country, about country and about … my family.
I believe music found me and that music has always been part of me.
After being forcibly taken from my loving parents and put in a children’s home, I can remember people coming every Saturday to take us kids out on excursions. I have vivid memories of those trips. I’d be in the back of a stranger’s car and I’d be listening to music – Judith Durham & The Seekers – as we drove to the Dandenongs. On another trip we were taken to a live taping of ‘Countdown’. I was about 11 and I remember hearing this woman with an incredible voice singing. It was Renee Geyer. How could I have imagined some 25 years later I’d be recording with both these women on the anthem Yil Lull by Joe Geia.
Besides making music, what have you done to get to where you are?
To get to where I am now, you have to know where I came from. Basically I’ve been a community worker since I grew up. I never envisaged I’d be making a career out of music though. Because of the love and influence of my Mum, I was immersed back into my community from the time I left the homes at 13 years old. From then, I understood I had a commitment and a responsibility to my culture, my community and therefore my people.
At 17, I worked at the Lionel Rose Centre in Morwell, the hostel part of the Central Gippsland Aboriginal Co-op. And I have worked for the betterment of the physical, cultural and spiritual health of community ever since – in sport, as a youth and health worker, in schools, universities, TAFEs and prisons.
Along the way, music found me and I found my Songline. As a singer songwriter, I found the opportunity to externalize what was going on within me, within my community and politically. Music enables me to share all my experiences and also those of my family and community.
If you’re a member with us, check out our Artist Development Course for heaps of helpful advice for emerging artists.
What are the benefits of working collaboratively?
Music is a shared language. Different perspectives create new energy, new sounds. Sometimes you can become stuck in your own technique. In collaborating, there’s a two-way flow and a sharing, not only of techniques, but also of energy and spirits. For us blakfellas, we walk in two worlds, so often there’s the need for cultural understanding to share.
What is the most significant challenge you have conquered in your career?
Systemic racism, not only in the industry but in society itself. And I don’t think I’ve conquered it, but I do live in hope.
What will musicians discover from touring and how should they prepare for it?
Ironically, this question is asked in a pandemic. The single, We Sing, has been produced remotely and launched online, and will travel further than I will be able to physically, without a passport or any quarantine.
Previously, I have had the opportunity to tour the world, and many remote places here and overseas. Touring is the cream on the cake. Music has taken me to places many people only dream of, from tin sheds in the middle of seemingly nowhere, to big TV studios in the middle of huge cities. I have crossed paths with extraordinary people, and not just other musicians or industry administrators.
Performing is and should be a two-way conversation … interactive. Before I went to China, I learned a song in Chinese. I’ve learned and sung a song in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, to sing with songman Mahmoud Ahmed. Cultural respect and connection is important.
How should people educate themselves on current industry issues?
I’m an independent artist. The Australian music industry is a tight-held market, and that’s an enormous obstacle to inclusion and diversity. It would be great if the ARIAs reinstated their award for Best Indigenous Release and even added categories such as Best Indigenous Single, Album, Female artist, Male artist, Group etc. This would bring awareness to the incredible talent and diversity within our communities and give the opportunity for mainstream audiences to connect with all the music they might not hear otherwise.
How have you merged your culture with modern technology?
Modern technology gives the opportunity for my great great great great great grandchildren to hear the Songlines of my great great great great great great great grandparents via me in the here and now. My Songline will continue after I am gone.
The new single, We Sing, is a great example of the merging of my Songline via modern technology in a collaboration of more than 70 artists with more than 170 vocal and instrumental channels woven through it.
Listen to it here: