Mana: Celebrating empowerment and resilience at Darebin Music Feast

Louder together. 

Aiming to give a professional leg up to up-and-coming female, trans or non-gender conforming music event producers local to Darebin, the Darebin Music Feast lit upon the idea of the AMPLIFY Event Producer Mentorship. The idea was to find an applicant who’d benefit from the guidance of an experienced mentor in producing a flagship event for the festival. 
This year, after a rigorous and hotly contested application process, DJ, event producer, artist and zine author Daisy Catterall took out the title, with the expert mentorship being provided by seasoned event organiser Bexx Djentuh (AKA Bexx). The result of the paring is Mana, a carefully curated live music event celebrating queerness and people of colour.   
Catterall has had a razor-sharp vision for Manafrom the outset. “When I first wrote in and applied for the mentorship I wanted to use it to merge two big discrepancies that I saw in the scenes that I participated in – that’s the hip hop scene and the queer scene,” she says.
“It seems as if when I want to go to a hip hop night I can’t go there and express my queerness and when I go to a queer night I can’t go there and express my cultural identity safely, so I feel like there’s a big marriage that needs to be made there. We need to learn how to look after each other and do it through music, because that’s the way that both queer people and people of colour express their identities.”    
To secure the Managig, Catterall applied online and had the concept ready to roll. “You had to make a mock-up of the event; a dream lineup, the dream budget and I tried to paint a really clear vision of what I see for the night,” she explains. Catterall, who has a background in installation art and rolling out installations for club nights, was perfectly positioned to paint a vivid picture for the selection panel.
Coupling that with Catterall’s experience as a DJ (DJ Dee* Luscious) and her music industry connections, she knew exactly who she wanted on the bill, the vibe for the night and what she wanted from patrons. “Whenever I go out with my friends it’s a really fun, nourishing, sweaty dance party – I wanted that, but I also wanted to use the opportunity to create a learning experience for lots of different identities,” Catterall says.
With that in mind, Mana isn’t just a straight-up dance party. Proceedings kick off with Yorta Yorta Nation man Neil Morris conducting a powerful Welcome to Country, something Morris regularly performs at gigs and events across the country. Catterall urges attendees to get to Mana early for it. “It’s a really important part of the night and I want people there to understand that we’re here to have fun, but we’re also here to pay attention to and acknowledge all of the work that is already going on. I feel like when people say, ‘People of colour need empowerment and we need to support colour,’ that’s true, but they also need to recognise that there’s already heaps going on in the scene. We’ve already got this stuff happening, it’s more about making sure that these people of colour have the platforms and that people go to their gigs.”   
The balance of the lineup includes the Pacific Island Creative Arts Australia Choir (AKA PICAA Choir), which is made up mostly of women who will be singing songs in their own language. “That was particularly important to me because I’m a Pacific Islander as well,” Catterall says.
Filling out the bill are emerging DJ P Unique; PNG hip hop and neo-funk singer KAIIT; queer, non-binary Pacific Islander dark-trap outfit Kandere; and local-legend and radio announcer DJ Mz Rizk, bringing the best in hip hop, jazz, soul, funk, disco and global tunes. 
Bexx, who also happens to be Maori, was willingly roped into the AMPLIFY mentorship program by virtue of her role with LISTEN, the collective provoking important discussion from a feminist perspective about women and marginalised people in the music industry. “She’s very much a guiding star,” Catterall says. “I brought my vision to her and she’s someone I could discuss ethics with. That’s something that event producers aren’t really taught, there’s no 101 for ethics and she’s someone I consider to be really ethical in her practices. Plus, there are a lot of questions that you have that you often need to talk out with somebody, like with regards to money, which again is not something that is universal: ethical payment fees, leasing with venues, stuff like that.”
That said, Catterall is absolutely in the driver’s seat. “I have to say this is 150 percent Daisy’s idea,” Bexx says. “She’s an amazing person, she’s the one who came up with everything and it’s going to be awesome. I’d seen Daisy’s work outside of the application and one of them was based on community and her core values resonated with me. It was pretty much a match made in heaven.”   
Taking all of this into consideration, Catterall explains why it’s particularly apt that the event comes under the title Mana.
“It’s a word that’s used across a few different cultures. My understanding is that it’s a Maori word for power, prestige or authority. The ultimate people in Pasifika culture who have mana are your ancestors and the elders in the community. They have ultimate cultural knowledge and they’re wise and strong in their cultural identity – they have that mana to go around. That’s the role of the elders in a way: to share their cultural power with younger people coming up.” 

Mana will take over Northcote Town Hall on Saturday October 21 with KAIIT, Kandere, P Unique and more, as part of Darebin Music Feast. DMF takes places throughout Darebin from Thursday October 12 until Sunday October 22. For more information, head to musicfeast.com.au/2017-program.