At a time when street protests such as Black Lives Matter are dominating headlines, a Noongar artist is quickly becoming the voice of a generation.
Performing under the name Flewnt, Josh Eggington grew up in a house dominated by issues like “addiction” and “losing homes”. But it was political, too. And he had “strong Aboriginal people” around him encouraging him to find a voice.
“As I started to make music, I decided that I wanted to tell those stories, the stories of people who are like me,” Eggington said.
Eggington was only 11 when he discovered American hip-hop.
“I was listening to things like NWA, that early political music that was about fighting the power,” he said.
“It’s the music for Black struggle. It was a voice for the oppressed and I identified with that. I wanted to tell my stories the same way I was hearing from those mob over there.”
Eggington revealed he normally finds his inspiration in solitude.
“When I really get to a creative space, I’m usually alone,” he said.
“I’ll be sitting there thinking and . . . it’s as if spirit moves through you. You just start writing.”
When he isn’t performing, Eggington runs in-school education programs for young kids.
“It’s the greatest part of what I’m doing right now,” he told the National Indigenous Times.
“I get to go in and have a yarn with the young fellas and teach them about hip-hop and then I get to bring our culture into that.”
Along with schools, Eggington also works with mob who are incarcerated.
In particular, young Aboriginal men incarcerated at Banksia Hill Detention Centre. Eggington, in collaboration with Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation, plans to build a studio space called Kyana Studios.
It would be for recently released young Aboriginal men to create music. Banksia Hill already has a studio within the prison, but Eggington wants to replicate that space on the outside to support transition back into the community.
“We have all the plans ready,” he said.
“We just need to secure the funding and we’ll be able to get the young ones on to a better path. I know for a fact that music changes their lives. It’s all they care about in there and it’s all they want to do.
“We want to emulate that (Banksia Hill) space . . . so that everything is made as easy as possible and they can be the strong Aboriginal men they were born to be.
“It’s a space where they can feel wanted, loved and cared about. And respected as well — a lot of these young fellas don’t feel respected at all.
“They feel that their opinions don’t matter, but through music they can say everything they want to say, and people will listen.
“They get to say their piece. They get to tell the world how they feel for once.”
Eggington said he moves between feeling powerful and helpless as he navigates the world today as a young Aboriginal man.
“I feel powerful at times,” he said. “I know that I’m seeing all these movements coming and the rising up of my people through what has happened to us. I feel like there is a change coming.
“I feel like it’s just on the horizon at times. At other times, when I see things that are still there oppressing us, hurting my culture, hurting my community, I feel helpless. That’s when I go back to music and start to write and talk about those things I see.”
Eggington often performs at rallies and protests across Perth.
“When I do sing at rallies, and protests, I feel the people change, I feel the mood change. It is exhilarating,” he said.
On top of developing Kyana Studios, Eggington is hoping 2021 will also see him release his first album. His biggest hit so far, the song Kya Kyana, saw him come second in the 2018-19 West Australian Music Song of the Year award.
“I did want to do (the album) this year, but with COVID-19 I wasn’t sure how creating and pulling it together would go down,” he said.
“But next year, I’ll be planning for an album release for sure.”
By Rachael Knowles