Yorta-Yorta man and hip hop iconoclast Briggs has today dropped a fresh track; it’s an adaptation of a song by Bundjalung man and Aussie country icon Troy Cassar-Daley, and it’s an absolute belter.
Shadows is a reworking of Cassar-Daley’s song Shadows On The Hill; it’s a slow-paced, ominously thumping beauty that holds to its tonic with stoicism while lashed with Cassar-Daley’s lapsteel guitar. The story of its creation is told superbly by Cassar-Daley himself:
“Shadows On The Hill started its song line around a fire on Gumbaynggirr country at our men’s camp,” he says. “There was one powerful moment for all of us when a massacre was mentioned, that happened up the river from where we camped with our families for many generations. The wind died down, the air around us was still, and not one bird sang. My old uncle stood up and said, ‘Don’t be scared; the old people know we are here. They are just letting us know’. The trees on the mountains across the river from us stood long and lonely.
I believe the old people gave me this song to acknowledge the pain and to share one of the many brutal stories of this land, and more importantly, to share the truth. Because song lines never end and make their way through thousands of generations, I shared the song with Briggs, so the next generation can hear the story of the Shadows On The Hill.
Briggs says he was “honoured” when Cassar-Daley brought the track to him, and that “he’d share this part of his story with me.”
He continues, “There was so much depth and this haunting truth that is woven through his words.
“As a kid I’d often remember rumours about what parts of Melbourne were old ‘graveyards.’ Which, I guess, is a way to explain a massacre site, or to reconcile it for young ears. Where the bodies dropped, they built a f-ckin’ parking lot. Australia has a hard time acknowledging its truth. There’s a partial map of massacre sites in the artwork. It’s documented; it’s factual.
“The first war began in 1788. It had all the symptoms of a war. There were opposing nations, a clear objective of taking land, everything in it and the expansion of the Crown. Australia enjoys its cherry-picked history. Genocide isn’t just rifles. It’s in introducing dependency, and then removing the care. It’s exclusion from the health care system, it’s exclusion from the economy and society.
“Governor Macquarie said, ‘Hang the natives from the tree to deter others.’ They named a Bank, a University and many other streets and landmarks after him. People get cancelled for tweets in 2021; this guy still has a statue.
“Blackfullas personify survival,” he concludes. “We embody the values of our culture; that’s what we carry.”
Listen below, and note that the significant artwork Briggs mentions is recreated in the YouTube video itself.