A last hurrah! 18 years of touring to The Indian Ocean Territories
In June 2023, Regional Arts WA undertook its final performing arts tour to The Indian Ocean Territories, 18 long years after the first large-scale tour was conducted in 2005. The IOT touring baton is now being proudly handed to our colleagues over at CircuitWest.
Black Robin, led by Ajay Ataera, was the band unanimously voted up by the communities of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands for this final IOT tour. Ajay fuses his Māori, Moriori and Rarotongan cultures and traditions with contemporary sounds to create a unique blend of music that showcases the raw beauty and cultural richness of his homeland, The Chatham Islands (New Zealand). Joining the band on the road was sound engineer Aidian d’Adhemar, Tour Manager/Project Officer Carla Steele and RAWA CEO Pilar Kasat.
Image: Sound technician Aidan D’Adhemar, bass player Stefano Bonfanti, RAWA CEO Pilar Kasat, lead singer and guitarist Ajay Ataera, drummer Michael Boase, Tour Manager/Project Officer Carla Steele at Christmas Island District High School.
On June 13, the tour party boarded a plane bound for Christmas Island 2,608km from Perth. Black Robin, was eager to share their unique sound with the Indian Ocean communities of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
The first stop was Christmas Island District High School where eight workshops were run over two days to a total of 130 students from Kindy up to Year 10. These consisted of rhythm and music workshops, as well as Indigenous (Maori) instrument making
Image: Ajay Ataera demonstrating how to play a Porotiti (Maori instrument) to Christmas Island District High School students.
Ajay demonstrated playing the Porotiti while singing a Moriori lullaby as the children curiously watched on. They were then taught how to make and play their own Porotiti’s and decorated them in Koru patterns. This exchange of knowledge and traditions between Ajay’s culture and the Christmas Island community was a beautiful sight to behold.
Image: Christmas Island District High School Workshop with the Year 9 & 10 drama and music students. Photo by Carla Steele
There were two performances on Christmas Island, the first at Christmas Island District High School to an audience of 270 enthusiastic students and teaches.
“I LOVED this performance so much I could feel it! You guys are awesome at music.” Lexi, Year 7 audience member CIDHS
“Love how you connected with the kids – teaching them language and your connection to your island.” Lin, audience member CIDHS
The second and final performance for Christmas Island was at the Cricket and Sporting Club. As a heavy fog descended upon the venue, it provided the perfect backdrop for the raw and at times haunting music of Black Robin. The local community turned out in force, with 200 people celebrating their shared love for culture and music. As the fog lifted, the community danced under the starry night sky, begging the band repeatedly for ‘just one more!’.
“Love the stories and connection to the songs. Very primal. Thanks for the amazing music. From one island love to another.” Renata, audience member CI Cricket and Sporting Club
“Please play one more! Great vibe.” Az, audience member CI Cricket and Sporting Club
Leaving the rocky shores of Christmas Island behind, the tour party headed off for the coconut jungles and deserted beaches of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, 980km away. As the plane descended so did the rain but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the West Islanders. For the second year in a row the concert had to be relocated from Scout Park to the West Island campus of Cocos Island District High School where 100 punters eagerly danced the night away as the rain fell and the band performed no less than four encores!
Image: Black Robin performing on West Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Photo by Carla Steele
“Fantastic band, very talented. Loved the culture and music.” Julie, audience member Cocos Islands District High School
“Spot on with the island vibe. Mad skills. Cheers.” Jamie, audience member Cocos Islands District High School
Waking before dawn, the tour party hopped on the first ferry with 600kg of production gear and instruments to cross the lagoon to Home Island where four workshops were run over two days at the Home Island Campus and a community market day to a total of 121 eager participants.
Image: Black Robin running workshops with the Kindy students of Cocos Islands District High School. Photo by Carla Steele
The final performance of the tour occurred at Pondok Indah on the Home Island Foreshore where an audience of 200 Cocos Malay community members, young and old, enjoyed the sounds and stories from Ajay’s culture and homeland. Young punters requested a Moriori lullaby they had heard Ajay sing at the workshops, and danced along to the bluesy, rock, reggae and traditional tunes of Black Robin.
“Temmakasi Banya! (Thank you so much)” Graham, Pondok Indah Home Island audience member
“Amazing performance (Bagus Sekali)” Halim, Pondok Indah Home Island audience member
“Awesome performance guys!” Noor Jadah, Pondok Indah Home Island audience member
Image: Black Robin lead singer and guitarist Ajay Atatea performing on Home Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Photography by Carla Steele
The Indian Ocean Territories Tour was a whirlwind of music, culture, and camaraderie that left a lasting impact on everyone involved. It is safe to say that the tiny, wild Chatham Islands are now well-known to the tropical island communities of the Indian Ocean Territories, some 9,500km away. Overall, this was another fantastic opportunity to share the diversity of culture and arts with communities and people of all ages.
It has been an incredible 18 years touring to the beautiful Indian Ocean Territories and we look forward to exploring how Regional Arts WA will continue to support these inspiring communities, that we have come to know and love, through arts and culture.