Spirit Bird – Xavier Rudd

"Xavier Rudd has a sweet, soulful voice that carries with it the cries, hurts, and hopes of Aboriginal Australians"

Xavier Rudd has a sweet, soulful voice that carries with it the cries, hurts, and hopes of Aboriginal Australians.  Listening to one of his live recordings, Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry,” one is transfixed. The purity of the emotion oozing from the singer is clear and his multi-instrumental skill is mesmerising; Xavier Rudd is one of those artistes to fall in love with, a  rare gem.

Hailing from the land down under, the one well known for its gigantic crocodiles and abundance of kangaroos, Xavier Rudd showed ardent interest in music growing up. He debuted in 2002 with the album Let Go, which portrayed mastery of guitars, yidakis, the harmonica, banjo, steel guitar, guitar, stomp box, percussion, blues harp, vocals, and drums. Since then, he has produced nine studio albums, the latest one with his aptly named band – Xavier Rudd and the United Nations.

His established sound incorporates socially conscious themes, such as spirituality, humanity, race, environmentalism, and the rights of Aboriginal peoples. With the strum of the guitar or the beat of the drum, Xavier evokes the essence of his Wurundjeri background, often making reference to his great grandmother, who was an Aboriginal Australian, as the spirit that guides his songwriting. With a knack for connecting with people on the soul level and even bringing concert goers to the point of tears, Xavier uses his powerful gift to touch hearts around the world; effortlessly incorporating different genres together to make a complete melody, from reggae to tribal tunes.

In 2014, Rudd performed at the Bentley anti-gas blockade campsite, in support of the Lock the Gate Alliance, a movement which blocked the delivery of oil and gas equipment for weeks and eventually led the Australian government suspending the drilling license. This is just one of his key environmental endeavours. Through song, he has drawn people to the greater levels of environmental awareness.

Released on the 2012 album Spirit Bird, and named after that album, the song Spirit Bird weaves Xavier’s key themes into a song haunted by the beauty of the aboriginal spirit. It sends a strong message about two issues close to Xavier’s heart: environmental protection and the rights of Aboriginal people to their land. He is a strong advocate for the traditional Aboriginal lifestyle, taking part in ceremonies and having  been adopted into the Dhuwa mob in north east Arnhem land.

The lyrics promote the preservation of land and culture and addresses the systemic discrimination of Aboriginal people.

Culture fades with tears and grace, leaving us stunned, hollow with shame. We have seen this all, seen this all before,” he chants, accompanied by the sounds of the Australian red-tailed black cockatoo. Xavier has stated that the song was inspired by an encounter he had with a dead tree and a group of red-tailed black cockatoos on return from a sacred Aboriginal site. He explains that the birds began “screeching and groaning and talking” to him and he experienced an epiphany which transformed into the lyrics for the song, pouring out of him while he sat on the beach.

One old woman spirit bird locked eyes with me and began to creak and groan her message of time passed and changes to her country and the fear in her heart. It was all very heavy and as she looked through me with her eyes and passed this message,” Xavier said in an interview.

In a verse of the song, Xavier sings: Soldier on, soldier on my good countrymen. Keep fighting for your culture now, keep fighting for your land. I know it’s been thousands of years and I feel your hurt and I know it’s wrong and you feel you’ve been chained and broken and burned. And those beautiful old people, those wise old souls, have been ground down for far too long by that spineless man, that greedy man, that heartless man, deceiving man, that government hand taking blood and land.”

These lyrics reflect the link between distress that the indigenous people have undergone and the moral obligation that modern Australia has to their plight. The Spirit Bird declares the true stories of the abominable oppression and injustice Aboriginal people have endured and continue to experience, even today.  Prior to European settlement, the country we know as Australia consisted of 500-700 Aboriginal nations, each with unique systems of government, cultural practices, religions, and languages. However, as colonisation began to take effect, their culture and ways of life were imposed upon and stomped out.

It is for the rights of these people that Xavier sings. So to, we should all look within ourselves, and oppose the mistreatment of humankind. We need to find our humanity and  reconnect with each other on a deeper level, a spirit level.

In 1978 Bob Marley sang, “if you know your history then you would know where you’re coming from.” Xavier is echoing this statement, encouraging us to respect the ancient ways, protect each other and the Earth, which is the very core of creation.

 

Lyrics

Give it time and we wonder why, do what we can laugh and we cry

And we sleep in your dust because we’ve seen this all before

Culture fades with tears and grace, leaving us stunned hollow with shame

We have seen this all, seen this all before

Many tribes of a modern kind doing brand new work same spirit by side

Joining hearts and hands and ancestral twine, ancestral twine

Many tribes of a modern kind doing brand new work same spirit by side

Joining hearts and hands and ancestral twine, ancestral twine

Slowly it fades

Slowly we fade

Slowly we fade

Slowly we fade

Spirit bird he creaks and groans, she knows she has seen this all before

She has seen this all before, she has

Spirit bird he creaks and groans, she knows she has seen this all before

She has seen this all before, she has

Slowly we fade

Slowly it fades

Slowly we fade

Slowly it fades

Slowly we fade

Soldier on, soldier on my good countrymen

Keep fighting for your culture now, keep fighting for your land

I know it’s been thousands of years and I feel your hurt and

And I know it’s wrong and you feel you’ve been chained and broken and burned

And those beautiful old people, those wise old souls

Have been ground down for far too long

By that spineless man, that greedy man, that heartless man

Deceiving man, that government hand taking blood and land

Taking blood and land and still they can

But your dreaming and your warrior spirit lives on and it is so so so

strong

In the earth, in the trees, in the rocks,

In the water, in your blood and in the air we breathe

Soldier on, soldier on my good countrymen

Keep fighting for your children now, keep fighting for your land

Slowly we fade

Slowly it fades

Slowly it fades

Slowly we fade

Give it time and we wonder why, do what we can, laugh and we cry

And we sleep in your dust because we’ve seen this all before

 

Spirit Bird – Xavier Rudd
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Dizzanne Billy is an environmentalist and the President of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network in Trinidad and Tobago. She graduated from the University of the West Indies with an M.Sc. in Global Studies, focusing her research on the effectiveness of global environmental governance. Dizzanne is also a Climate Tracker and is passionate about writing, climate advocacy, and travelling.
One Comment
  • Adaeze
    8 May 2016 at 1:30 pm
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    Beautiful writing with really emotive concepts. You got me! Thanks

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