Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Warrangu River Story by DOBBY

Dobby performing Warrangu River Story,
at the Art Gallery of NSW, 13 June 2022.
Photo by Tom Worthington CC BY
Warrangu River Story by the performer Dobby, on Sunday night was a remarkable event. We lined up outside the Art Gallery of NSW not quite knowing what to expect. 

This was a very different venue to the last performance I attended by the rapper, at the Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree Festival, in far western NSW in 2019. That was in a dry sand circle, during a drought, with a fire, and stars overhead. This performance was very different: in the Entrance Court of an art gallery with uniformed staff, and Champaign. A small stage had been built half way down the hall, with indigenous artworks about the western rivers on the wall behind ("Down river" by Uncle Badger Bates). The wall had been treated with florescent paint, so that an animated pattern moved along the rivers depicted. There was a small ensemble. 

There was less rap music than I was expecting, not as loud or as raw. This was reminiscent of David Fanshawe's African Sanctus, blending traditions of indigenous, western classical, and rapping. Recordings of elders, and bird song, were incorporated. 

The audience, like one at a classical concert, was very polite and passive, sitting still and applauding at the right places. The music deserved more active participation from the audience. But I noticed one young teenager in the front row, who was vibrating with excitement, and resisting a strong urge to get up and dance. Perhaps more dance could be incorporated into the work.

At the previous performance by Dobby, one act was cancelled, so he improvised rapping with members of the audience. This showed a natural talent for interacting with people, which I suggest could be incorporated into further performces.

Warrangu River Story could become a very popular multimedia work on streaming services, as well as for live performance. I suggest it could be pitched to Netflix as like "Hannah Gadsby's Nanette".