Beauty and grace, Christine Anu returns to the stage to celebrate the sass and soul that was Aretha Franklin.
The REWIND tour is a mix of Ms Franklin’s greatest hits and Ms Anu’s own work, kicking off this week with a sold-out show at Parramatta Riverside Theatre.
“It’s set the benchmark for hopefully some fantastic shows to come,” Ms Anu said.
“It’s nice to be out, on the road, paying tribute and [honouring] Aretha Franklin in memory of the anniversary of her passing.”
Ms Anu regards Ms Franklin is an icon, a woman who influenced many people.
“You don’t really know that that is what is influencing you, I remember growing up with her music. She shines bright in my memory after I saw the Blues Brothers movie, it came out in 1980 – I was only ten. We had to go to Cairns before we watched it in the cinemas.”
“She was larger than life – the sass! It was the fact that I had never seen a black woman on screen like that before.”
“There was this idea thrust into my mind that I could be doing that – be up there as well. She made those dreams realistic to me.”
Ms Franklin had a hard life, which remained very hidden from the rest of the world, something Ms Anu admired about her.
“She was always this elegant, powerful, mysterious woman and I love that,” Ms Anu said.
“She really redefined the sound of R&B. Her stature in music culture is huge – at the time she was breaking boundaries and bridging gaps to get to where she got to.”
“She is the one that made it all accessible for, in particular, black, female artists.”
Ms Anu says paying homage to Ms Franklin on stage felt right.
“I kind of felt like I had arrived. I hadn’t realised how singing her songs would make me feel at peace,” Ms Anu said.
“People who love Aretha’s music come to see me sing for the first time – that’s the special thing. Particularly if they only know me to sing My Island Home.”
This year has been very busy for Ms Anu. She has recently worked on Heal Together, a project she composed with Max Lambert and hip-hop artist Philly, under the guidance of The Healing Foundation.
“It was very healing, it was interesting to find out what that healing looks like for people.”
“It’s a very personal journey – it is one that we may not be ready to take or need that endorsement to take that leap.”
“For most of us, taking that leap is when true happiness sets in.”
“Healing can be very cathartic, and I found in writing the song there were things I needed to confront and heal.”
“I think it’s so important to stop being angry for no reason or getting upset at the little things … life is too short. When you heal inside you start to be thankful for where you are.”
Ms Anu has no plans of slowing down, with big things on the horizon that include recording, television, radio, the Meredith Music Festival and watching her daughter sing as a feature artist in the 2019 School Spectacular.
“It’s all really exciting. I think the first time you do something it’s all very real. It keeps you energised, and I guess that’s why I’m creating new things or new songs and shows,” Ms Anu said.
REWIND will travel across the country to places such as Fremantle WA, Canberra ACT, Werribee Vic, and Tumut, Cronulla, Coffs Harbour and Newtown in NSW.
By Rachael Knowles