‘It’s become a part of the Australian music scene’: Archie Roach on First Nations music and his inaugural foundation stage at Port Fairy Folk Festival

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‘It’s become a part of the Australian music scene’: Archie Roach on First Nations music and his inaugural foundation stage at Port Fairy Folk Festival


Archie Roach is one of the most influential performers in Australian music, let alone its thriving First Nations scene, as evidenced by the Archie Roach Foundation Stage at the upcoming Port Fairy Folk Festival.

Roach, in a special partnership with the Port Fairy Folk Festival, will bring many First Nations performers from different eras and around Australia into the limelight for some very memorable performances.

The key takeaways

  • Port Fairy Folk Festival is a selection of Australia’s greatest folk performers.
  • It will introduce the inaugural Archie Roach Foundation stage.
  • It’s happening on Friday March 11 – Friday March 14. Grab tickets here.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

For someone as iconic as Roach, playing at the Port Fairy Folk festival still means a lot, with the performer having appeared at the festival many times over the years, getting to share his music with a number of different generations.

“I don’t have to travel far, it’s just down the road from me,” Roach says with a laugh. “It’s a great festival, it’s grown over the years, I was there in the early days.

“They’ve always had really good Australian musicians as well as really good overseas acts, but I think that’s what I like about it, it does focus on Australian talent.”

These Australians include Ash Grunwald, Emma Donovan, Maple Glider and many more, who will each bring their distinct flavour to the long weekend.

There is also a great deal of First Nations talent appearing at the festival, with Roach noting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion has come a long way since his festival appearances and shows in the early days, thanks to events like Port Fairy.

“It’s come leaps and bounds, it’s come far,” he says. “There are more First Nations stars coming up performing and presenting great music, it’s really great to see, I love watching them.

“When I first started, I remember sometimes getting up and doing a set, people just sitting, and one fella in the audience yells out ‘Who are you?’ I sheepishly replied, ‘Archie Roach, a singer songwriter’ which shows how awkward it was at first, but now, it’s become a part of the Australian music scene, which is good to see.”

This festival marks the first time audiences will get to see the Archie Roach Foundation Stage, which will feature a selection of artists curated by Archie and other members of the Maar Nation. Artists performing on this stage include Kutcha Edwards, Emma Donovan, Shellie Morris, The Merindas, and many more you can check out here.

Roach has worked with a number of them in the past and has had his finger on the pulse with new up and coming First Nations performers thanks to his popular Kitchen Table Yarns YouTube series.

“What we hope to do is focus on the community down here, and the cultural representation of this community in Southwest Victoria, as well as people we’ve talked to on the Kitchen Table Yarns, like J Milla and Kee’ahn,” Roach says. “It’ll be good to have them come along and perform as well.”

For a performer as prolific as Roach, performing at a variety of shows in all corners of Australia for a number of years, finding new connections to his music is what keeps it enjoyable.

Roach notes that the personal relationship his music and stories convey is key to keeping it fresh and interesting. This is an element that connects all the performers on the Archie Roach Foundation Stage: their relationship with stories.

“It’s stories, stories are basically the same, but you might add something else that you just remembered, so it’s a continuing process. I might remember something I’ve never talked about before,” he says.

“I think it has a lot to do with the audience that comes to see me, and the energy that they exude, it’s a two-way street.”

First Nations performers interweave their music with such intricate storytelling and a unique perspective on upbringing and culture, that you can’t help but feel connected to their performances.

This is the heart of Archie’s stage at the Port Fairy Folk Festival, a space where First Nations performers are able to share their stories and connect with audiences unlike they ever have before.

“That’s the beauty of it,” he explains. “When we start to present a story, you realise a lot of people relate to that, they can relate to what you’re saying. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, where you are or what your background is, there’s something you can connect with.”

Feel connected with Archie Roach, and many other amazing performers on his Foundation stage this year. The Port Fairy Folk Festival is happening March 11 – March 14, grab your tickets here.