Black Smoke: Wurramara’s stunning debut

She’s only 20 and already has performed in Sweden and France and collaborated with people like Bernard Fanning. That’s kinda rock ‘n’ roll. As is growing up on Groote Eylandt and releasing a debut EP with half the songs sung in Language.

Let us introduce you to Emily Wurramara, who now calls the Gold Coast home.

Growing up, Emily loved hearing her uncles sing, but also realised that women from her community rarely sang in public. Wanting to inspire and empower members of her community, especially young Indigenous women, to find their voice, Emily sings original music both in English and Anindilyakwa, her traditional language.

Emily’s debut EP, Black Smoke was released in June. After seeing her perform at the Queensland Music Awards, and being impressed with both her stage presence and the song, we thought it was time to get to know her a little better.

“It’s been such a long journey,” Emily said when we asked about growing up on Groote Eylandt and where she’s ended up.

I’m very proud of where I come from, so being able to represent my people in such a positive way, is the most amazing feeling ever.”

“The biggest highlight for me would be meeting my idols and being able to sit down and talk to them about their experiences, I’ve met so many beautiful friends throughout my journey,” Emily said.

As well as performances at Woodford Folk Festival and Island Vibe (among many others), Emily also made the trek to Garma – one of the biggest celebrations of Indigenous culture in Australia.

“Garma festival is absolutely amazing,” she told Blank GC. “You can feel the culture throbbing through the ground… it’s literally like you’re walking on the heart beat of the earth.”

I performed right before Yilila Band, which is my Gagu’s  (grandfather’s) band. I was so excited because I knew some of my family from Groote and Bickerton would be there, it was just too deadly, I had so much fun.”

It’s well documented that Indigenous languages are on the decline and I’m curious about how Emily kept her connection to the Anindilyakwa language given that she left Groote Eylandt as a young girl.

“My parents are very beautiful people, and their sacrifice and struggle, there are no words to say thank you.”

“Definitely my mother maintained that connection to home by keeping in contact with everyone and speaking Language in front of me and my brother,” Emily said.

“She also told me stories about the Dreaming and her experiences.”

Emily said that although her father is Filipino / Chinese he also had stories to share about growing about his experiences growing up on Groote Eylandt too.

Hard work, perseverance and absolute talent have culminated in Emily’s new EP, Black Smoke, with lead single of the same name. There’s no doubt it takes a special skill and dedication to blur the lines between traditional and contemporary, but that’s just exactly what Emily’s done with this debut.

She says it’s just the beginning.

“I feel so excited for this year,” Emily said.

“There are many things to look forward to and being so young I am just absolutely grateful for all the opportunities I’m going to come across!”

“I’m just so excited.”

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Emily Wurramara’s new EP Black Smoke is, in a word, stunning. As well as four dates in the NT in July and a heap of other capital city shows, she’ll next be in our neck of the woods at The Milk Factory, Brisbane on 11 August.

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