By Nicholas Acquroff
A creative articulation of our multicultural society, recording project The Key of Sea pairs Australian songwriters with musicians who’ve crossed the sea to call Australia home. And while the project isn’t designed to make a political statement, it teaches every collaborator a lesson in the art of acceptance and compromise.
At midday on a Tuesday afternoon in the heart of Melbourne, people scurry through the doorway at the Arts Centre and into Hamer Hall, where we’re waiting to meet Romani Benjamin, the co-producer of The Key of Sea. Benjamin arrives at 10 minutes past, greets me with a frantic handshake and invites me outside to a seat at the adjacent coffee shop.
When we finally sit, she tells me that Awaz – one of the collaborators on The Key of Sea Volume Two – should arrive shortly from the train for an interview. “His English isn’t very good over the phone,” she says. “I thought it would be easier if we all met in person.”
Benjamin and her partner on The Key of Sea project, Hugh Crosthwaite, had a novel idea in 2010: they would produce an album that paired native Australian musicians with those who’ve crossed the sea, escaping hardship, war or persecution to find new homes and indeed, music careers, in Australia.