Gigging Out Reviews

GIGGING OUT – Dreambox Collective Event ‘Home’ Review

Photography by Connor Malanos

I have attended a Dreambox Collective event before last year virtually during the height of COVID. The virtual event was beautiful and a great way to escape the lockdown/isolation blues. However, I feel like seeing a Dreambox Collective event in person was a better way to fully appreciate the production, logistics and team behind it. Chloe Chung who hosted the evening, is the Artistic Director of Dreambox Collective. Chloe showed charisma and a passion towards the music and that she and her fellow musicians shared. Dreambox Collective partnered with Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, an organisation seeking to empower and support survivors of the Stolen Generation, specifically those children removed by the NSW Government and placed into Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home, which was run for almost 50 years. During the evening their CEO, Dr Tiffany McComsey, joined as a guest speaker. Chloe asked thoughtful and interesting questions that felt personal to her but also related to the theme of the night which was home; and they shared a conversation about KBHAC’s work in the community and the joy of sharing collective moments like these of cross-cultural musical performance that connects and heals. 

Left: CEO, Dr Tiffany McComsey of Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, Right: Chloe Chung Artistic Director of Dreambox Collective

While I usually do reviews of gigs that typically involve me dancing and getting lost in the music, I also appreciate musical events that I get to sit, think and tear up about. Dreambox Collective shows deliberate programming, which ever since my 2020 discussion with Katarina Grobler (a team member of the Dreambox Collective) is something I now look out for at all showcase type events. 

So what is home? A great question posed by Chloe and theme for the night. It’s simple, emotional and every human probably has their own version of the answer. I think Chloe put it best “A sense of home means something different to each of us and yet connects us all.” 

Chloe before performing gave a wonderful micro and macro reflection of what home meant to her, which lead nicely into her performance. The first song she performed on a flute was called “Melisande” by Richard Meale filled with chaos, change and intensity, but also a lot of fluidity. You could really visualise Chloe’s internal dialogue with what home meant for her and her search within the meaning of home in connection to location in this piece. The second piece Chloe performed was called “Moon over the Fortified Pass” by Li Bai (a poet) and it was based on a poem where two soldiers meet and a moon rises in between them. The idea is that this short and poetic song would play at that moment. Chloe performed it on a Xiao, which is an Ancient Chinese woodwind instrument, that had a rougher texture compared to the flute. Chloe really highlighted to me in this piece that she is a great musical storyteller. 

Liz Cheung a multi-instrumentalist was the the second performer of the night and gave a beautiful monologue on what home meant to them. Especially when you discover things later in life that you didn’t know about your culture and witnessing lost dialects. This would be and was shown to be an emotional thing. Culture is so entwined with our feeling of home and comfort so to have that taken away can create a great sense of loss and search for belonging. Performing on a Zhonghu (low Erhu) which is a Chinese stringed instrument Liz performed a song called “Home is a Hypothetical”. The timbre of the Zhonghu felt nice on the ears, you definitely get lost in the organic sound design it creates. The piece was mesmerising and certainly made me hear the sounds Liz felt when they thought of home. “Home is hope” was another great piece done by Liz which they played on a Bass Flute. I agree that home is hope and a hypothetical. Sometimes we don’t know where or what home is yet, but we can imagine what it will be one day. 

The third performer of the evening was Jolin Jiang who gave a beautiful vocal performance alongside a pre-recorded track. The track was Jolin playing bells discovered by a musical archeologist in China, which she had the pleasure of playing in a museum. Having Jolin sing with imagery of her playing the bells solidified how well programmed the evening was as you were given visually dynamic performances that felt very individualised, but cohesive at the same time. Again relating to the theme of home being something different to each of us but connecting us all. Chloe, Liz and Jolin then joined together in a performance called “As the Goudiao rings” where they gave their interpretations of the past, present and future. Again even the way they stood and sat during this piece was visually effective. The room that we were in was simple and static yet the performers utilised their stance and movement to bring the room to life. 

To finish the evening, Murraywa (George Dow) a Torres Strait Islander multi-instrumentalist also performed alongside his family, the Harbour Beizam Torres Strait Islander Dancers. The performance was very special and Murraywa provided vivid storytelling and musical education in a way that was intimate. With his family, he performed “Baba na” (Homage and respect past present and emerging) and “Keriba ged nor” (our spiritual place) on two types of yidaki (didgeridoo). Beatrice played a bamboo drum & a Warrup (drum) proudly giving us a “taste of the Torres Strait” joining him in song. Murraywa, who has been playing the Didgeridoo since he was seven, certainly gave an exceptional performance. The breath work involved is just enormous and it was great having an explanation of how the vibration of the lips could manipulate the sounds produced. Again, the visuals and dance involved in this performance made you forget you were in an enclosed room as the two boys Jayson & Zemis came out and did a shark dance and the two girls Buia and Syrillina did a Starbird and Torres Strait pigeon dance. Murraywa’s guitar section which showcased his more contemporary singer/songwriting style. The way he played guitar had so much personality. Murraywa talked about home being fishing with his uncle and aunties catching up in the Murray Island. You could not only hear his feelings about home but you could visually see how he feels in the way he played the guitar. This was really evident in his songline “My Thoughts” accompanied by Chloe & Liz on Dizi and Zhonghu. To finish his set, he played an emotional solo about his grandfather, Eddie Mabo who was an Indigenous Australian from the Torres Strait Islands who fought for land rights. 

Murraywa then invited the whole room of musicians to come join in a group performance. Everyone sat in a circle and improvised, listening to each other to create a beautiful sound that concluded the night, and left everyone with an optimism to continue to search for what home is to them. 

So what is home for me? 

Home to me is when I wear my noise-cancelling headphones and do the Cremorne Point walk at around 5:30 pm on a warm summer night, watching the sunset. I’ve done the walk thousands of times and I just have never been able to beat that familiarity and comfort in a place. Though what will always stick with me and what was prevalent throughout the Dreambox Collective event is that the place I call home is a stolen one, and while I can appreciate the sense of home it brings me – I will never forget its history. Always was, Always will be. 

So what’s home to you? 

– c monster productions 

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