'Respect 4 Eddie Mabo' by Rygela Band
Spoke to his people. Had his case cleared.
Lost his own battle and died before time.
But others survive to hear endless cries.
I think of him often. See through his eyes.
Think of how strong he was and I wonder why.
Why is such justice confused and denied?
In this excerpt the lyrics serve as an oral history of Mabo's struggle and tell the story of his case, making peace with his people (from his homeland of Mer, or Murray Island) and his untimely death at the age of 55.
The singer says she thinks of him often and sees 'through his eyes', showing how much the struggle for Indigenous land rights has become synonymous with Mabo the man. The strident electric guitar in the piece underlines the pain and 'endless cries' involved in the struggle for land rights and justice. This sorrow and disbelief is also expressed in the urgency and frenetic tempo of the vocal performance - the singer barely takes a breath while telling the story.
This is a rough and raw recording which effectively reflects the passion inherent in the message. It has a garage-band quality to it and sounds like it could have been recorded live. This 'quiet - loud' style of music, pioneered by American band the Pixies (1986 to the present), was typical of indie bands during the 1990s where passion and energy were more valued than virtuosity. The driving 4-4 beat and heavy use of guitar distortion is a defining characteristic of 'grunge' music. While this recording captures the energy of Rygela Band's song, more post-production and overdubs could have improved the sound and made the lyrics more discernible.
This is one of the tracks from Our Home. Our Land, produced by CAAMA Music and including works by various artists including Christine Anu and Yothu Yindi.
The cover image of this song is a production still from the film Land Bilong Islanders (1990, Trevor Graham and Sharon Connolly, Australia). Courtesy of Trevor Graham and Yarra Bank Films.