The Makarrata Project
Midnight Oil
Sony Music Australia, 2020

The Makarrata Project

 

"This album is Midnight Oil doing what they do best: challenging mainstream Australia with the truths that too much of our comfortable culture doesn’t want to face. This is prophetic rock from a band and other local voices who do it from the heart."

Midnight Oil fans have been waiting for new material from the band for many years. The Makarrata Project will leave you wanting more.

This mini album (it’s only seven songs) takes the listener back to the days of Diesel And Dust in 1987, when the band made powerful, definitive statements about the centuries of injustice that Indigenous people have endured in this country.

As another reviewer of this album has said, if the only criticism of Diesel And Dust was that it was a bunch of white blokes telling us about the plight of Indigenous people, The Makarrata Project responds to those criticisms loudly and clearly. 

Each song features the voices of local Indigenous talent, from the well known Jessica Mauboy and the late, legendary Gurrumul, to Dan Sultan, Alice Skye and Frank Yamma.

These voices add integrity by presenting us with the words of the people themselves. The unmistakeable vocals of Peter Garrett add to the power these songs touch the heart with. Garrett will have lost many fans who see him as having sold out by going into mainstream politics with its inevitable compromises. My contention though is that most Oils fans are remarkably forgiving. The crowds at their concerts in recent years are testament to that.

This album is Midnight Oil doing what they do best: challenging mainstream Australia with the truths that too much of our comfortable culture doesn’t want to face. This is prophetic rock from a band and other local voices who do it from the heart.

The prophets of the Bible had their faults, and many may see Garrett’s foray into politics as an unforgivable fault. But this album shows the band’s true heart. This is where they’ve always been. They have earned the respect of Indigenous people because they have done the hard work of sitting down in the dust and listening. It’s an example for Christians to follow if we truly care about injustices against marginalised people.

The songs themselves range from typical Oils hard rock in First Nation and Gadigal Land to the more pop style of Come On Down. Then there is the sweet voice of Alice Skye in the haunting Terror Australia.

The theme of the album is based around the Uluru Statement From The Heart, the 2017 document that calls for the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution. The fact that this has not been done is a major indictment on this country’s inability and unwillingness to face its past. As the album powerfully states, we cannot move forward as a nation until we face our history.

When I read about the meaning of the album’s title, I was immediately reminded of the beatitude, "blessed are the peacemakers". ‘Makarrata’ is a Yolngu word which roughly translates as conflict resolution and peacemaking. Seeing Indigenous and white people working together on this album makes the title very apt and powerful indeed.

The album ends with a reading of the Uluru Statement From The Heart by various Indigenous voices, including those of Adam Goodes and Stan Grant. 

This is an album of pain and heartache, along with a powerful call for peace and reconciliation. Perhaps the song that evokes this deeply felt sentiment the most is Gadigal Land. As drummer Rob Hirst explains, Dan Sultan’s vocals drive the song. Hirst describes Sultan’s screams in the song as 232 years of injustice and dispossession and pain. Then we hear Bunna Laurie and Uncle Bunya come in with cries of “Wenyo, wenyo, wenyo”, which is a welcome in that language.

If you’re an Oils fan and you loved Diesel And Dust all those years ago, The Makarrata Project will come across like a long-awaited sequel, with its added Indigenous voices. This is a prophetic cry from the very heart of God for long-awaited justice by a band that has always been genuinely committed to it through its expression of good, raw Australian rock.