The 13-track compilation MURRU is an eclectic mix of musical styles and influences, songs in language, infectious blues, love stories and rousing anthems, all rich in personal stories and powerful messages. Conceived as a memorial to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of 16-year old John Pat in a police cell in Roebourne, the album is a collaborative effort in the truest sense. Since 2010 the Yijala Yala Project has run music workshops with community members and prisoners in Roebourne, and throughout 2013 we hosted a series of visiting musos to write and record songs for MURRU in collaboration with a dedicated group of prison inmates. John Bennett, Bill Chambers, Emma Donovan, Harry Hookey, David Hyams, Trevor Jamieson, Shellie Morris, Lucky Oceans, Archie Roach and the Last Kinection all took part in this meaningful and inspiring process.
“It was totally incredible”, said Harry Hookey, “beyond any words I have to describe it. I’d never been to the Pilbara, and I had no idea what it would be like. But once we got there, people were so welcoming and so willing to work and collaborate.”
“Usually when I write songs it’s a bit of fiction, and a bit of fact, and it’s all about the song really, but with the process for the album it was all about the truth, with every line, and that’s pretty special for a song I reckon.”
The prisoners involved in MURRU have demonstrated great musical talent, and some have continued writing outside of the project, playing gigs around their communities. The track ‘Wanted Out’ is a haunting love story, sung by Hookey but completely written and arranged by project participant Ernie Coffin. “He had been inspired by the Big hART project in prison and kept writing when he got out” explains Hookey. “He wrote that song and asked me to sing it for him. We recorded it all live in the one room, we got Bill (Chambers) to play the mandolin, and Lucky Oceans playing lap steel. We did it in about two takes, exactly how you hear it on the record. I was privileged to sing it.”
The MURRU sessions have also had a profound effect on blues/country legend Bill Chambers. “I thought the project sounded like a great cause and like it would be a great new experience for me – it turned out to be all that and more” he said. “The stories these fellas in prison told, hearing a bit about their experiences – it was just something else. An experience I’ll never forget, and one I’d love to have again.”
MURRU was launched in October in Fremantle with Bill Chambers, Emma Donovan, Lucky Oceans and David Hyams taking the stage. Keep an ear out for MURRU tracks on the airwaves, and get your own copy of the album through JB Hi-Fi, regional music stores, iTunes or right here from our online store. Funds raised through sales of the album go towards a memorial for John to be built in Roebourne, his hometown.
The prison workshops have been generously supported by Perpetual.