CULTURE, feature -

Airileke and Benny cry freedom over West Papuan rule

A freedom song co-written by exiled West Papuan Independence leader Benny Wenda and Melbourne music producer Airileke Ingram has been released to coincide with West Papua’s Independence Day.
Ingram, who is of Melanesian descent, said the song Sorong Samarai had been three years in the making. Its release will be accompanied by a film clip shot undercover in West Papua, which is under Indonesian rule.
“Full freedom is what we hope for,” Ingram said. “That’s for the West Papuans to decide in the form of a referendum.
“There are different ways to the top of the mountain, but I think a referendum is probably what we all hope for — inclusion on the United Nations de-colonisation list leading to a referendum.”
Ingram said he first met Wenda when the exiled leader, who now lives in the UK, visited Melbourne in 2013.
The chorus of the new song — “Sorong Samarai, one people, one soul, one destiny” — is taken from an address Wenda made to the United Nations 20 years ago.
The song features Papua New Guinea reggae duo Twin Tribes, musicians and singers from all over West Papua and PNG, log drumming from the Manus Islands, Kwakumba flutes from the PNG highlands, Tifa drums from West Papua and chants from surrounding islands such as Biak and Siasi.
The song has been produced by Ingram’s Rize of the Morning Star record label, a “self-determination movement” first, and a record label second.
Ingram said music was a powerful tool as had been demonstrated by Yothu Yindi’s anthem, Treaty. At one time he played percussion with the famous Australian band.
“We have strong solidarity with the Aboriginal people here because it’s the same story,” Ingram said.
“(Treaty) resonates with us too. There’s a strong connection with Yothu Yindi. At one point, there were three Papua New Guineans in the band.
“Treaty, even in the Pacific, we can recognise that Australia needs that.
“I think Australia’s Indigenous identity is still yet to be embraced by the entire country.
“We feel it in the Pacific looking back into Australia. We are Indigenous people but we are the sovereign people in PNG, not West Papua yet, but PNG, the Solomon Islands, we are sovereign islands run by Indigenous people.
“I think for a lot of the international community there is a hope and expectation that Australia will grow up and grow into its identify where Indigenous sovereignty is there for everyone, even non-Indigenous people.”
Ingram said he hoped Sorong Samarai would raise awareness of the division and oppression going on just north of Australia.
It is named after a common PNG and West Papua term meaning solidarity and oneness.
Sorong is a town on the northwest tip of West Papua. Samarai is a small township 2000km southeast, on the lower tip of Papua New Guinea — only 5kms from Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.
The line from Sorong to Samarai encompasses the two nations of West Papua and PNG. West Papua and PNG musicians are set to tour Australia next year.
Indonesia took control of West Papua, formerly a Dutch Colony, in 1963.

Wendy Caccetta

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