Hip hop meets traditional Aboriginal dance in this vibrant UK debut

This article is from 2017

Hip hop meets traditional Aboriginal dance in this vibrant UK debut

credit: Sean Young

Djuki Mala are set to bring something very unique to the Fringe with their cultural dance fusion straight from Australia

Elcho Island is a very remote spot in Arnhem Land, Australia. It's a part of the world that didn't have contact with white people until the 1930s, and visitors still need special permission to go there. The indigenous Yolngu have lived in this area for thousands of years, but it's only now that the rest of the world is getting a look-in on their Aboriginal culture.

'I grew up dancing,' says Wakara Gondarra, a 23-year-old member of the Djuki Mala group. 'There were weekend discos on the basketball court.' That was where he learned to mix up the traditional, ancient dancing styles copied from the elders, with the hip hop, breakdance and pop styles that he liked. Djuki Mala (Djuki is their pronunciation for 'chooky', an Aussie term of affection, and Mala means 'mob') tell the story of how he and his friends got famous through a YouTube clip that went viral. It showed ten barefoot men in ceremonial body paint, going wild under a basketball hoop at a festival, dancing to a speeded-up techno version of 'Zorba the Greek'.

There was something about the mash-up of cultures that seemed to hit the spot, and the video's been viewed over 2m times now. The show that's coming to the Fringe is Djuki Mala's British debut, a turbo-charged mix of Bollywood, 'Billie Jean' and Singin' in the Rain routines, with video footage of the bush background they come from.

'It shows the rest of the world that this is a living, breathing culture,' says Joshua Bond, the show's producer and Gondarra's uncle. 'Wakara's grandmother raised me and we grew up in the same house. It's really a family affair and we're a tight little crew. It's crazy that this is our ten-year anniversary but cool for us to be celebrating that in Scotland. Wakara's never been but he's heard that men wear dresses there … he's pretty intrigued about that!'

Djuki Mala, Assembly George Square Theatre, George Square, 4–28 Aug (not 14, 21), 4.30pm, £15–£16 (£13–£14). Preview 3 Aug, £8.

Djuki Mala

  • 4 stars

Presented by Bond Creatives Best Dance Adelaide and Perth Fringe. West Australian Arts Editors Award. Aboriginal dance and YouTube sensations Djuki Mala make their UK debut. Unique, infectious, high-energy and always exuberant, fusing traditional Yolngu and contemporary pop culture, dance and storytelling to create work…