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Reviews/Music

Songs from the heart

8 March 2021

Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse continue the songline tradition with the premiere of Koort, the second part of their song cycle, in a performance that Kobi Morrison says brought tears of both sorrow and happiness.

Koort, Gina Williams and Guy Gouse ·
Government House Gardens, 6th March 2021 ·

The Noongar word koort means heart and there is no word more apt to summarise the precious trove of compositional gems that have been created and shared by Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse.  Koort is the second instalment of their four-part song cycle, (the first was premiered at the 2020 Perth Festival)  and it portrays four key elements to life: koort (heart) moort (family), boodja (country) and koorlangka (children/legacy).

Yanga-kadak Boodja Ngalangk
Be thankful for our land

On Saturday evening I joined an extensive audience in the gardens of Government House to listen to a concert that was very much a reflection of this land and all her people. Williams’ beautiful intertwining of Noongar and English lyrics was invigorated by the brilliant guitar mastery of Ghouse and satisfying piano accompaniment from Russel Holmes. Aside from the beautiful Noongar renditions of classics such as ‘Moon River’ and ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’, many of the compositions were originals from Williams and Ghouse, each tune reflecting a myriad of understandings.

Gina Williams is joined on stage by her daughters as she shares her story of growing up as part of the Stolen Generation. Photo Angelyne Wolfe

Nidja Koort-ak Kalyakoorl Karna
This heart is always true 

In Koort Williams opens up her heart and uses songs to creatively portray the intricate and personal chronology of her life. She honours each chapter of her life with a song that encapsulates the emotion that was felt at the time. Ghouse and Williams are outstanding performers and the way they portray the complexities of life brings a sense of genuine emotion and connection. There are no shortage of tears that are both of sorrow and happiness.

Nidja Moonda Warow Nidja Koorlangka
The collective raises the child

Williams is a product of the Stolen Generations and her story is complex. She was raised by multiple people, all of whom she calls her parents and her relationship with them ranged from difficult to great. She paid great acknowledgment to the experience she had with her birth parents before her mother left home and her father‘s health rapidly declined. Williams moved into the family home of her close school friend and they made her feel welcome. Eventually she was brought to a home with people who were her official foster parents. In her adulthood, Williams found out that her original parents were not her biological parents and she found her biological mother and reconnected with her. Williams has taken a chapter from each parent and guardian who contributed to her upbringing, choosing to move forward with the positive things they brought to her life, and acknowledging that it takes a village to raise a child.

Warn Noonook Moort-boorong
Make family of your own

Williams own legacy as a mother was celebrated by the performances of her daughters, Lauren Davies and Bella McGill, who joined her on stage to provide gorgeous harmonies. And it is clear from the personal and genuine music Williams and Ghouse make together that their musical relationship is also a type of family. Their sharing of stories through music upholds the continuing tradition of songlines in a widely accessible way. Despite the tragedies that she has faced, Williams is rich in koort, moort, boodja and koorlangka, and now we can learn from her how to retain these elements through life.

Pictured top: Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse perform from the heart in ‘Koort’. Photo Angelyne Wolfe

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Author —
Kobi Arthur Morrison

Emerging writer Kobi Arthur Morrison is a Bibbulmun Noongar born and raised in Perth. Kobi works at the UWA Centre of Social Impact and Propel Youth Arts WA and spends his spare time participating in music projects such as Moombaki, Koondarm, Koorlong, Madjitil Moorna and Endeavourous. In 2018 he was awarded the Perth NAIDOC Youth of the Year award. He loves playgrounds that are integrated into nature, particularly the tree house.

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