by ADAM VAI DELANEY
This Thursday, a man from Papua New Guinea, with his ‘sticks,’ will grace Australia’s world-class musical stage in Sydney to perform with Yothu Yindi for its final curtain in front of a world-wide audience and amongst Australia’s recent successful artists including, Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, the Jezzabels, and Miss Higgins.
That man is none other than legendary PNG traditional instrument percussionist and contemporary drummer, Ben Hakalitz.
|Hakalitz (second from left, back row) with Tribe of Jubal in Cairns, Australia|
The event - the 26th annual Australian Recording Industry Association's (ARIA) awards.
This ARIA event will be a particularly special night, when the indigenous band, Yothu Yindi, is to be inducted into the much acclaimed ARIA Hall of Fame.
Yothu Yindi, (Yolngu for "child and mother” will then join an exclusive club of Artists that includes the Bee Gees, Australian Crawl, the Seekers, Slim Dusty, INXS, the Saints,Men at Work, Little River Band,Midnight Oil, Kylie Minogue and Mental as Anything.
Yothu Yindi’s induction will cement its remarkable place for indigenous Australian artists and in Sydney, the audience can expect to dance to its number one global success track: “Treaty”.
“All Artists aspire to one day perform at the ARIAs.
"It’s even sweeter to be in a keynote performing act that night.
"There’s many great bands lining up, so you need to take the chance and give it your best shot. "Global super-star, Taylor Swift, will also be there as a special guest.
"I am thankful for the privilege and journey that I have had with my brothers and sisters from Northern Territory.
" Yothu Yindi deserves to be in the ARIA Hall of Fame.
"I can’t express the amount of hard work and commitment that goes into achieving this level of recognition."
Originally from Bougainville, Ben was recruited by Yothu Yindi soon-after the band toured Papua New Guinea in early 1990s.
Back then Yothu Yindi was a non-mainstream band by Australian standards and seeking its rightful place amongst Australia’s music icons.
Ben’s natural, musical talent and local experiences, grabbed the attention of the band’s management during a performance with Sanguma in Port Moresby.
With him joining Yothu Yindi for four years was fellow PNG keyboard maestro, Buruka Tau, from Tubusereia village.
It seemed surreal, but being recruited was no small feat then.
Ben was expected to step into the shoes of his predecessor - international drummer of Village People fame and get ready for Europe.
Buruka and Ben did it, and more, touring Europe and then USA.
I was privileged to have seen them play in Manhattan, New York City, with.
“That was an incredible tour. 32 shows in seven weeks!” exclaimed Ben.Adam Vai Delaney said: “This ARIA awards is going to be a remarkable and memorable moment for Yothu Yindi and, I believe, for Ben.
"It’s a shame that Buruka isn’t able to join them.
"To be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame is truly invaluable and superb.
" It means that the band has, for the last 20 years prior, achieved significant prominence in its work and has had a cultural impact and recognition within the world marketplace.
"For Ben to play amongst the musical elite is an awesomeness that we should all be proud of."
Adam said: “I stress the cliché; PNG is dripping of creative talent, and a wealth of cultural diversity to draw from and compose musical arrangements from, but the opportunities for standing on the world stage can only be realised if there are progressive leaders to support an industry beyond what is being churned out for radio and bars.
" It’s not about being bureaucratic, or giving seminars about copyright to“Rice imo ianinia”, and blah blah, which is rhetorical.
"Melanesian musicians and performers do aspire for grand things, but sadly, it’s fruitless, if there’s no financial incentives, no proper stages, and mentors in their market to develop an industry for world-class acts.
"Sports is the big thing in PNG for sponsorships and tireless government bid for a team in the NRL. "You would think those interested in the ‘industry’ at home would learn a few things from it’s developed neighbour and promotion of artists.
“I wish Ben the very best as he gets up on Thursday with Yothu Yindi to celebrate this moment.
"He stood by them during some difficult times, sacrificed family time, and this is where the rubber has met the road on the way to the largest Hall of Fame in our Pacific."
Adam Vai Delaney is Motu and an independent International Development and Marketing Consultant who coined the term “Arc of Opportunity” to describe the Melanesian countries. He had managed the Melanesian funk bank, Tribe of Jubal, that was founded by Ben, Pius Wasi, Airileke Ingram and Richard Mogu and featured Vanessa Quai.