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Emily Wurramara

Emily Wurramara is a young singer/songwriter who is kicking some serious goals. She’s currently on the road in support of her debut EP Black Smoke, which has solidified the 20-year-old’s status as a serious contender in the Australian music scene.

“I just wanted to give everyone music that they could turn around and say ‘this is Australia’,” says Wurramara. “I wanted it to represent indigenous Australians and be a voice. So I thought, ‘Why not look at issues that aren’t just effecting indigenous Australians, but Australia as a whole’.”
 
If you’ve never listened to Wurramara’s music before, the immaculate title track is a great place to start. “It’s about belonging and feeling connected in your community. It’s pretty much the feel of happiness, culture and identity,” says Wurramara.
 
Having grown up on the remote island of Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory, Wurramara’s upbringing has not only had a huge impact on her music, but also helped her remain grounded. “Just being on an island you’re so calm and relaxed. You have nothing else to do apart from going fishing and camping. I think that’s influenced me musically because I’ve got a lot of memories I can talk about and stories to share,” she says.
 
Wurramara has helped to bring indigenous culture to the forefront of the music industry, while also becoming a role model for young women everywhere. One of the ways that she has done this is by utlising both English and the language of her family, Anindilyakwa. This is an impressive facet of her skill set, being that most people struggle to master multiple dialects, let alone sing in them. “The older I got, the more influenced I was by my culture. I wanted to incorporate that into my music. The last three years I just thought, ‘Why not?”’
 
Wurramara says the biggest inspiration in her life has been her grandmother. “She is such a strong woman, and pretty much played the male role for all of us. It was really inspiring to see a woman step up and take that role and deliver it,” she says. “The real drive for me is my family, my people, my culture.
 
“It was recorded in Melbourne. Three of the songs I’d pre written, and the rest just kind of came naturally,” says Wurramara of Black Smoke’s recording process. The finished product is one that is culturally rich and mature beyond the singer’s years. It is easy to forget that she is so young, and still has plenty of room to grow.
 
“I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve learnt to take things not so personally, and to take criticism on the shoulder and just go with it. I’ve bettered myself as a musician and worked with the most amazing producers ever - David Bridie is absolutely insane. The support he gave out inspired me to do something bigger.”
 
Though it isn’t just in the recording studio that Wurramara has enjoyed such positive encouragement. Being a young indigenous woman in an industry that tends to be culturally homogenised, it wouldn’t be surprising had she faced discrimination on some level. Luckily in Wurramara’s case, it has been quite the opposite.
 
“It’s been very positive,” says Wurramara of her experience so far. “Everyone is just so supportive. Especially being indigenous and so young, I feel like I’ve already done so much in my life. Being only 20, it’s amazing how much support I’ve gotten in the industry. It’s so beautiful.” 
 
BY BEL RYAN

Emily WurramaraBlack Smoke out now through Wantok Music.