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Why Handpicking First Nations Peoples Talent For GTM Was Important To DRMNGNOW

3 May 2019 | 5:37 pm | DRMNGNOW

In the lead-up to the Bendigo leg of Groovin The Moo, we asked Neil Morris, aka DRMNGNOW, to give us an insight about the acts he chose for the festival's new 'Handpicked' section.


My name is Neil Morris and I perform under the name DRMNGNOW. I am a Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung man.

To have an opportunity to curate part of Groovin The Moo Bendigo this year is very special to me as a descendant of the Dja Dja Wurrung Peoples whose land this event is on. I believe it is crucial for First Peoples of a land to be enabled curatorial opportunities and should be a matter of priority. The fact that Groovin The Moo has given honour to that, not just for cultural contribution but also programming, is an important act that must be noted.


As a part of my curation, I wanted to ensure I presented a range of artists who I see as having important roles to play in this land heading into the future. The face of music is changing in this land. More First Nations Peoples are on stages than ever, delivering narratives that more and more people are resonating with. It's so amazing, as it makes one think back to pre-colonisation, where not only was it the norm for Indigenous Peoples to be delivering song, it was the sole song on this land. We are not at the point where Indigenous music has been reintegrated to an extent that can match that, but we are taking steps to get to some kind of respectful positioning of First Peoples delivering song in country, reinvigorating ancient lores along the way.

More Peoples of Colour are blessing us with their talents at the moment also, as a unified force with First Nations Peoples of this land. There is something that is magically pulsing forward, which I have been blessed to be a part of solidly for the past five years as an artist in Naarm/Birraranga (Melbourne). A part of the growth along the way with artists such as Pataphysics, Joelistics, Sampa The Great, REMI, N'fa Jones, Cazeaux OSLO, P-UniQue, Krown, Adrian Eagle - the list runs deep - not to mention so many incredible First Peoples such as Kaiit, Alice Skye, Philly, Kalyani, Paul Gorrie, Kee'ahn, Mojo Juju and River Boy.

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What has been an undercurrent of this country for 231 years is finally being embraced, as the colonial shackles that have forced the silence of First Peoples are loosened. This is driven by a mutual sense of oppressive experiences as Peoples of Colour, who, through talent and vitality of presence alone, have been knocking on the door of the music industry for a respectful and just platform. And now is the time for that to be manifesting. It's such a beautiful thing. We truly do have a special opportunity in the now and foreseeable future for First Nations Peoples and Peoples of Colour to build a collective movement that can stand out on a global scale.

In terms of selecting my line-up, firstly it was crucial to me to ensure that there was locally based First Peoples talent.

Soju Gang

The first name that came to mind was Yorta Yorta/Gunai artist Soju Gang. As an emerging Indigenous DJ that is a woman, she is reclaiming space that, as a woman in the music industry, has seldom existed beforehand, but to add to that being an Indigenous woman, we are talking the charting of new territories. She fills this role with an exuberant class and grace, and has taste for days. To add to this, she is an inspiring young thinker and interdisciplinary creator. I have no doubt that as time passes she will leave a long-lasting mark on the music industry of this land. She is a force that I take great inspiration from! To have her on DJ duties for this curation is a true blessing. I'm so lucky to be in a position that another sister of this part of land and another a Yorta Yorta person can be a part of this experience; literally being the very pulse behind this whole curation. That is crucial, and I could not be more grateful to be in the hands of the sacred magic of Indigenous Matriarchy for this hour at GTM!

The next local Indigenous talent I selected was Wathaurung country-based Yorta Yorta/Wemba Wemba MC Ridzy Ray. I have incredible admiration for the work ethic and graciousness of this brother. I can recall when we first met. He had this gracious, endearing charm that stuck with me and in that moment I knew we would do things together in the future. There was a shine that spoke volumes of his dreams and drive. The kind of energy I am fuelled by. He is a passionate young brother with so much love for his Peoples. He just wants to grow and learn as much as possible and has put in a lot of time to be ready to start sharing his craft. He is a humble brother and has heartfelt lyrics and stories that a lot of young peoples could relate to, be that First Nations mob or otherwise. He has an absolutely bright future and I'm extremely excited for his tracks to be in the eardrums of everyone!

Rebecca Hatch

The next artist I thought of was Rebecca Hatch, a Kamilaroi sister. I've been in adoration of her talent since first hearing her music a couple of years ago and I was privileged to have Rebecca open for me when I toured Eora lands (Sydney) last year. As a performer, she is one of those artists that is as pitch-perfect as a final recording, a sublime talent who could truly end up anywhere. It's so inspiring knowing a young talent like this, who possesses such poise and maturity in the way she approaches her music. She is a savvy businesswoman already and as an independent artist myself, I get inspired by the hustle and smarts of a young artist like Rebecca that knows her worth and makes her growth priority number one. As a young Indigenous sister on the rise, I want to do whatever I can in my power to expose more audiences to her work that may not have had that chance just yet. Undoubtedly she will kill her performance with style at GTM Bendigo and it's so exciting that she will be also playing Maitland. Hopefully next year or very soon we may see her on the whole tour of GTM or otherwise touring the country. Her time cannot be far away at all. We are truly blessed to have an emerging talent like Rebecca in this country - a one-of-a-kind talent.

Daniel Elia

The last artist I selected was brother Daniel Elia. I wanted to take the opportunity with this selection to pick an artist that represented a noble example of how a non-Indigenous artist can walk and grow on this land. Since day dot, my connection with Daniel was driven by his will to want to do and understand as best he could about how to be on this land respectfully. It's not every day someone reaches out on that basis. I was completely humbled by this brother's energy and respect. It comes through clearly and unapologetically in his work in tracks like Promised Land, showing solidarity with First Peoples of this land with the line, "This was never your land/You stole it from Aboriginals." He is also an electrifying performer. When he raps, you listen. You have no choice. A storyteller with heart, on a deep quest with his work. One of the most humble, inspiring and talented people I know. I feel like it's only a matter of time before Daniel is in eardrums of the masses.