Meet Arian Pearson. He plays in East Journey, a NE Arnhem Land rock band who also perform as a dance troupe.
These guys still live traditional lives in as much as they regularly hunt for dinner, conduct ceremony and rituals and their connection to culture and community remains strong and key to their identify and everyday world. Yet they also live successfully in the modern world, hence my frequent reference to them as ‘modern ancient men’.
Pearson shared the story of how the band came to be.
‘A few of us live in town; one of us is a ranger, another one works in health. I was already in a band, and my brother toured with Yothu Yindi (Rrawun Maymuru), and after they finished we started playing.
We all idealised them for the way that they blended our culture into the modern music. We wanted to keep the story going.
‘I used to watch my brother on TV; he’d be touring around the world. He used to back up and play the didge and do backup singing, and when I grew up I picked up the guitar and I went to boarding school; I didn’t see my family when I was growing up. When I came back I wanted to work in the community; I had been playing the guitar and I said to my brother ‘Let’s make a band’. At the time I had my own reggae band for muck-around; my brother was already a singer/songwriter and he had done really well in one of his songs with Gurrumul which won the ARIA – that song is called Bayini, it’s a story from our homeland, where he talks about a spirit woman. A long time ago there was trade, even before Captain Cook came here – there was a trade between people from North Sulewesi – and anyway there was a young lady whose name was Bayini; she was a slave on the ship and she used to do the cooking and cleaning. They had a friendly trade going for these sea slugs that were a delicacy overseas, but one day they got drunk and were playing cards, more than 400 years ago, and they threw her overboard and tied her around the anchor and her spirit came out onto the land and her spirit is still there today and watches over my family.’
Pearson believes music is a powerful way to share the stories of kinship and place.
‘A lot of the creation stories we sing in the music as well. There is a new album and we sing about my mother’s clan that sing the brolga – it speaks about the brolgas as they are a vessel for us to the heavenly place – which takes us to the heavens, so we dance that and we sing it. It talks about the cycle of life and how when you see the brolga you can see their circling of life. A lot of our songs are metaphoric; they are traditional so we tend to translate them metaphorically in our music, so it’s poetry in the modern – but people listen to it how they want to listen to it.
‘A lot of our music talks about the land and country and we tend to try to get those messages across. It’s very similar in ways; we tend to make music that people enjoy, not just sending a message, but also music that people can relate to. But our music isn’t about love and break-ups. It’s about what we believe in.’
Pearson believes that things are moving forward for Indigenous Australia, and not just in the arts.
‘There are lots of changes happening in Australia; there is something in the air, that’s how I feel. I feel there is a change coming, and we want to be part of that change.’
Pearson believes music is a powerful place for change and understanding.
‘In music,’ he says, ‘there is no discrimination, there shouldn’t be. Music is a universal language – everyone can listen.’
East Journey play Bluesfest and they also play Boomerang Fundraiser at Coorabell Hall this Friday. Three Blue Ducks (from The Farm) and Harvest Cafe are putting on an exclusive feast with Indigenous chef Clayton Donovan. Numbers strictly limited. To book visit https://events.bizzabo.com/boomerang
For information about programming and tickets to Bluesfest (which includes Boomerang Indigenous music and arts festival) go to