Flewnt performed at Hale School’s NAIDOC Week Assembly. Courtesy of Flewnt’s Facebook, 2021.
Noongar and Wongi man, activist and hip-hop artist Joshua Eggington, performing under the name Flewnt, is empowering and educating Indigenous youth and the wider Australian community on culture and truth-telling through hip-hop music. Flewnt comes from a politically strong family who fought for Aboriginal rights. In particular, his Uncle Robert who was always on the frontline at a grassroots level and believed that the strength of their people lied in culture. This influence has been instrumental in the forging of Flewnt’s identity as a proud Noongar Wongi man who uses his music as an expression of his culture and a tool to empower his community (Pile TV, 2020). His anthemic song ‘Kya Kyana,’ a celebration of Noongar culture, put Flewnt on the musical map, and resulted in him winning the 2018/2019 WA Naidoc Music Awards for Best Song and Best Hip-Hop Song. Whether it be performing at protests, festivals and rallies across Perth, such as last year’s Perth NAIDOC Ball and this year’s inaugural Maali Festival, to running hip-hop songwriting workshops for Indigenous kids in high school, Flewnt is always trying to educate people on the uncomfortable, hard truths (The Perth Voice, 2018).
Flewnt received the 2018/2019 WA Naidoc Music Awards for Best Song and Best Hip-Hop Song. Courtesy of Flewnt’s Facebook, 2021.
Flewnt’s biggest hit so far “Kya Kyana,” meaning “welcome to ceremonial grounds,” pays homage to the 1991 - 1993 Kyana corroborees held in Perth, and the first verse is adapted from a poem by Aboriginal writer Graeme Dixon. “Kya Kyana” premiered on November 16 in 2018 at the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation (DAC). This is a place of significance for Flewnt as his Uncle Robert Eggington was the leader for many of the Kayana corroborees and is the Director of the aforementioned corporation that holds most of the south-west cultural materials and old artefacts that Australia has (Year13 Expo, 2021). Flewnt told The Perth Voice (2018) that the Kayana festivals are significant to him and the Noongar people as they strengthened their sense of belonging, spiritual identity and reaffirmed people’s pride in their culture and community. Flewnt hopes that his song will connect the younger generation with the ongoing struggle that the festival and the original poem represented (GRID, 2020).
Uncle Robert (2018) also expressed his opinion about the song to The Perth Voice:
“When our young people hear that in the form of a hip hop song they can relate to, they can see that struggle, they can see how it continued to evolve, and also they can access the important writings and teachings of poets like Graeme Dixon.
“It’s showing young people that there was something very important happening, and it was about feeling pride, and it was about our right to practice religion in our country that was for so long denied to us as Aboriginal people.”
Check out Flewnt’s song Kya Kyana below:
Flewnt believes that his hip-hop music translates well to young Indigenous mob as it’s not only modern, but tells stories that are relevant to Indigenous peoples history, culture, tradition and livelihoods. Uncle Robert (2020) feels that if this transitions to young mob today through the popular form of hip-hop, it will be able to act “like a conduit through to that young person’s life; to come back through what they’ve heard within a song; to look at the bigger depositories and archives of culture within our community” (GRID, 2020). So, in a way Flewnt is essentially creating new songlines through his music.
When Flewnt isn’t performing he runs in-school hip-hop workshops for Indigenous high school kids. Despite his difficult upbringing with his parents dealing with addiction and moving houses a lot, Flewnt found great solace in expressing his anxieties through writing rhymes at school (Year13 Expo). He expressed to NIT (2020) how hip-hop can be transformative for Indigenous kids who’ve grown up tough and struggle to feel heard:
“It’s important because it sort of gives them an avenue to express how they’re feeling. I’ve seen kids transform after being able to write rhymes and their lives change because they’re given a voice.
“Hip hop is a great learning tool for language of course, for understanding poetry and rhythm and writing...But particularly because hip hop comes from black struggle … it kind of gives us a platform that we can easily relate to and therefore our culture and cultural words can come into it quite easily.”
Boys from Balga Senior High School performing ‘Flip the Shame’ alongside Flewnt. Courtesy of Flewnt, 2021.
Flewnt loves to bring his knowledge of culture and real-world performing to the students in his workshops. At the beginning of this month, he mentored a class of Year 7 and 8 Indigenous students from the Balga Senior High School in Perth, WA through the New Noise Program provided by West Australian Music (WAM). Along with the school’s head of music teacher Nick Culum and the Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer (AIEO) Reuben Yorkshire, the kids have spent the last few months brainstorming ideas, writing lyrics, composing and recording an inspiring song (Balga Senior High School, 2021).
The boys called their group name ‘Proud Noongar Boys’ and the track ‘Flip the Shame,’ which is about the boys standing tall and being proud of their Indigenous heritage, identity and culture in the face of adversity. As part of the program, the students also had the opportunity to perform their song live for the WAM film crew. Nick Culum was so impressed with how the final track sounded that he submitted the song to Triple J Unearthed (Balga Senior High School, 2021). In the short time that the track has been online, it’s already received high praise reviews from the staff at Triple J. One of these being from the music director Dave Ruby Howe, saying, “The pride that this crew is speaking of is on full display here. Warm, upbeat and standing so tall” (Howe, 2021).
You can listen to the track ‘Flip the Shame’ Triple J Unearthed here.
SIDE educators Donella Grieco (left) and Amy Rosato (right) collaborating with Flewnt (middle) on songwriting workshop, 2021. Courtesy of NIT, 2021.
Another workshop Flewnt has done was with remote education students across WA through the School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE). What was meant to be a workshop about filming for online education resources quickly turned into a songwriting workshop when students in Laverton expressed their interest in wanting to write their own rap songs. So, distance educators Amy Rosato and Donella Grieco used this as an opportunity to engage students in language lessons: Standard Australian English, Aboriginal English and code-switching. It was the biggest songwriting class Flewnt has done yet, with an estimate of 30 students present online from communities in Pia Wadjarri, Meekatharra, Mount Magnet, Shark Bay, One Arm Point, Exmouth, Geraldton, Dalwallinu, Wongan Hills, and Laverton (NIT, 2021).
Together with the students, they created the hip-hop song ‘Never Forget,’ which is about the importance of kinship, and maintaining connection to culture and country. Flewnt said to NIT (2021) that the online workshop became something special for everyone involved:
“There [were] kids that weren’t Indigenous that were saying how connected they felt from just being there and amongst the experience that they were having with us, so it kind of transcended past [being] just a cultural workshop,”
“It became a learning and engaging thing for everybody that was involved. Even the teachers were feeling an experience coming from it.”
SIDE educator Donella Grieco told NIT (2021) of the experience collaborating with Flewnt:
“The experience of the students and Josh connecting on the day was just exhilarating and it has made us think differently about what could be possible in future, when we think about how we might be able to create further opportunities for our Aboriginal students across WA to connect, collaborate and create together in different ways.”
Check out the track ‘Never Forget,’ written by Flewnt with remote students via SIDE (2021) here
For young Indigenous kids out there wanting to transition into the music industry, here are a few words of advice from Flewnt (2021):
“Stay true to what you believe and whatever messages you’re putting out in the world. Always be real about what you’re doing and saying...Be ambitious enough that you won’t allow small things to deter you from your end goal...Surround yourself with people that want the same as you. Always build a strong team.”
So, go on and support Flewnt. We need more musicians like this standing up for First Nations rights and voices. At Yarn, we are always keen to share stories like Flewnt’s and people that give back to their communities.
Make sure you tune into NITV on the 29th August at 8.30pm to catch the premier of the new NITV documentary Incarceration Nation, in which Flewnt’s (featuring Dylan Voller and Tani Walker) song “Always Was” will be featured in.
Check out Flewnt’s socials here: