BLACK MUSIC MATTERS

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My Island Home (N Murray) 1995 and Sunshine On A Rainy Day (Z Pollock/M Glover) – Christine Anu 2000

My Island Home was written by Warumpi Band front man Neil Murray and recorded in 1986, the inspiration for the song was the yearning that Murray felt when he had to leave his friends in Galiwinku in Arnhem Land and return to Melbourne and Sydney in mid-winter to promote his band and play the pub circuits there. Warumpi Band below L -R Gordon Butcher, Neil Murray, Sammy Butcher, Denis Minor, George Rrurrambu (dec.)

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He missed the camaraderie of friends, the warmth of the sun, and the plentiful bush tucker he shared with his mates. Whilst travelling back he composed this song in his head and committed the words to chords and notation upon his arrival, the song became part of the Warumpi Band’s second album Go Bush.

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Christine Anu (above) was born in Cairns to a Torres Strait islander mother, she was a talented young dancer and upon finishing at Rockhampton High School she was offered a place at the NAISDA Dance College in Sydney and she relocated there in the early 1990’s. Although college students were forbidden from accepting professional engagements, the stage struck Anu was desperate to sing and be part of live performances.

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Neil Murray who was pursuing a solo career with a backing band known as the Rainmakers quickly recognized the talent and natural stage charisma that Christine possessed, she sang backup for the band throughout 1992-93 and her signature tune became My Island Home.

Parole Records wanted to record the dazzling young indigenous singer, but she had no tapes of her previous performances, so Murray suggested she record My Island Home, an original song recorded by Murray’s Warumpi Band almost a decade before.

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The song would become part of Anu’s debut album Stylin’ Up and the first single lifted from it, lyrically it differs slightly from Murray’s original recording, where Murray was longing to return to his Galiwinku tribal home, Anu was homesick for her Mabuiag Island home in the Torres Strait.

Anu also sings the song from a more feminine point of view, and musically the two songs were from different eras. Murray had recorded a more traditionally sparse version of the song, acoustic guitars, clap sticks, bass, keyboard and drums, while Anu had teamed up with Melbourne producer David Bridie (below, ex-Not Drowning Waving and ex-My Friend the Chocolate Cake) who was recognized as one of the world’s foremost producers of Melanesian artists and able to impart a contemporary pop sensibility to such potentially culturally sensitive material as My Island Home.

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The song opens with an actual recording of water lapping the sides of a tinny fishing boat at waterfalls on the Prince of Wales Island, synthesizer-infused guitars, keyboard, and drums carry the song forward, all the while Anu’s plaintive vocals engage and envelop the listener in an affecting and intoxicating reverie, she won the ARIA Award for Best Female Recording Artist in 1995.

Stephen Williams is the Aboriginal elder who appears in this video with Christine Anu.

The promo clip underscores the strong connection that indigenous people have with their homeland, an Aboriginal man is sweeping the city streets, he is a stranger in an alien landscape, he begins his long journey back home, discarding his hi-vis jacket and city clothes and running free through the bush to his island home. He is a striking individual, full beard, a lithe, sinewy body, shots of Anu singing the sing are intercut, she is luminous, proud and at one with her native home, the metaphors were simple and sincere.  

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The song became an indigenous anthem, following Archie Roach’s Took The Children Away, and  Yothu Yindi’s Treaty, both released in the early 1990’s, Anu sang this song at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, it only charted #58 when first released, but the album Stylin’ Up rose to #21 and occupied the charts for 39 weeks, and APRA rightly included this song on the list of Australia’s Best 30 Songs from the period 1926-2001.

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Christine Anu had released several hit albums since her debut in 1993 and all reflected the trademark infectious mix of urban dance grooves, traditional islander stories and funky riffs, and The Come My Way album in 2000 continued this theme as well.

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The track lifted from the album, was the uplifting Sunshine on A Rainy Day, it was perfectly -timed to be a part of the joyous and celebratory mood that pervaded the country with the Sydney 2000 Olympics, it charted #26, and was the last song Anu would take into the top forty in that decade. The song was written by Brits Martin Glover (aka Youth) and Zoe Pollock and released by Pollock in 1990, but it failed to take off and stalled at #53 on the UK charts. Youth remixed the song in 1991 and this time Zoe Pollock took the song to a #4 UK hit, Anu’s cover captured the percussive, mid-tempo appeal of the original; syncopated hip-hop-derived beats support acoustic strumming, subtle guitar chords and the sunny, hippie-inspired lyrics. “Sunshine on a rainy day/Makes my soul, makes my soul/Trip trip, trip, away”

The song builds through a simply constructed and wistful intro to a rousing climax that Christine nails perfectly, it was also covered by supermodel Naomi Campbell, and former Spice Girl Emma Bunton, but the original hit version by Zoe (Pollock) had an engaging Toni Braxton ambience to it which resonated globally. Christine’s promo clip focused on urban scenes – cars, factories, street scenes – when countryside, beaches, even Anu’s island home, would have been more appropriate, that said, Christine Anu looked luminous, confident, sexy, and was clearly a role model for Jessica Mauboy, a decade later.

Christine has balanced her recording career with movie roles (Moulin Rouge, The Matrix), on the stage (the musical Rent), with raising her two children and mentoring other Aboriginal artists, throughout her career, she married Simon Deutrom in 2010 but they were divorced in 2016, her two children were from previous relationships, one with actor Rodger Corser and the other with an unidentified indigenous man, Christine, Simon and her two children below.

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