Why Jess Mauboy and Mitch Tambo sing from same song book
Jessica Mauboy and Mitch Tambo are singing the same tune when it comes to the power of music to change kids’ lives for the better through lyricism, storytelling and childhood literacy
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Belting out a favourite tune with your buddies can achieve much more than just lifting the group mood, said multi-talented First Nations musician and dancer Mitch Tambo.
Passionate about the power of lyricism* in learning, in particular the survival and teaching of First Nations languages, the proud Gamilaraay man called music “amazing” for lifelong literacy*.
“When we’re talking about literacy, the repetitive nature of certain hooks in songs, melodies* and riffs*, they become these things called earworms*,” Tambo said. “They’re little hooks: you walk away from that lesson, you’re singing this melody and (it’s) full of information. Even though you didn’t think you retained* it, you actually did through the power of song.”
Music helps children “navigate their way through certain things in their life”, he said, adding:
“(Music) can help kids with speech impediments*, stuttering and … their educational journey. Being a First Nations person, a lot of our law, our culture, our protocol* is gifted and passed down through the concept of song.”
The father of four – in Sydney from Melbourne this weekend performing in Walanbaa Yulu-Gi with world-renowned* dance company Burn the Floor – said music had a “fundamental”* role to play in education.
“Music can step up by people using it as a tool to educate kids and draw kids into that learning experience around language and other fundamental practices,” Tambo said.
“Through lyrics in particular, you can gift someone certain elements of … not only their language but their identity(,) and I think when someone has a stronger idea of their identity and sense of self, the foundational roots are planted nice and firm.
“Someone’s more likely to make positive choices because they’ve got a more centralised idea around self-love and self-awareness. I think language and lyric … is just so, so very important.”
From earworm to bookworm could well be the catchcry* for Indigenous Literacy Day (ILD) on September 6, when performers including Indigenous Literacy Foundation ambassadors* Jessica Mauboy and Justine Clarke will join children from Barunga Remote Community School in the first ever ILD livestream from the Sydney Opera House.
“For me, literacy is enhanced* through the power of music,” Mauboy said. “I communicate, share stories and emotions through my music, and this has been reinforced throughout my life – it was very much part of my childhood.”
Joanne Lee, one of the reigning champions of the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee, also engages with language and story through music.
“Sometimes when I listen to music, there are words that I don’t know … so I search it up or ask my parents and I think that helps,” the Year 5 super speller said. “(Having a story in the song) makes it more interesting and makes you want to listen to more.”