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Album Review: Miiesha - Nyaaringu

29 May 2020 | 10:09 am | Cyclone Wehner

"'Nyaaringu' is thematically, and communally, powerful."

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The Australian music scene has been riveted by a fresh wave of neo-soul artists like Kaiit, Milan Ring and imbi the girl. Now Miiesha Young – a Pitjantjatjara and Torres Strait Islander woman from Woorabinda, Central Queensland – is expressing her own travels, truths and stories.

Presented as "a collection of songs" over an album, Nyaaringu (meaning "what happened" in Pitjantjatjara language) is movingly woven together with the spoken word of the singer-songwriter's late grandmother, Elizabeth Young. As such, Young's revelatory singles – including 2019's jazzy breakout Black Privilege and Drowning (on which she pointedly samples former Prime Minister Tony Abbott solely to refute him) – assume a compelling new context in chronicling First Nations identity and experience. Nyaaringu is thematically, and communally, powerful.

For Nyaaringu, Young has collaborated with Melbourne producer IAMMXO (aka Mohamed Komba) – the sometime Diafrix member also guiding Kaiit. Musically, she diffuses warmth through her resonant vocals and melodicism. Young's heritage is reflected even in the arrangements. She acknowledges her gospel roots on the opener Caged Bird, while the uptempo Twisting Words has a prominent guitar line – a nod to Indigenous rock culture. But, similarly to Hiatus Kaiyote, Young embraces sonic experimentation, too. Hold Strong is carried by its broken beats, and Blood Cells evokes Kelela's electro'n'b. Significantly, Young's cousin Jordan Young plays didgeridoo on the dancehall-influenced Self Care. Poetic and profound, Nyaaringu has to be a contender for 2020's Australian Music Prize.