Must-See First Nations Artists & Events At Vivid Sydney ‘2312 Apr 2023
First Nations talent is front-and-centre this Vivid Sydney, as we celebrate the world's oldest continuing living culture and shine a spotlight on the artists and voices continuing to shape it.
In the words of Vivid Sydney's First Nations Advisor Rhoda Roberts AO, "the truthtellers and current dialogues expose the darkness of our nation’s past – but now Vivid Sydney 2023 shines, throwing an inclusive light on today’s First Nations perspectives. From conversations to the universal language of music, across genres and generations, the program highlights the love we have for culture, community and interconnection."
From a set of goosebump-inducing live performers at our free Tumbalong Nights stage to a very special tribute night to Archie Roach AC and rising RnB stars taking over the Sydney Opera House, here are 14 music acts and events you can't miss. Plus, some bonus Light, Ideas and Food events too!
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that Vivid Sydney's website and this blog may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.
From Friday 26 May to Saturday 17 June, from 7.30pm
Supported by CommBank Indigenous Careers, Tumbalong Nights is your go-to for free contemporary music at Tumbalong Park in the very heart of the Light Walk. Across 12 nights, you can catch acts from Africa to Arnhem Land, ranging from Afro-synth party starters to some of Australia's finest shoegazers, with a focus on First Nations artists both emerging and established.
On Saturday 27 May, monumentally influential Yolngu supergroup Yothu Yindi plus Wik and Solomon Island rapper Ziggy Ramo take the stage for a powerful and inspiring night of music and dance.
Then, on Thursday 8 June, be swept away by veteran Mutti Mutti songwriter-activist Kutcha Edwards. Enjoy Dan Sultan’s serenades on Saturday 10 June, and feel the funk with 7-piece Andrew Gurruwiwi Band on Thursday 15 June.
And on Friday 16 June, two transfixing and impassioned soul performers grace Tumbalong Nights – the legendary Emma Donovan with long-time collaborators The Putbacks, and emerging Noongar artist Bumpy.
Friday 9 June, 8pm–9.30pm
Celebrate the legacy of one of Australia’s most potent and powerful truth-tellers, songmen and activists, Archie Roach AC, with this night of tribute performances at Sydney Town Hall from long-time friends, collaborators and contemporaries.
Presented in association with the Archie Roach Foundation and Archie’s long-time manager Jill Shelton and directed by Rhoda Roberts AO, A Bend in the River promises to be a touching tribute to the Gunditjmara and Bundjalung elder. Featuring Paul Kelly, Emma Donovan, Dan Sultan, Kutcha Edwards, Sally Dastey, Becca Hatch, Dobby, Deline Briscoe, Radical Son, Nola Lauch, David Arden, Russell Smith, Candice Lorrae, Tenzin Choegyal, Tamala Shelton and more.
Friday 9 June, 9pm-1am
Sit back and enjoy a night under the wing of one of Australia's finest performers and most recognisable voices, the 17-ARIA Award-nominated Christine Anu.
Endlessly versatile, the full gamut of the singer, actor and radio host's talents will be on display in this special one-off performance at the Vivid Sydney Supper Club, the festival’s intimate cabaret club at Mary's Underground.
Friday 26 May, 7pm-8pm
Western Sydney has exploded with talented young hip-hop, RnB and dance-pop artists over the past few years, and they don't come any more exciting than Kamilaroi-Samoan singer-songwriter Becca Hatch.
Since winning triple j Unearthed High’s Indigenous Initiative in 2017, the now 22-year-old has expanded beyond her RnB roots, seamlessly weaving flecks of UK garage, Baile funk, house and dance-pop across a stream of captivating singles. Don't miss this rising star’s headline show at the Sydney Opera House's Utzon Room.
Sunday 28 May, 7pm-8pm
When their swaggering, anti-colonialist hip-hop collaboration 'Bagi-la-m Bargan' stormed the triple J Hottest 100 in 2020, Birdz and Fred Leone ascended to their rightful place in the national consciousness – and haven’t looked back.
Cousins and musical brothers from the Butchulla Nation, rapper Birdz and Songman Leone are a formidable live double act, capable of raising the roof and speaking truth to power in equally ferocious measure. The two take to the Utzon Room to perform tracks from their new collaborative record, Girra.
Friday 9 June, 6.30pm-11pm
Gomeroi rapper and master storyteller Kobie Dee and break-out hip-hop star JK-47 hit up Carriageworks for a night of hard-hitting lyricism.
At just 25, Kobie has emerged as one of Australia’s most exciting voices in hip-hop, nabbing the Briggs seal of approval in 2019 when he signed to the rapper’s label, Bad Apples Music. And with debut Made For This (2020), Bundjalung rapper JK-47 established his place on the front line of First Nations rap, winning the Album of the Year at the National Indigenous Music Awards. Plus, Noongar Wongi rapper Flewnt and his 10-year-old son Inkabee join, representing Boorloo’s scene.
Wednesday 31 May, 7.30pm-9pm
In the space of a couple of years, 21-year-old singer-songwriter Budjerah Slabb has created a wave of buzz to become one of Australia's hottest new music acts.
Fresh off the release of his brand-new single 'Therapy', and a tour in support of global superstar Ed Sheeran, he's set to make his Sydney Opera House debut at Vivid LIVE, performing his distinctive mix of soulful, RnB-inflected pop in the Studio for one night only.
Beyond our music line-up, take in awe-inspiring works and ideas from First Nations artists and thought leaders too across our Light, Ideas and Food programs.
Opening Vivid Sydney is First Light, a celebration honouring the continuous protocol of our nation’s First People with a unique Welcome to Country and performances from Yothu Yindi and more. It will be broadcast live across the Light Walk on opening night, and an edited version will feature each night before Lights On!
Over at the Vivid Ideas Exchange, join a panel of First Nations, Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (Pacific) and Women of Colour artists for Blue Skies and Street Signs. This nuanced conversation about the importance of Country, whenua (land), moana (ocean) and place in creativity features Jazz Money, Sela Vai, Gillian Kayrooz and Ayeesha Ash.
And as part of the Australian Museum’s line-up for Vivid Ideas, Connection To Country will explore what caring for Country means and looks like in 2023, via a night of talks, music and activities curated by artist, theatre maker and choreographer Jacob Boehme.
Within the heart of Vivid Sydney's Light Walk is Barerarerungar, a new work by multi-disciplinary Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung artist Maree Clarke. Meaning ‘Country’ in Kulin Nation language Boonwurrung, Barerarerungar transforms the façade of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia with a tribute to south-east First Nations art and cultural practices – specifically, those used to create Maree’s famed River Reed necklaces.
And over at Taronga Zoo, Wild Lights is a brand-new illuminated night trail created by Wiradjuri artist Nathan Peckham with Ample Projects Director Nicholas Tory. See native animals like koalas, dingos, kangaroos and more transformed into giant light sculptures, rendered in intricate designs by Nathan.
On the Vivid Food front, Carriageworks presents The Warakirri Dining Experience, an intimate evening of First Nations food coupled with after-hours exhibition access. Guests are invited to enjoy this culinary event showcasing 60,000 years of culture through a guided dining experience, entertainment, music and storytelling. Renowned Chef and Founder of Indigiearth Sharon Winsor will create a 5-course menu that celebrates First Nations ingredients sourced on Gadigal Land.
And as part of the Chefs on the Harbour series on-board Sydney's newest luxurious superyacht The Jackson, TV superstar chef Mark Olive aka 'The Black Olive' cooks up an unforgettable five-course dégustation celebrating First Nations cuisine and ingredients.
Vivid Sydney is proud to spotlight First Nations art and voices, and acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of the land and waters upon which Vivid Sydney is hosted. We offer our respect to their Elders both past and present.