Subject: AGE: Taking note of injustice

Taking note of injustice

April 14 2003

It would be hard to name a refugee benefit in the past three years that Melbourne singer, songwriter and guitarist Kavisha Mazzella hasn't put her hand up for. It is unpaid, and largely unacknowledged, work.

On May16 last year, she played at the concert to welcome the Tampa ship to Melbourne. She wrote and arranged music for Kan Yama Kan, the play based on Arabic refugees' stories performed at Trades Hall last July.

Mazzella (who has just released her fourth solo album, Silver Hook Tango) also directs La Voce della Luna, an Italian women's choir. She has played at benefits for Amnesty International, for a Brunswick health service, for destitute asylum seekers, and for a legal centre for Woomera detainees. Tonight, Mazzella is in a concert for asylum-seekers.

"It's basically making a stand for compassion; that we don't agree with the inhumane practices of the Government. I think there's been a lot of unnecessary cruelty," Mazzella says.

"I feel is an artist's role is to be a witness to your time, and a benefit concert is one way in which we are a witness.

"We're witnessing injustice, we're witnessing a degradation in the humanity of society," she says. "If I'm silent, if I don't use my music to speak up, then I am just about agreeing with what's happening."

Raised in Perth by her Italian father and Burmese-Celtic mother, Mazzella co-wrote and composed music for the acclaimed play Mavis Goes to Timor. Since opening in Fremantle last year, Mavis has been performed at the Malthouse as well as in Hobart, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Shepparton, Frankston and Wangaratta. Later this year, it will tour Darwin, Perth and regional Western Australia. Mazzella is on stage throughout the play, playing guitar, singing and directing a 35-person choir. In September 2001, Mazzella spent eight days in East Timor researching Mavis, the true story of an elderly Yarrawonga woman who set up sewing centres for East Timorese women.

"I ran around with a tape machine and I just listened to people singing," Mazzella says. "I went to church at 6am to hear the sung mass. I heard a little girl singing in the back of a house and I asked her mum if I could tape her ... I saw some boys playing on the street, at 3am in the morning, playing an old battered guitar and I taped them.

"And I came home and I just let that sound go into my soul and mind and body and just tried to translate that in the music for the play. I heard many influences. I heard Portuguese, I heard a real Pacific island kind of sound and I heard country and western. And also they've been influenced by Indonesian pop. It's very melodic and sweet.

"The Timorese traditional instruments had mostly been destroyed in the war. It was very hard to find anything. One little girl had made a guitar out of a packing case and fishing line."

Asylum Seekers Are People (ASAP), with Kavisha Mazzella, Joe Camilleri, Stephen Cummings and Ross Wilson, tonight at 8 at fortyfivedownstairs, 45Flinders Lane, tickets $25/$20.

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/


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