Mau Power is the first rapper to have come from the Torres Strait region of Australia and he considers Thursday Island his home. His latest album, The Show Will Go On, is autobiographical, with each song representing a step on his own journey.
“This is music for the free spirit, inspiration for those who really need it, not those who listen but those who really feel it.” For Mau Power, the survival of his culture is the reason that he wrote this song; to pass on knowledge and empowerment to enable future generations to take hold of their culture and identity and to do so with pride.
A passionate storyteller, Mau Power sees a powerful alliance in combining hip hop and indigenous cultures. He comes from a culture with an oral tradition. Knowledge is passed on from generation to generation through music, dance and storytelling. Mau Power sees hip hop as also providing that platform; a way to spread the stories and pass on the knowledge.
Mau Power explains, “I will become a knowledge custodian in my lifetime to be able to keep this tradition going and pass it on to those who come after us; the way our elders did to my generation. That’s what I want to be able to do. That’s why I tell stories and it’s important to have stories to tell.”
For Mau Power, being a knowledge custodian comes with age, wisdom and experience. However, he is quick to point out that wise people are not necessarily the oldest people in the community; they are the ones who have had life experience. Part of being a knowledge custodian is about being able to access and store the knowledge of the elders now, so those who take on this role are able to document this and move it forward. Within the indigenous community, there are certain people or families who take on particular roles and that’s where their strength and expertise lie: hunting and gathering, running community events, facilitating processes and protocol. The custodians come from these areas of experience and pass on what they know.
Who is the Mau Power’s message for? He says it is for everyone. When he wrote the album, his mind was was focussed on those who are to come, the next generation. He wants them to know about identity. He wants them to understand their own identity in the world and he also wants them to know that the future is whatever they lay out for themselves. He tells me that if I had met a young Patrick Mau, I wouldn’t have thought he would have been doing the things he is now doing.
One of Mau Power’s biggest idols is Bruce Lee because of his philosophies. One of his quotes was, “To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.” That’s basically it, he says. In the seventies, Bruce Lee broke the mould of what an Asian looked like and he created a whole new genre for do-it-yourself entrepreneurs and minorities. Mau Power feels as though he is in a similar position to Bruce Lee, “That’s what I really want to pass on to the next generation. Forget what your circumstances are, you can become whatever you want to be. “
Freedom has been described as a song of protest, yet it has such a positive feel to it that is more like a call to action. Mau Power says that there are different ways to protest. There are peaceful protests, positive advocating. Freedom is about self-empowerment. When he sings about emancipation of the mental slavery, he is referring to the situations he found himself in. “If I had held onto all those things, I wouldn’t be here. I could have been dead a long time ago.” Instead, he was willing to unhook the chains. “It is hard to unhook your own chains,” he says. “It means you have to be true to yourself and be really reflective. You need to be at a point where you can see all your flaws and really acknowledge them, take ownership and then once you have done that you are able to change and that’s what I was talking about in the song, freeing yourself from mental slavery to be able to be self-empowered. This is something I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life.”
Mao Power’s lyrics are powerful and also very succinct. When asked whether it is easy for him to write like that, he explains that there are times when he gets really overworked trying to construct lyrics, but Freedom just flowed.
“I think the stars and the universe aligned and connected, the beat just came out. It was one of the quickest songs I wrote for the album. It's just that energy that was there. That's just how it happens sometimes.”
Working with Archie Roach on the song has also had a big impact on Mau Power. For him, Archie Roach is the one who laid the foundation for young people like him to come through. When Mau Power was 14 years old, he did an English essay on Archie Roach’s album Charcoal Lane and came across his song, They took the children away. That was his first introduction to the stolen generation. It forced him to learn about the history of Australia. Something, he says, they didn’t taught in schools. That’s how powerful the stories and messages can be through song. He finds it remarkable to think that some day an eleven, twelve or thirteen year old might be listening to one of his own songs and taking something away form it.
“Being able to pass on my knowledge through the storytelling in my songs is like a dream come true really, it’s an honour.”
Freedom Mau Power feat. Archie Roach