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Review: 1967 - Music in the Key of Yes

Adelaide Festival

By turns poignant and rousing, '1967 – Music in the Key of Yes' is both an impressive showcase of Indigenous talent and a celebration of a landmark moment in Australia's civil rights history.

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The concert celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which saw Australians vote to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the census and recognise them under federal law.

In a national showing of unity, more than 90 per cent of the population voted “Yes”. The struggle for Indigenous recognition is not over, but this show takes a moment to celebrate the historic occasion in fine style.

Acknowledgement of the Kaurna people was followed by a stirring performance of “My Island Home” by the mesmerising Yirrmal, Emily Wurramara and Alice Skye. Set against a backdrop of archival video images of the 1967 Referendum, the harmonising of Indigenous and English lyrics was a poignant symbol.

The smooth, rich, bluesy sound of Radical Son followed, with passionate versions of Archie Roach’s “Took the Children Away” and Sam Cooke’s ” A Change is Gonna Come”. Australian rock singer Adalita took things up a notch with Goanna’s “Solid Rock”, with William Barton providing the brilliant didgeridoo beat.

1967 is not a dour education about Australia’s own civil rights movement, but rather a coming together of people; a reminder that anything is possible with love, respect and understanding.

Aria Award-winning artist Dan Sultan took over the stage with a more recent song “The Drover”, a funky soul number which was followed by a big, rocky, bluegrass version of “Old Fitzroy”.

Actor and singer Ursula Yovich, who appeared this week on ABC’s Q and A, showed her considerable talent with a beautiful version of “I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free”. Then there was a touching performance by pianist Clio Renner and Alice Skye of Skye’s own song “You are the Mountains”.

More songs of protest and civil rights followed, including a rendition of “Feelin’ Good” by Thelma Plum. Great backing vocals from Leah Flanagan, Syke, Yovich and Wurramara gave the show that ’60s feel.

A rousing whole ensemble performance of Yothu Yindi’s “Treaty” was a highlight, as was Sultan’s Cocker version of “With a Little Help from my Friends”. Yirrmal finished the concert with haunting vocals and dance.

A showcase of Indigenous talent, this performance brings home the fact that it took until 1967 to achieve the constitutional change – and that the traditional guardians of this great country are still fighting for full recognition.

1967 was performed at the Festival Theatre for one night only as part of the Adelaide Festival program.

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