Yanaya helps young Aboriginal artists rediscover their traditional language through songlines

CULTURE THROUGH SONG: Yanaya mentor Gamirra Illume is a Yolngu woman from north-east Arnhem Land and works with Aboriginal musicians.
CULTURE THROUGH SONG: Yanaya mentor Gamirra Illume is a Yolngu woman from north-east Arnhem Land and works with Aboriginal musicians.

ABORIGINAL artists are bringing their ancestral history to life to the beat of modern music.

Yanaya is a collaborative project developed by Gomeroi artist David Leha to rediscover traditional language through song.

Artist Leetona Pitt is using her piece Rich Life to deal with the loss of her grandparents

“My process was hard, when I write music I write from my experiences, my pain,” Ms Pitt said.

“When my grandparents were alive it was all sunshine, happy days, laughing.

“Now that they’ve both passed away there’s a sorrow, a sadness, an anger – there’s all these emotions and I’m trying to reach out to my family to get them to see the bigger picture.

“I’m hoping it’s a way of them healing instead of still holding on to the pain.”

Yanaya brings together 14 First Nation musicians and singers.

Artists from Tamworth, Armidale and Moree have created 11 original works in Gomeroi, Anaiwan and English.

The songs tell stories of ancestral history, connection to culture and country – to hip hop, soul and country sounds.

Each artists tells the story behind their song, and shares some of their traditional language.

Leetona Pitt said she has struggled to figure hers out, being from NSW where connections to culture have historically been severed by colonisation.

“It’s really hard,” Ms Pitt said.

“Especially when it’s lost, my uncle translated something for me but I still have to listen to it to understand it because I don’t want to pronounce it wrong.

“This is a big thing, this is connecting you to your ancestors, your previous footsteps – I want to get it perfect.”

Yanaya director David Leha’s personal journey to rediscover his Gomeroi language inspired him to develop the idea for the project.

“We want our artists who incorporate their language into the work to first speak it and share it with the wider community,” Mr Leha said.

Yanaya will perform at Black Gully Music Festival.

This story Songlines bring ancestral history close to home | photos, video first appeared on The Armidale Express.