“I think music reflects a sign of the times as a nation, and music is an avenue for people to engage with Aboriginal and First Nations’ cultures.”
This is Rulla Kelly-Mansell, a proud Tulampanga Pakana man, and Marlon Motlop, a proud Larrakia man, who form part of the WOMADelaide x NSS Academy that supports and mentors emerging artists from First Nations and multicultural communities.
From being team mates on the footy field to collaborating to create thought-provoking music, the pair now look to grace the stage alongside some of Australia’s home grown music legends at WOMADelaide 2021.
“This experience has been an opportunity for me to meet artists, learn from them, pick up some new ideas and techniques, but also continue my journey,” Marlon said.
“It’s been an absolute blast to be involved and because of it, it has opened a lot of awesome doors as well,” Rulla added.
Marlon and Rulla, or MRLN x RKM, will open for Vika & Linda and Midnight Oil to an audience of 6,000 at the festival – the duos biggest show to date.
Connection to culture has played a pivotal role for both Marlon and Rulla growing up and continues to influence their music.
“If you look at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, song and dance is a very big part of storytelling and gives you a sense of belonging,” Marlon said. “It tells that story of where you belong in this world. “We put a lot of emotion into our lyrics and hopefully that paints a picture of our lived experience within this country.”
“Aboriginal and First Nation culture is so diverse,” Rulla said. “Look at us for example, Marlon couldn’t be from further north (Darwin) and I couldn’t be from further south (Tasmania), and we’ve met somewhere in the middle. “It’s a really powerful tool that he can showcase his Larrakia culture and I can express my Pakana nation culture, and somehow mix it together for someone who might not know anything about that, so it’s super important.”
The pair have been busy in the recording studio and look forward to releasing some songs in 2021.
“I’m immensely proud to be in a position where we can share those stories and help people connect with us,” Rulla said.
WOMADelaide x NSS Academy
The new WOMADelaide x NSS Academy has identified 10 artists from First Nations and multicultural communities to take part in an extensive year-round program of workshops and activities, culminating in a number of artists performing at WOMADelaide 2021 and 2022.
NSS, the City of Playford’s outstanding youth-focused music venue and industry training hub in Elizabeth in Adelaide’s northern suburbs is partnering with Balya Productions, led by First Nation’s music industry development pioneer Letisha Ackland to deliver the initiative.
WOMADelaide Director Ian Scobie said: “Over many years we have nursed an ambition to help build the future careers of young musicians, not only through experiencing the extraordinary artists who perform at the festival but through a tailor-made development program. "We are thrilled that the Academy will combine professional mentors with NSS’s acclaimed training initiatives, further building WOMADelaide’s connection with local emerging talent and audiences across the community."
Nick O’Connor from The Northern Sound System said: “NSS is passionate about supporting emerging original contemporary musicians in South Australia. "The Academy enables us to deliver a hyper-fertile environment for SA First Nations and multicultural artists to be able to access the information and resources they need to activate their visions. "This is a very exciting initiative for all of us!”
The WOMADelaide x NSS Academy is a WOMADelaide Foundation project receiving assistance from the Government of South Australia, the Federal Government’s Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) fund, with support from the City of Playford and Northern Sound System, in partnership with Balya Productions.
WOMADelaide | 5 to 8 March, 2021
Sunset concerts in King Rodney Park | Adelaide