An initiative by Desert Pea Media and the Smugglers of Light foundation, Song Nation Volume 1 is a heart-warming compilation and exposé of the young musical talents found in some of the most remote Indigenous communities in Australia.

A not-for-profit organisation that has been operating since 2002, Desert Pea works directly with young Indigenous communities – from the tropics of Cairns to the dry, arid landscapes of Collarenebri and the isolated Tjuntjuntjara community. Its aim is to empower these communities (there are 10 all together) through music, film and collaborative storytelling. Heavily influenced by hip-hop, the corresponding film clips, produced by the skilled members of DPM, feature each crew performing in its respective town – a visual representation of its members’ roots, showing what everyday life is like in these communities.

For the launch of Song Nation, the audience was treated to a very special live performance from Mick ‘MC Boomalli’ Graham of the already revered ‘Colli Crew’. “Desert Pea Media has been a massive part of my life,” Graham tells us before the launch. “If I hadn’t met these guys, I would never have had the opportunity to make any music at all.” The benefits of Song Nation go further than just providing opportunities to make music; school attendance rates have increased and social change is happening. DPM instills hope and positivity in each young person’s mind.

Song Nation’s mission is all about inspiring change and challenging perceptions. DPM musical director and composer, Joel Westlake, says it’s also about informing young Indigenous people about the opportunities out there. “I like to focus on a grassroots, sustainable mentoring type of approach,” says Westlake. “Between myself, [DPM co-founder] Toby Finlayson and the rest of the team, we have a lot of different skill sets that we’re able to impart to the kids. We talk to them about career choices and give a basic insight into the possibilities.”

The quality of music and film clips featured on Song Nation – seen on debut single Built To Last by the Cairns Murri Crew – is a feat in itself. But Graham says its significance goes far deeper. “We have a lot of stories that need to be told and we all have a voice – we just need to speak up and get it out there.” All proceeds from sales will go towards Song Nation creating more opportunities for young people living in remote communities.

Pre-order a copy of Song Nation Volume 1 at desertpeamedia.com/song-nation-v1