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Fred Leone Yarns About Being The MC For BLAKTIVISM

Fred Leone is a cultural leader, a true-born artist and one of the Butchulla Songmen with Aboriginal, Tongan and South-Sea Islander roots. One of very few Initiated Aboriginal men in the arts industry, Fred comes from the Garrwa and Butchulla tribes. The Butchulla tribe are the traditional owners of K’gari from Burrum Heads down to Rainbow Beach, Fraser Coast South East Queensland.

Fred’s role as a Songman sees him as one of the custodians of traditional songs and one of a handful of keepers and custodians of their language. Fred is active in his role as a Songman, ensuring that contemporary Butchulla stories are embedded into the collective memory of the tribes oral histories and ceremonies going forward.

Yothu Yindi leads a line-up of living legends and rising voices of First Nations musical activism. Mundanai will open the event, five Kulin Nation Songwomen, Mandy Nicholson (Wurundjeri), Renee Sweetman (Boonwurrung), Corrina Eccles (Wadawurrung), Isobel Paipadjerook (Taungarung) and Aunty Dr. Lou Bennett (Dja Dja Wurrung) invite all communities across Naarm, to share the spirit of healing through the power of culture and the richness of ceremonial song. Stand up and join legendary musicians in a one hour BLAKTIVISM set. Artistic Director Deline Briscoe brings together Bart Willoughby, Emma Donovan, Fred Leone (MC), Kee’ahn, Lou Bennett, Sprigga Mek, Sorong Samarai, Tasman Keith, Gurridyula and the world class BLAKTIVISM house band under Musical Director Airileke, as they perform in an unstoppable movement.

Followed by a huge set from Yothu Yindi whose voices have made powerful anthems across decades, playing some of their big tunes Tribal Voice, Djapana and Treaty. In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement leapt out of the United States and proliferated around the globe; Australia was no exception, but our movement has its own unique history and identity. BLAKTIVISM presents truth-telling of the Blak Activist movements in this country, through a powerful one-night only special event.

As a Songman, his primary instrument is his voice, yet he uses Didgeridoo (Kuluru in Garrwa language), boomerangs (Bargan in Butchulla language), Emu egg (Ngurunj in Butchulla language), tree branches, sand and other objects from K’gari to form his traditional sound pallet.

He has been a touring artist for over a decade, throwing rhymes and traveling with Public Enemy, Dead Prez and People Under The Stairs as well as receiving invites to collaborate and play with contemporary artists such as John Butler, Xavier Rudd, Amanda Palmer, best-selling author, Neil Gaiman and many, many more. Fred blends his love of hip-hop rhyming and his singularly unique vocal style with his adeptness playing traditional instruments to create an utterly new and unique sound. He’s known for his abilities to transcend genre and form whilst bringing the true integrity of his life’s calling as a Songman to the forefront all that he touches.

Fred was guest artistic director for the show Dirt Song with the internationally acclaimed Indigenous super-group Black Arm Band for three years, touring through Canada, China, Asia, Brazil, the UK and Australia. He was also invited by the National Theatre of Scotland to produce and present a solo theatre work in both Scotland and the UK. Fred led the Indigenous Gurruman Dancers at the Commonwealth Games, sung the closing ceremony and welcomed Prince Harry onto country at K’Gari (Fraser Island). In 2019, Fred accepted the role of Project Manager for Wunungu Awara (Animating Indigenous Knowledges) on behalf of Monash University.

This multi art-form project sees Fred travel around Australia to consult with Aboriginal Elders and Indigenous communities to record their endangered languages and stories. Wunungu Awara then uses animation and music to illustrate songlines from around the country supporting Indigenous communities in their language preservation with the aim to reinvigorate interest in Australian traditional languages. Recently, his guest appearance singing in Butchulla on his cousin Birdz’s track Bagi-la-m Bargan helped see the song become a hit, with close to two million streams, a cavalcade of synch placements and a placement at #30 on Triple J’s hottest 100.


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