The making of FAMILI
An artist statement by Ripley Kavara
FAMILI began as a calling to explore queer Pasifika sounds. I was keen to express our cultural identity, our music, our traditional instrumentation, our expression, our language, our gender and sexuality, through contemporary sounds.
The aural and visual narratives traverse our diasporic experiences in so-called Australia; we are black and brown settlers navigating this space in solidarity with First Nations communities, highlighting similar experiences of colonisation and the different effects that it has had on our communities. Our connection to culture is fragmented and to some extent lost because we are here, away from our lands and waters.
FAMILI reflects who we are as a people. It is contemporary electronic music, yet we are drawing on instruments traditionally used in our music like conch shells, log drums (garamut, pate), bamboo shakers, split canes, flutes, and an incredible range of percussive and melodic instruments.
We use song structures and harmonies common to Pasifika music where there’s a lot of spiritual collective singing, and it’s different from what you’d hear in a Western religious context. There’s something sacred about people singing together, to each other, and that’s something present across most cultures.
In the first EP the artists were responding to the 4 classical elements: The element of Earth is about personal homecoming, Papua New Guinea, West Papua and the struggles my people face. We need earth to ground us, to grow our food, to sustain us.
We need fire to cook and rebirth and transform things. Fire – in our ‘Mana’ track – is about empowerment, talking back, acknowledging where we came from.
Air is about the communal breath, winds of change, challenging and talking back to any kind of oppressive system, whether it’s white supremacy or conservative cultures elders that don’t recognise or support our queer and trans identities.
Water is about the threat the Pacific Islands face to their lands through the rising sea levels. The track ‘Neck Deep’ acknowledges the consequences – and our collective grief.
– Ripley Kavara
About Ripley Kavara
Ripley Kavara is a transdisciplinary practitioner with a deep grounding in musical forms destined to be liberatory. He believes in the power of music as a conduit for black queer spirituality and dedicates his time to coaxing the spirits to dance. Born in Papua New Guinea and living in so-called Melbourne, he embodies an artistic practice that is generative, community based and attuned to a sense of place where he creates on Wurundjeri Country. He has worked extensively for the past six years as a musician, producer, DJ, educator, event organiser, youth worker, curator and project lead. He works to create spaces for emerging underground performers and artists, focusing on elevating underrepresented voices in music and arts.He has supported notable acts including GAIKA, Kojey Radical, Elysia Crampton, Klein, at events such as Dark Mofo and Liquid Architecture. Kavara’s work as an artist has been exhibited in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
We Take Back Our Mother Tongues – FAMILI
Fri 6 & Sat 7 May, 2022, 7.30pm
GA $20 / BLAKTIX $10
Image: Gianna Rizzo