Reaching the high notes: singing to carry on the legacy
Budjerah Slabb is a triple threat: singer, songwriter and a leader of change – we hear he is not bad on the surfboard too. We wanted to find out what makes Budjerah’s musical tempo tick. So we asked him some questions.
So tell us a little about yourself, who is Budjerah? What is your story of where you began and where you are now?
I’m Budjerah Slabb. I am 17-years-old and have lived in Fingal Head NSW, Bundjalung country all my life. My dad’s family come from here, and my mum’s family are from a little country town called Brewarrina, which is located in western NSW.
Can you talk us through why you began playing music and what music means to you?
I have always loved singing. Both of my parents families are musical, my uncles sing, my dad is a drummer and my mum sings too. So music was always going to be a huge part of my life. My parents were in the worship band at church and they used to take me to practice and performances in different communities with them for ministry.
My parents said that I could sing better growing up than I could talk. I would watch cartoons just for the opening song. When I was 11-years-old, I had the opportunity to sing at my Year 6 graduation and it kinda just went from there. I love the feeling I get when I sing and love that through my music, I can connect with other people.
What would be the title of your debut album?
I have actually thought about this a lot. I think I would self-title it, BUDJERAH, because I want people to see me without a filter; just me.
What do you think the world will look like in 2050?
How cool would it be if we were all in Iron Man suits, cruising around with jet packs!!! But seriously, I do hope that our environment gets better. That we look after it enough so that our children and our children’s children live in a better world.
How do you deal with life when it is hard?
I rely heavily on my family. My parents keep me grounded and always tell it like it is. I also think it’s important to have Elders to talk to and to surround yourself with positive people. Music is an outlet as well. If I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, I pick up my guitar and sing. Also the ocean, I get my surfboard and paddle out. I’m not a great surfer but just being out there seems to calm me. The saltwater is good for the soul.
You sing in Language sometimes. Why do you choose to sing in Language?
I love my culture. I am very blessed to have a few people around me who still know our language and teach me. I love to incorporate my culture into my music, it’s who I am and I am really proud of that.
What do you hope people take-away from listening to your music?
I just hope that I can connect with people. I really hope that my music makes people think about things they normally wouldn’t. I want my music to start conversations about certain topics, bigger issues within our communities as well as world wide issues.
Who have you been influenced by? How have they helped shaped you as a person growing up?
My parents. They’ve taught me respect, to show kindness towards others and perseverance. I am who I am because I have been grounded in my culture, my family life and my christianity and I am really grateful for that.
Musically, I’ve been influenced by Guy Sebastian, his music really influences my own and Lauren Hill, she talks about similar issues and she’s just incredible.
You wrote the song “Let’s stand,” about the land rights movement. Can you please explain why do feel it is important to tell these stories?
Our Elders have fought so hard to protect our land and our culture and I think it’s really important that we as a generation, continue to be a voice and carry on the legacy, and continue to fight for our people and our rights as First Nations people. I wrote this song with my Dad to honour our Elders and make people aware of the struggles that they have gone through for the generations to come.
What do you want to achieve through your music?
I want to draw attention to the issues we are facing in our world today. Whether it be Aboriginal issues, environmental issues; they need to be made known and I want to be a voice for that. I also want to show other young people that with hard work and sacrifice, anything is possible.
What’s the greatest piece of wisdom that has been passed onto you?
Well, I guess an Instagram post is passed on, right? I saw a post by Stevie Mackey (a vocal coach) that said: “As an artist you’ll always make mistakes! Get to know your imperfections so you can be a more fearless singer. We don’t know how many mistakes are in a ‘masterpiece’!”
I think this is resembled in life. Take a chance, dream big, we only have one life to live so live it!
Tell us about an important mentor in your own life?
My parents, as I said, I rely on them a lot. My parents are both Aboriginal. My dad, a saltwater man from Fingal Head and my mum, is from the bush, a little town called Brewarrina.
They grew up immersed in church and culture and this has really helped them to stay connected, to family and our land as well. I really think it is important to listen and to learn, and my parents are constantly teaching me more about this each day.
What do you want to be remembered for and why?
Kindness and being able to stand up for change.
What does kindness mean to you and why you feel it is important?
Kindness is respecting and accepting others, even though we may have different opinions.[fusion_vimeo id=”https://vimeo.com/349275366″ alignment=”center” width=”” height=”” autoplay=”false” api_params=”” title_attribute=”” video_facade=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” css_id=””][/fusion_vimeo]
Listen to Budjerah’s melodic tones for yourself in this performance of his song, River.
21st July 2019