Anthems for open hearts and raised fists from Djugun Aboriginal singer-songwriter Nidala
Release Date: 2nd September 2021
Label: Lustre Records
Nidala is Nidala Barker, an Aboriginal singer-writer, born of the Djugun people of the Coastal Kimberley, Western Australia, and now based in Byron Bay, New South Wales. Her father is an Aboriginal musician, her mother a French/Polish anthropologist and she’s spent many of her 26 years traveling the world, with the place she knows has home alternating between The Kimberley and Paris. Her studies in social justice law and sustainability have developed a keen concern for our planet’s environment which led her to try to understand how she can most effectively apply her talents to benefit the world. The answer she came up with was – through her music.
And on the evidence of the music on this short collection, she certainly has a lot to offer in that respect. Her style blends folk, rock, blues and soul, her delivery is forceful and emotional and the instrumentation is accomplished and laid back – it makes for a pleasant, rewarding yet slightly challenging listening experience that Nidala describes as “anthems for open hearts and raised fists” and the influence of Billie Holiday and fellow singer-songwriters Julia Jacklin and Samia – Nidala’s inspirations – are all clearly detectable in her music.
Colours Of My People is to be a completely carbon-neutral release, with 20% of the EP’s proceeds dedicated to planting trees, and a further 20% towards funding Indigenous run activities, ranging from mental health services to creative mentoring, as a means to amplify the positive work of her people (a subject covered in the lyrics of the EP’s title track) in a hope to demonstrate that music can be a direct tool for creating tangible positive change in the world. All that, and great music too!
So – what about the music? Well, as I’ve already indicated, Colours Of My People is a short collection – just four tracks – but they’re all excellent and they provide an enticing showcase for the full range of Nidala’s very evident talent. First-time listeners shouldn’t be misled by the fragility of Nidala’s voice during the opening bars of One Of Those Days, the collection’s first track, because, as the EP goes on to demonstrate, there’s depth, richness and forcefulness hiding behind that frail veneer. The instrumentation is delicious – stripped right back to guitar, bass and subtle drums – and Nidala’s band (Matthew Collins on guitar, Sam Besmehn/Scott Finch on bass and Charity Turner on drums) are respectful, highly capable and know exactly when to turn up the heat.
Opening track One Of Those Days manages to be both folky and soulful at the same time and is an excellent taster for the fare on offer. Said Too Much is soft and folky, with fingerpicked acoustic guitar providing a feel of Fleet Foxes. The song builds nicely – again, in the style of a Fleet Foxes song – and the brushed, shuffling drum part is sublime. Nidala’s accented vocal provides added mystique to a beautifully structured song and the soaring electric guitar solo is the cherry on a very tasty cake.
Colours Of My People, the EP’s title track is breathtaking. Forceful, bluesy and direct, with more of that laid-back instrumentation that serves to underline a powerful lyric in which Nidala expresses the pride she feels in her people and her confidence in their ability to achieve the recognition and justice they deserve and offers encouragement to them to do just that.
The message of Colours Of My People is a difficult one to follow, but Nidala manages it with the rocky, funky closing track, Body Of Mine. Fuzzy guitars provide the backing to a dialogue between the narrator and her body. It’s another interesting lyric, delivered in another enjoyable, thought-provoking song. Colours Of My People is an excellent collection – four wonderful songs with built-in longevity that tackle interesting and relevant subjects – and the whole project is dedicated to highly worthy causes. Thoroughly recommended!!
Watch the Official Video to One of Those Days – the EP’s opening track – here: