Review: Australian Artists For Asylum Seekers – Christmas Benefit 2014

Lindsay Philips

The significance of The Australian Artists For Asylum Seekers’ Christmas Benefit 2014 is beautiful and complex. I don’t have space here to describe for you the poetic relevance of each song. Twenty five tracks is a long listen. I’ve listened many times, soaking it in. Each song is made by conscientious people, compelled to publicly offer up their craft and, perhaps more importantly, their names. Their contribution is not angry and no one is denigrated. As well as being a high calibre collection of Australian independent music, Christmas Benefit 2014 is an act of compassion that reaches out to audiences in communal hope. Their art comforts us partly because it is familiar but also because it gives us a voice and a positive focus for our outrage. The people of Australian Artists For Asylum Seekers have renounced any financial return and direct all funds raised, through the purchase of the album, to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre in Melbourne.

There is a statement attributed to Fela Kuti, the late Nigerian protest singer, that asserts water has no enemy. Water will persevere, calmly and ferociously, until it dominates. For people everywhere, music is like water. It is the basis of life. Music is the stage where we commune to stand firm for the right to a free and fulfilling life. It is also where we meet for intimate and civic celebration. Music gives strength and nourishment to us as people. Similarly, The Australian Artists For Asylum Seekers group adds to the body of evidence that today’s artists and industry are continuing the tradition of standing up tall, from the roots of community, to vocalise their concerns and protest against injustice. They have done this by uniting and presenting songs of beauty that have the power to perforate dividing walls and flow beyond obstacles.

The compilation is brimming with self-assured work from Australian artists that you may visit in a nearby venue. The people involved are living breathing thinkers and creators that live in our neighbourhoods. They represent us, not just through this album, but each time they perform in public. Through music and song they reflect back to us our most basic and essential human condition. That we all need love, consideration and empathy in order to bloom. Their music speaks to our deepest feelings. Their lyrics remind us that we are all essentially responsible for our own thoughts, actions and inactions. We hear that the destruction of others stems from our personal version of futility and self-loathing. They caution us that fear and hate should not be permitted power or to represent us in any form. Each song gives us an opportunity to listen and consider our personal stories; stories that are universal in nature; stories with different names but that we recognise as versions of our own; versions of our family’s history. These artists continue the tradition of the bard, the ones who remind us of lessons learned and forgotten, or ignored.

It is appropriate that the album completes with a Christmas theme, ‘Come Home (It’s Christmas Time)’. This, from album producer Lindsay Philips, is a bitter sweet song that makes me tear up every time. It reminds me of old fashioned letters written to people who seem far away, people we yearn to hold and keep safe. It’s longing speaks to the asylum seeker situation and of the primary connections that we are all born into – the family, in all its cultural forms. A very appropriate reminder for Christmas time.

Like many others, I’m excited by this cross section showing the wealth of our contemporary music scene. These artists, and their work, deserve recognition for defining high standards and for helping shape our identity and social history. All tracks are previously unreleased and there is no particular theme or genre. They are united by their mission. Listen, purchase, savour and enjoy. The album is only available till 11:59pm Christmas Day, 2014 on Bandcamp. Also, not to be missed is an associated event and fundraiser at The Old Bar, Fitzroy on Sunday 28 December 2014 that includes a number of the artists. I look forward to seeing your smile on 28 December 2014 in The Old Bar for a day of heart warming music.

Australian Artists For Asylum Seekers
1. y0t0
2. The Royal Baccarats
3. Dan Flynn
4. Roller One
5. Crystal Thomas
6. Danny Walsh
7. Steve Lucas
8. Rich Davies
9. Damon Smith
10. Saskia Sansom
11. Suzie Stapleton
12. Van Walker
13. SS.Sebastian (feat. Lisa Crawley)
14. Jimmy Tait
15. Lonely Stretch
16. Sean McMahon
17. Fee Brown
18. Tom Woodward (feat. Nausea) –
19. Eminé
20. Slow Galo
21. I Heart Cusack
22. Hugh McGinlay And The Recessive Genes
23. Dane Tucquet
24. Andrew Keese And The Associates
25. Lindsay Phillips