22 June 2022
Exploring the spirit and soul of Uncle Kutcha Edward’s career, Monique Grbec discovers the musician’s latest record, Circling Time is one of the most vivid and important releases to date.
Two decades after his debut solo album, critically acclaimed Mutti Mutti singer-songwriter Uncle Kutcha Edwards launched his fifth studio album Circling Time at Arts Centre Melbourne. The NAIDOC Person of the Year 2001, Kutcha is a world class, widely respected and galvanising storyteller and activist. His soulful music offers a place for nourishment and healing.
Inducted onto the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll and into the National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame, his work has been recognised with awards including the 2001 Best Male Artist Deadly Award, the 2007 Victorian Indigenous Performing Arts Award, the 2016 Victorian College of the Arts & Melbourne Conservatorium Distinguished Musician Fellowship, the 2016 Melbourne Prize for Music and the 2017 Multicultural Arts Victoria award for Outstanding Contribution to World Music. In 2021 he was awarded an Australian Council Fellowship.
Since 1991 Uncle Kutcha has toured nationally and internationally with First Nations bands including Watbalimba, Blackfire and the legendary Black Arm Band. His iconic collaborators include Archie Roach, Dan Sultan, Alice Skye, Bart Willoughby, Emily Wurramara, Emma Donovan, Paul Kelly, Uncle Jack Charles, and Judith Durham.
The path to success has not been easy. A Stolen Generations Survivor, Uncle Kutcha braves a brutal history of systematic denial and dispossession to reveal truths that inspire his fellow survivors, educate the non-indigenous community and, like a transfusion of kindness, create a safe place for repair.
His first solo album Cooinda, produced by Paul Kelly and Paul Hester, is named after the cottage at the children’s home where Uncle Kutcha was detained after being stolen from his mother. In Aboriginal language Cooinda means ‘a happy place’ but for Kutcha that cottage was a place of great sadness, confusion and loneliness.
In Circling Time, produced by Andy Stewart, Uncle Kutcha returns to the core themes of Cooinda with the clarity and purpose of an Elder who is still learning from his mistakes. His most accomplished album yet, the first track ‘Singing Up Country’ is a glorious invitation to the practice of deep listening. Along with the call of clapsticks, the vibrato of Kutcha’s voice transforms space to Country, a sacred place. For me, as I answer the call to sing up Country, my mind travels to lush, cool greens, with the crunch of leaves beneath my feet. With the tempo of the music, I’m compelled to trek up a hillside track. I inhale fresh clean air and thank our ancestors.
“Always been here, nothing to fear…” As Uncle’s spirit soars, I find myself on the shoreline of a beach I used to live at: imagining the salty air on my skin, smelling it; feeling the sand granules exfoliating the souls of my feet. This was the place of my solitude.
From millennia, and the power that comes with the meditative effects of solitude in Country, Uncle Kutcha guides us through an intrinsically human journey in seven tracks of truth-telling. The deep soulful vibrato of his voice passes on his soaring spirit to share his healing, so we can be uplifted and heal too: “We sing for love, we live for justice, we long for freedom, we dream of peace… When you hear the call, tear down that wall for all the world to see.” This toe tapping album of anthems is a transformative, multidimensional experience.
Article by Monique Grbec