Mabo Day on June 3 should be declared a national holiday, says Torres Strait rapper Mau Power.
To mark the 25th anniversary of Mabo Day this year, Power was asked by Eddie Mabo’s daughter Gail to record a song she wrote for her late father, the Meriam man from Murray Island who has gone down in history as the key plaintiff in what came to be known as simply ‘Mabo’ – the case that paved the way for native title.
The release of the song ‘Koiki’ — Eddie Mabo’s tribal name — will coincide with the anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s landmark ruling next month.
“Everyone in the Torres Strait is super proud of Koiki Mabo,” Power says. “He is a hero up there.
“When Gail approached me to reinvigorate this song, I was deeply honoured.
“For years we’ve discussed that many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people want to see the date, June 3, become a national holiday. On the 25th anniversary, we feel we have waited long enough.”
‘Koiki’ opens with the Bu Shell or Conch Shell, the sound of hand claps and a spoken report of the 1992 Mabo ruling.
The vocals in the chorus are sampled from Gail Mabo’s original version with some notable additions — Charles Passi, the son of Mr Mabo’s warrior in arms, David Passi, Tongan/Kamillaroi soul man Radical Son, and Yorta Yorta rocker Benny Walker.
The song will appear on the album Blue Lotus: The Awakening to be released in late 2017.
Power, a Dhoebaw man of the Guda Malullgal nations, says the track is a salute to Mr Mabo and other elders in the communities. It has been produced by his own record company.
“He is very brave, but he is also the image for a lot of Torres Strait Islanders I know,” Power says of Mabo.
“Our grandfathers, or grandmothers as well, I know those people. Their story is never told. They are unsung heroes.
“Eddie Mabo was the name and face that they put to it, but there were five other plaintiffs that were there with him.
“It’s great to have an image of one person to show we have warriors like this. I work with them every day. Being that way, it’s standing up for what is right.
“That’s the story we want people to understand through the song, that you are also responsible to be right and to tell the truth and I want people to be able to understand that, listen to the music, appreciate it, show gratitude to all the people who have laid the foundation for us, but also to say ‘Look I also have a responsibility to become better or do better and tell the truth’.”
The Torres Strait has long celebrated June 3. For the 25th anniversary of Mabo Day, events are planned from northern Queensland to Melbourne, where the Koori Heritage Trust will stage an event in Federation Square.
By Wendy Caccetta