Various Artists – Deadly Hearts

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Classic songs re-imagined by some of our brightest Indigenous talents.

It’s a good idea. Take 12 brilliant, largely unsung artists, arm them with their choice of classic track to make their own and pull them together in a neat package.

Lowering the barrier for discovering new artists is always a good thing. With so much music out there to consume, any familiar starting point can be a good guide.

So, Deadly Hearts provides people who mightn’t yet know these Indigenous artists – some of whom are currently ascending in popularity, others just beginning – with a good opportunity to get acquainted. Importantly, the results are very good. 

Jimblah’s take on ‘My Island Home’ doesn’t lean any closer to either Christine Anu or Warumpi Band’s versions. Instead, it’s a completely different approach. A playful modern electro soul arrangement with an intriguing but apt blend of natural and synthetic sounds.

Yothu Yindi gets the full hip hop treatment courtesy of Birdz’s reinvention of ‘Djapana (Sunset Dreaming)’, while Apakatjah play it straight with their version of Midnight Oil’s ‘The Dead Heart’, letting the immediacy of the song shine through.

Robbie Miller gives a considered take on ‘Solid Rock’. It’s a shame to not hear the genius guitar riff that serves as the original’s heartbeat, but that’s almost made up for in Miller’s emotive delivery.

No one has a deeper connection to Yothu Yindi’s ‘Maralitja’ than Dhapanbal Yunupingu, and she brings great beauty to one of her father’s most celebrated – and most affecting – works.

Benny Walker gives us the only non-Indigenous Australian track, with his take on the traditional ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’, made equally famous by the great Lead Belly and, much later, Kurt Cobain. Walker’s version mercifully doesn’t attempt to ape either of those versions. Walker ensures the song’s sense of foreboding is retained, courtesy of a menacing vocal and general aura of darkness.

Emily Wurramara’s voice belies her 21 years of age as she delivers a version of Coloured Stone’s ‘Black Boy’ that is both beautiful and gritty. Yirrmal’s commanding voice helps him do justice to one of the great Australian songs of all time in ‘Blackfella Whitefella’.

The whole thing ends with Gawurra, who will absolutely floor you with his take on ‘When The War Is Over’. He transforms the song by translating some of the lyrics into his Gupapuyngu language, and adding in his own call for togetherness, which only adds to its heart, warmth and beauty. It’s a perfect example of how an artist can transform a great song while retaining its spirit.

Deadly Hearts is a great collection of well-loved songs given a refreshing overhaul by some of our country’s most engaging new voices. And that’s great.

But we can only hope that the appreciation for their work doesn’t end here. All these artists have recently released music that deserves your attention. Trust us on that.

Hopefully this serves as an entry point for a wider audience to engage with the amazing music these artists are currently producing.

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