Steve Francis on lore: Music Notes

The music I’ve created for Bangarra is close to my heart and I’m incredibly proud to have been part of their world.

It’s been 17 years since I first met and worked with David and Stephen Page on their production of Alchemy for The Australian Ballet, and 15 years since I contributed composition to Bangarra shows. Since then I’ve written music, either with David or solo, for eight of their productions.

It’s an understatement to say that our first meeting and subsequent collaboration was life-changing for me. The music I’ve created for Bangarra is close to my heart and I’m incredibly proud to have been part of their world.

So when Stephen invited me to compose the music for I.B.I.S, I was immediately hooked. For reasons largely unknown to me, during my time at Bangarra I have been particularly drawn to works from the Torres Strait Islands. From first working with Albert David on Bipotim, to more recent work with Elma Kris on Emeret Lu and About, I’ve always been inspired by the people, their stories, their songs and their dances.

I have been friends with both Waangenga and Deborah for a number of years and
have always blown away by them as dancers, so I was keen to collaborate with them to create the work that has become I.B.I.S. Collaboration has been the key word for this production. I feel that the three of us, along with all the dancers and performers, have contributed to the final music heard during the show.

We have been very fortunate to have the great knowledge of senior dancers such as Elma Kris, one of the longest serving members 
in the ensemble who is also from the Torres Strait, and Cultural Consultants Peggy Misi, Mark William Satrick, Pinau Ghee and Betty Tekahika (Mabo) to help us with traditional songs and language used in the piece. And the stories... from Deborah’s mum’s favourite song sung in language to Waan’s uncle’s emotional tale about raising young turtles from hatching until they are strong enough to be set free. These and more have been the seeds I have used to create the music.

Two of the strongest elements of the music and dance of the Torres Strait are its energy and its beauty. With I.B.I.S we have tried to incorporate them both. It’s always a joy to 
see and hear a group singing and dancing live so for the first time in a number of years we’ve moved away from a purely pre-recorded score for this production. The dancers are singing live while also creating the percussion soundtrack to pieces such as Sardine and Company Rice. These live sections bookend the contemporary scored movements that tap into the beauty and elegance of the culture with stories like Turtle and Crayfish.

As well as Waangenga and Deborah, 
I would also like to thank Elana Stone for her amazing vocals on Crayfish, Bangarra dancer Yolande Brown for a fresh set of ears and as always, David and Stephen Page for their love and support.

Steve Francis