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March 5, 2021

Artists for Peace. An Interview with Elena B Williams

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Local musician Elena B Williams has created the Rainbow Lightning 2-day peace concert at the Brunswick Picture House. The best peace acts touring the world are coming to town and include Ray Smith, Kerryn Schofield, Tasha Zappala, Andrea Kirwin and Benji & The Saltwater Sound System. $3 from every ticket goes to kids at risk to support nature, art and music projects.Elena B Williams spoke with The Echo.

What is the concept for Rainbow Lightning?

The concept for the concert started at Palm Creek Folk Festival in Townsville in 2017. At festivals artists get to know each other and jam together and it’s always a place to come up with new touring shows together. I have had this idea for many years and was waiting for the right artists to put this show together. We are all artists who like to support community and bring something to each town we tour in – not just a show but to support communities with local projects that could use some support and attention. In our community we have high rates of domestic violence and issues with children suffering from trauma. So we are raising awareness of these issues and supporting kids in domestic violence situations by providing free fun days to learn how to surf, play music and create artwork. This will also give families time away from the kids to work out personal issues and get the support needed to heal.

As an artist what inspires you?

What inspires me most is nature and being on the land. It’s what is real for me and connects me to myself and those around me. Not having to say much says more. As the old Samoan saying goes: ‘We all talk too much; better to walk, see and listen’.

Do you think we need our musicians to step up more often with a call to humanity? Why is music such a powerful place for this?

I don’t think I can say musicians need to answer a call of humanity. Art is just an expression and seems to always reflect what is happening in the world. It is what it is. I think many artists I work with write about history, culture and love, and inspire people to open to understanding different points of view. If music makes us feel something that’s enough for me.

Who are the artists who have inspired you?

Tracey Chapman and Nina Simone. It’s the power of storytelling and the deep connection to life they can share with music that I love so much. Also the fact that Tracey Chapman is not a big fan of social media – something that many artists are over in the modern world. I’m a fan of the old-fashioned grapevine, not hours of screen time.

Tell me about the bill. What are the highlights? What should we expect for Rainbow Lightning?

Highlights on the bill – well that’s everyone. All the artists we have chosen have a strong connection to the audience when performing, and have wonderful storytelling skills. We wanted a show that makes you feel warm and happy to be alive. A show that shares culture and brings us together.

Everyone on the bill is a standout performer; I have seen them all perform at festivals around Australia.

Andrea Kirwin brings deep soul from Fiji; Benny Fowler spent much time in the Pacific and you can hear that in his sound; Ray Smith is an elder from Cumbria, and the tales he tells about his family are incredibly powerful. Tasha Zappala brings an old-school sound that has hints of Billie Holiday. Joe Man Murphy, an Irish storyteller who is also a guitar- and ukulele-playing legend. Elysia Seraphine from New Zealand I found playing at a cafe and singing a Joni Mitchell song that sounded like her own – a must-see artist who inspired me.

Plus many more acts over a two-show event. What can I say? Every performer is truly magical and a real gift to the stage.

Tix and program info at brunswickpicturehouse.com

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