Opera house series celebrates First Nations generations

Rudi Maxwell |

Michael Hutchings, head of First Nations programming at the Sydney Opera House.
Michael Hutchings, head of First Nations programming at the Sydney Opera House.

A new series at the Sydney Opera House celebrates the ways First Nations people have used music and storytelling to pass knowledge on for thousands of years.

Generations and Dynasties will showcase the diversity of musical talent within three creative Aboriginal families, in conversation with opera house First Nations programming team Michael Hutchings and Jess Beck.

They will invite each family to share stories drawn from their heritage, and discuss the intergenerational exchange of creativity and the resilience of First Nations cultures.

“Music really ties storytelling together and it ties culture together,” Hutchings told AAP.

The Briscoe Sisters.
The Briscoe Sisters will discuss First Nations use of music and storytelling at the Opera House. (HANDOUT/SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE)

Across three evenings the Jarrett father and sons (April 24), Briscoe mothers and daughters (May 1) and Cassar-Daley father/daughter duo (May 9) will celebrate the important role of family and community in First Nations artistry.

Before he started at the opera house, Hutchings worked with the elder generation of all three families.

“This is really a hand-down the songstick, because I’m now also working with their kids, so I thought ‘let’s get them all together to talk about that journey across generations and across music and country’,” he said.

“And also if you look at the families, the younger ones have moved into becoming songwriters themselves.

“So I think it’s a way to move people and it’s a way to keep generations together too.”

The series begins with the Jarrett family, Will Jarrett (Wire MC) and sons Tasman Keith and Sammy J (Kapital J), Gumbaynggirr men who grew up on the Bowraville Mission in northeast NSW and in Sydney.

The Jarret family's MC Wire and boys Tasman Keith and Kapital J.
The Jarret family’s MC Wire and boys Tasman Keith and Kapital J. (HANDOUT/MICHAEL HUTCHINGS)

Hutchings believes Wire MC is a seminal figure in the development of hip-hop in this country, helping to forge a path for First Nations artists with his uncompromising stance on what it means to be an Aboriginal man.

“Protest for him is a part of it, but he always would say that being an Aboriginal man is something we can’t separate from that,” he said.

“That story is always a story about resilience and fighting, whether it’s personal politics, or general politics.”

Wire MC’s sons, Tasman Keith, a rapper and singer-songwriter, and Kapital J, a producer and DJ, are both independent artists.

Country music star Troy Cassar-Daley will be joined by his daughter Jem, a contemporary indie-pop singer-songwriter.

“The first artist I approached was Troy and he jumped,” Hutchings said.

“He and Jem both love to tell a story and they love their families and they love to do things together, even when it’s been really challenging … and that’s a really important message.”

Troy and Jem Cassar-Daley
Troy and Jem Cassar-Daley will be in conversation at the Sydney Opera House. (HANDOUT/SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE)

The Briscoe Sisters, Deline, Naurita and Merindi, from Kuku Yalanji country – the Daintree Region of Far North Queensland – began as a trio, starting as a folk-infused group before breaking out into their own distinctive solo careers as artists, singers and songwriters.

For their night at the opera house in conversation with Jess Beck, they will be joined by the next generation, with Deline’s daughters Merindi and JadeAmali, Naurita’s daughters Kiara and Shennaye, and Merindi’s daughter Felicity appearing on the line-up.

“Generations and Dynasties is an aspirational series, with each event aiming to bring together people of all walks of life to celebrate creativity and culture,” Hutchings said.

“Our line-up of artists for the inaugural series defies genre, and demonstrates the rise of contemporary First Nations music to the force that we see reflected in the industry today.

“We are incredibly proud to honour these creative trailblazing families and give space to thoughtful and challenging conversations alongside joyful ones, in a life-affirming journey through storytelling and song.”

Live performances will be interspersed throughout the evenings, and end with the opportunity for audiences to engage in a brief Q&A.