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1 Thursday, July 20, 1995 I
By LIZ ARMITAGE
HRISTINE Anu is "stylin' i up and steppin' out" in her deadly red shoes. And everybody is coming to join her party.
Born in Cairns 24 years ago to Torres Strait Islander parents, Christine Ann's story reads some what like a fairy tale.
At 17 she moved to Sydney to study at the Aboriginal And Is lander Dance Theatre school. As her final year drew to a close, she was whisked-off the dance floor and into Mushroom studios to re cord her debut album, Stylin' Up.
Since then the album has been zooming up the national'charts, with extensive air play on com mercial. public and indigenous ra dio networks across the land.
Basking in the glow of success, Anu stopped to chat about her is land home, her dreams and her attitude to life.
"I'm confident. I'm just really confident in the things that I do for myself. I start out maybe with a question: 'can I really do this?' Then I just go for it.
"The album is about Stylin' Up. When you feel good you style-up, and it comes through. You like yourself because of who you are, and you're proud of who you are, so you style-up man."
- Anu's first big singing break came when she was invited to perform with Neil Murray and the Rainmakers as a backing vocalist. , "Neil had been asking me to do backing vocals forever, and finally I said 'okay I'll give it a go'. I was really nervous when I started.
"1 did my first backing vocals gig with.Neil at the Sylvania Wa ters hotel, supporting Kev Carmo dy. It was a big night'for me, but it went really well. 1 was doing that for pocket money during my last year of study and it just kind of wont from there."
Anu invited Neil Murray's man ager to come and see her perform in her end-of-year dance college performance, and "a week after I graduated 1 had him on the phone saying '1 don't know how to tell , you this, but you've got some peo ' pie interested in your music
thing'. And I said 'I haven't any experience as a singer and I've never written any songs'."
But the interested party was Mushroom Records, and, knowing they were on to a good thing, they helped Anu overcome her lack of experience.
"They were really helpful in giving me my first song to record (Paul Kelly's Last Train], and
there was always the idea of we're going to get together and write songs — collaborate with other people for experience sake."
David Bridie (Not Drowning Waving, My Friend The Chocolate Cake),, co-wrote most of the tracks on Stylin' Up, and produced the album. He went to the Torres Straits with Anu during the mak ing to foster an affinity with the local culture. Recorded in Red fern, Sydney, the album blends pidgin language and traditional instruments [the warup (drum) and kitlap (bean rattle)] with ur ban modern funk, soul and hip hop.
Anu says, Stylin' Up is a "cul mination of everything customary, stories from my life, even nursery rhymes from my childhood".
Some of the traditional songs on the album are in pidgin English, and Anu was grateful for the op portunity to work with Bridie, who's been involved with PNG musicians and speaks and under stands New Guinea pidgin.
"He's a genuine lover of all sorts of music, and he's just got such an open mind when it comes to music. He did not restrict any thing that came out of me in its natural flow. He was the first to say writing music is not the easi est thing to do. It's quite personal ■ and having to share it is a really big step.
"He said there's no rules to do ing it. There's no right or wrong way. He was creating little melod ies and stuff just to get me into it. It was just-great fun, and at that rate you could keep churning out records every year."
While cynics may accuse Chris tine Anu's promoters of cashing in on an era where black is beau tiful, she is unconcerned.
"I know where my music stands amongst my people, and amongst the black population of this coun try. They're really supportive of the album and they're really proud and they don't hesitate to tell me that. I think the album speaks for itself ... it represents contemporary indigenous music quite well." >
She admits that luck has played a large part in her success. But it's more than luck, it's confi dence. And a lot of the Anu confi dence comes from the knowledge that her people are behind her and she is doing things right in the eyes of her elders.
"My people are great supporters of their own music. They really support island music all the way. When I went to the Torres Strait
Islander jH Music Festi- ti val recently it %
was such an eye-opener.
really supportive of
Christine Anu's career.
You're standing there and
it's pure elation, you're just
like 'I can go any where. I can
go anywhere at all and know that my people are supporting me'.
"When legends like the Bull Sis ters take a real strong strong af fection towards you, you know you are doing things the way the elders would want ... And you want to be doing things right in [their] eyes.
"A1F the knowledge I have of my people and their customs has been passed on by elders from generation to generation ... some thing that has to be respected."
Anu may be attracting a lot of attention, but she insists she is no overnight sensation. She says she is part of something bigger, "a tid
al wave of cultural change that is happening all around.
"I can feel it and I'm part of it. It's culture: and if you've got none, you've got nothing, you tend to become this superficial cold person.
"Young people, especially young black fellas, have just gotta be lieve in themselves a little more. I went to school with a lot of un confident young black people, and I didn't want to be like that.
"Because you never see the op portunities, and when they come you just freak out . . You're
scared so you say 'no' because it's much safer doing what you do ev ery day. than having to take on this really great big challenge. And.you don't want to make a fool out of yourself, you want to do it right."
"Stylin' Up is a great word for young people. It means you are deadly, and confident in yourself ... and that is what Stylin' Up re presents. Everything about the al bum feels great. It's Stylin' Up."
Christine Anu will be per forming at Tilley's next Tues day and Wednesday night.