Songs my mother taught me sees artists across generations and cultures share significant songs 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Songs my mother taught me gave us linguistic diversity perhaps not otherwise seen in Adelaide except for WOMAD in March. Only then does Adelaide usually get to witness a variety of artists performing in multiple languages at the one event. We were treated to songs in some 6 languages in addition to English: Italian, Hebrew, French, Mandarin, Nbedele, and a Torres Strait Islander language (we were unable to identify which one despite our best efforts). 

Songs my mother taught me
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Songs my mother taught me was one of the headline acts of the 2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, with Tina Arena at the Artistic Director helm. It was the only opportunity to see her perform during the festival (unless you were at The Pina Colada Room on opening night). And there were some very enthusiastic fans in the audience shouting “we love you Tina” every time she would appear on stage!

 

After opening Songs my mother taught me with all 6 singers performing “Our house” (which unfortunately now immediately makes me think of Chemist Warehouse!), Tina Arena welcomes the audience to “our house, our living room, a place to gather and share”. The stage looks inviting with lanterns and lampshades of various shapes and colours strewn across it. Light bulb garlands complete the lighting arrangements. This colourful, eclectic lighting makes the audience feel that they were in a cozy backyard, rather than in a living room.

Songs My Mother Taught Me
Mark Ferguson and Tina Arena
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Tina Arena is far from the only star in the 6 singer line-up. Songs my mother taught me consists of a very diverse group featuring singers who have been around for decades in Tina Arena and Wendy Matthews to the younger generation of Thando, Jess Hitchcock, Sophie Koh and Lior. This diverse line-up was also mirrored in the audience that attended with everyone from people in their 20s to people into their 80s among the crowd. Throughout the show, these 6 singers perform songs that speak to who they are.

 

Tina Arena showcased her Italian heritage performing songs in Italian, opening with love ballad  Maledetta Primavera ‘Dammed Springtime’. (I’d hoped for one number in French given she has spent so long living in Paris and has become quite successful over there).

Songs My Mother Taught Me
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Jess Hitchcock performed Sorrento Moon in a duet with Tina Arena. Songs my mother taught me was not the first time that they had performed together. They performed the song as a duet in Frontier Touring’s Music From The Home Front in 2021. Hitchcock who has family origins from Saibai in the Torres Straits and Papua New Guinea performed a Torres Strait Islander lullaby Baba Waiyar, which translates to Father Send

 

Songs my mother taught me
Photo: Claudio Raschella

Wendy Matthews sang her French version of The Day you went away, her popular song from the early 90s, which still brings tears to my eyes. Matthews also gave a nod to her Scottish roots with an English language song that her grandfather used to play on the harmonica when she was a child. Matthews also had her own group of loud fans celebrating her every time she came on stage – one loudly shared her disappointment that The Day you went away was being performed in French – I think the audience were thankful because it meant this audience member wouldn’t sing along loudly!

 

Photo: Claudio Raschella

Lior, speaking of his upbringing in Tel Aviv, sang in Hebrew including his childhood favourite song Gan Sagur meaning ‘Kindergarten is closed’. The irony that he used to rush home from kindergarten or school and request that it be played was not lost on him. His performance of Hebrew prayer Avinu Malkeinu ‘Our Father Our King’ had his voice soaring and making us feel like we had been transported from the restored Her Majesty’s Theatre to a synagogue with lofty ceilings. 

 

ongs My Mother Taught Me
Photo: Claudio Raschella

The Voice finalist, Zimbabwean born, Thando performed in both Nbedele and English. She sang the traditional Zulu lullaby that she sings to her daughter every night before she goes on stage as she won’t see her until the next morning. Tula Tula ‘Hush now, hush now’ is what Thando’s own mother used to sing to her as a child.  An impressive, powerful voice, I was impressed to see Thando perform.

 

Sophie Koh
Photo by Claudio Raschella

Sophie Koh (who also performed her own  show Shànghai MiMi at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival – read our review from the Sydney Festival 2019) performed in Mandarin including a song that she wrote herself. Called Yellow Rose, Sophie Koh said it is an ode to all the anonymous women in the Chinese Book of Songs.

 

 

Not only were the artists backgrounds and their languages varied, so too were the musical styles performed in Songs my mother taught me. There was everything from lullabies and hymns/prayer songs to pop, R&B and love ballads.

 

Accompanying the 6 singers on stage for Songs my mother taught me were an impressive cast of musicians – Mark Ferguson on piano (who also performs regularly with singer of French chanson, Louise Blackwell), and who also arranged the music performed in the show, and his own family members mother-daughter back-up singer duo, Jasmine and Ciara Ferguson – who were wonderful singers and we’d love to see them perform up front in their own show. 

 

To the right of the stage were 2 violinists, Emily Tulloch and Zsuzsa Leona; violist, Karen De Nardi, and a cellist, Hilary Kleinig. Behind Mark Ferguson on the piano (although he was not the only one to play the piano last night with some of the signers playing the piano while they sang) were Nick Sinclair on bass, Chris Neale on drums, and Cam Blokland on guitar.

 

While there was a digital programme available for Songs my mother taught me  (via QR code displayed at the doors to the theatre), which gives a little more information and translations of some of the songs, it would have been useful to the audience if the singers had let the audience know not just why the song speaks who they are (which they did) but also what the song is about when it was a non-English language song. Some achieved this through having a translated verse or a brief explanation beforehand but for others we were left in the dark as to what the song was about. 

 

Songs my mother taught me was an enchanting, moving evening of song showing the bridging together of cultures and generations. All 6 singers who made up those sharing their songs and stories in Songs my mother taught me are talented and their shows merit being seen in their own right. 

5 CROISSANTS

Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Cabaret Festival

 

There were only two performances of Songs my mother taught me in their world premiere season at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which has now concluded. 

Songs my mother taught me
Wendy Matthews, Sophie Koh, Tina Arena, Lior, Thando & Jess Hitchock
Photo: Claudio Raschella

READ OUR ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL COVERAGE

10 shows with French links at Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2022

And then you go (The Vali Myers Project): a performance inspired by the life of Vali Myers

Oliver Twist proves himself a powerful storyteller in Jali at Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Have you never heard of Vali Myers? Victoria Falconer wants to change that

Meow Meow’s Pandemonium with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is orchestrated chaos of the best kind

Cirque Bon Bon is a delicious treat!

Bad Guy: Hayden Tee examines the bad guy musical role and what it means to be bad

Imogen Kelly delights and moves the audience in La Grande Folie

Bad Guy is the new solo show from Hayden Tee, the nice guy who’s always cast as the villain

Enter the world of Meow Meow’s Pandemonium this weekend

La Grande Folie – can stripping save the world?

Don Juan at Adelaide Cabaret Festival: don’t miss out on this party celebrating the legend

Mario, Queen of the Circus invites you to Cirque Bon Bon

Play French for a night with Don Juan at Adelaide Cabaret Festival

For other events with links to France and the francophonie , take a look at our What’s on in June

 

Subscribe

Enter your email to subscribe to new article notifications about all things French and francophone in Australia

Oliver Twist proves himself a powerful storyteller in Jali at Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In Jali, Oliver Twist tells his story from child refugee fleeing his home country Rwanda, waiting in Malawi to be accepted as a refugee, and eventually making it to Australia where he and his family settled in Ipswich. 

Jali Oliver Twist

Jali is a word used in Western Africa to designate a person who narrates history and stories through singing and music. It is another word for the French term griots, but jali is preferred.

 

A story so sad and with moments of violence could easily depress audiences, but Oliver’s story telling finds a way of weaving in comedy among the sadness. Oliver Twist is an inspiring story-teller. The audience hung on his every word. We shared in his heartbreak and his joy. We laughed at the humour in the unlikely places. I wanted to rush on stage and give him a hug when he was sharing his disappointments and suffering. 

 

Jali was held in Adelaide’s Space Theatre where simple lighting showed it had a number of effective uses. Comprised of a single line of stage light bulbs, which change colour (from white, to orange to blue), and which light the whole or parts of the stage depending on the scene. A recurring story that comes up throughout Jali takes place at a lake – the stage is bathed in blue light whenever this story returns. 

 

The set is simple, consisting of two levels of rectangular blocks, the upper ones with ramps down to the middle. Oliver makes the most of this set standing or sitting on different parts or sides of the blocks. 

 

His Dad is Hutu and Mum is Tutsi, a difference that he says didn’t exist before Belgian colonisation of Rwanda. Jali is a story about trying to find a place where you’re welcome and that you can call home. Twist’s family weren’t welcome in Malawi either – and he tells of waking in the early hours of the morning to guns pointed at his head aged 12. Hopes of getting refugee status and accepted by Canada were dashed not once, but twice. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There is humour to be found in plenty of parts of his story 

 

Oliver Twist asks the audience “if you had the chance to restart, would you do it differently?”. A show which breaks the usual mould of song based cabaret at Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Oliver Twist shows that he is one of the next generation of important, persuasive and convincing storytellers, or Jalis, to follow. 

5 CROISSANTS

Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Oliver Twist Jali

KEY INFO FOR OLIVER TWIST JALI

WHAT: Oliver Twist “Jali”

WHERE: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide

WHEN: Two more shows remain:

Fri 24 Jun 2022, 9:00PM

Sat 25 June 2022, 6:30PM

HOW: Buy your tickets via this link:

https://www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au/events/oliver-twist/

HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows (excluding transaction fee):

  • Premium Adult$44.00
  • A Reserve Adult$39.00
  • Under 30$30.00

 

MORE ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL CONTENT

10 shows with French links at Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2022

Have you never heard of Vali Myers? Victoria Falconer wants to change that

Meow Meow’s Pandemonium with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is orchestrated chaos of the best kind

Cirque Bon Bon is a delicious treat!

Louise Blackwell presents a show about the life and songs of Juliette Greco ‘Love on the Left Bank’

Bad Guy: Hayden Tee examines the bad guy musical role and what it means to be bad

Imogen Kelly delights and moves the audience in La Grande Folie

Bad Guy is the new solo show from Hayden Tee, the nice guy who’s always cast as the villain

Enter the world of Meow Meow’s Pandemonium this weekend

La Grande Folie – can stripping save the world?

Don Juan at Adelaide Cabaret Festival: don’t miss out on this party celebrating the legend

Mario, Queen of the Circus invites you to Cirque Bon Bon

Play French for a night with Don Juan at Adelaide Cabaret Festival

 

Subscribe

Enter your email to subscribe to new article notifications about all things French and francophone in Australia