I saw King Stingray play live at the recent Dark Mofo Festival in Hobart (see my review here) without ever having heard of them before, and was instantly enraptured. One of the most gloriously joyous gigs I’ve ever seen, and those familiar with me and my writing will know I’m generally inclined towards the more melancholic and the miserable. Infective, while currently a much maligned concept, was the fitting description of the performance and the music, and is on full display in their efervescent new single ‘Milkumana’.
In first nations language Yolŋu Matha, ‘Milkumana’ means to show, share or pass on knowledge through stories and song. Guitarist Roy Kellaway explains:
It’s about leadership and mala wangany – we are all one and in this together. We are all living under the same sun, sailing in the same boat, towards a brighter future. It’s about role models and the importance of setting good examples for the new generation.
This radiant sense of optimism seeps through the song with its monumental choruses and rhythms. The bass line alone is extraordinary: a hyperactive restless riff that thunders like a herd of attention deficit disordered cattle in the dusty outback.
The accompanying video, ‘Milkumana and the Story of the Golden Bilma’ was filmed in King Stingray’s hometown of Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land, featuring tribal elders Mangatjay Yunupingu and Malŋay Yunupingu, both well known keepers of Yolŋu manikay (traditional songlines), and respected mentors to King Stingray and the Yirrkala community.
In the video, Mangatjay is giving Yirrŋa the Bilma (clapsticks), which is symbolic of passing on knowledge and power. This includes hunting skills, survival and life skills, and everything about living with Mother Earth in Arnhem Land.
It’s charming and touched with grace and humour:
You can get ‘Milkumana’ through the usual download/streaming sites here or, better yet, directly from King Stingray through the link below:
King Stingray have famous relatives. Hailing from Yirrkala, a community in East Arnhem Land, Roy Kellaway and singer Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu (the ‘ŋ’ pronounced like ‘ng’ as in ‘ring’) formed the group as a means to make music separately to their family’s musical project – the legendary Yothu Yindi. Two original members of the ground-breaking collective behind the iconic 1991 anthem ‘Treaty’ are King Stingray’s relatives. Guitarist Kellaway is bass player Stu Kellaway’s son and Yunupiŋu is the nephew of frontman Dr M Yunupiŋu.
Genetic connections do not necessarily maketh an artist, but in this case, the genetic connection is neither here nor there. King Stingray are superb.
Yunupiŋu’s powerful vocals mix Yolŋu Matha and English languages: a unique fusion of indie rock and First Nations music. The sheer joy in the perfomance – both off stage and on stage – was infec