Mau Power: a modern day music pioneer

Mau Power: a modern day music pioneer

This year marks 250 years since old salt Jimmy Cook turned up to claim our shores for the British Empire. On January 26th, Indigenous rapper and songwriter Mau Power featured on the fittingly titled Survival Day Sunrise Ceremony broadcast on NITV & SBS TV. The voice of hip-hop can be an expression of hardship and anger. Mau Power takes the energy and fire of his craft further to inspire hope, respect, strength and positive action into the future.

Blue Lotus The Awakening is the second album by the artist from the Torres Strait Islands. It opens with the beckoning sound of the Bu (conch) shell, bridging the gap between the two albums. Power explains, “The last song on The Show Will Go On [2014] was sampled and re-sampled to put into this intro. The voice you hear is King Kadu calling you to this project, a continuation of the journey started on the first album. The spiritual search for understanding of the true identity that people have with my culture and the culture of hip hop. I started searching for universal knowledge and wisdom around everything. The lotus kept appearing in my dreams. In Buddhism, it represents an awakening. The blue lotus is the first point that comes through the murky water and never fully opens. It partially opens and that symbolises the search for wisdom and knowledge.”

The grandson of singer-songwriter Seaman Dan AM (TSI man with Jamaican heritage in the family line), Mau grew up listening to pop, early rock’n’roll and Country classics. His influences expanded to R&B, soul, punk, metal and Reggae. “When I started out in hip hop, the context around identity was very important as an MC. Lyrically you put together styles and flows, syntax, the structure and energy around your flow… [Back then}, I didn’t really hear – except from a couple of crews around – was incorporating the native tongue. I started in the early 2000s with a song called ‘My Blood My People’. It transformed what I was writing about into something else. That’s when story context came in, incorporating culture and identity into the work. Hearing Uncle Archie Roach sing ‘Took The Children Away’ gave me the foundation. Like ‘ Wow!’, to tell a powerful story and from a personal place.” Mau is already working on new songs, studying more music heroes. Last night, he tells me, it was Marvin Gaye.

Blue Lotus features flavours of soulful R&B, hip hop and rock. “I was influenced by acts like De La Soul and Public Enemy, when conscious Rap was about messages of positive affirmations. Music has no categories for me. Just emotions and sounds. In live arenas, there’s a different energy to it. Some call it Rap or Indigenous hip hop or even World Music. But it’s the language of emotions. I was just in Doomadgee (Cooktown) doing digital media projects with young people. We gave them a chance to jump in on camera and tell their own stories. And they loved it. Like when somebody gave me a shot, showed me what to do.”

Powerful stories inform upcoming generations. Album track ‘Koiki’ remembers the landmark Mabo land claim. “It tells us you can still be a strong advocate for the greater outcome. Koiki’s actions were very staunch and strong but focussed on the outcome. The fruits of his labour created change.”

Meanwhile, as a proud Dhoebaw man of the Guda Malullgal nations, Mau is a modern day music pioneer putting TSI on the world map. Live performances incorporate traditional dance, DJs and bands, timeless rhythms and storytelling tailored to each platform. “I love performing, the freedom of expression. Some do it in sports or visual arts… When I started out there was no TSI music ‘industry’. My background is, I’m a cray fisherman. So I took the concept of what I knew as a cray fisherman and applied it to music as a business,” he laughs. “Blue Lotus includes unique collaborations with Radical Son, Benny Walker, Jimblah, Talei Wolfgramm, Marcus Corowa and George Musu. I got to work with some great people, so talented. I’m very happy with the whole journey.”

Release: Blue Lotus The Awakening is out now.

Written by Chris Lambie