December/January 2024

by Claudia Robin Gunn, Lucy Hiku

On Foreign Soil: Major Minor Music Australia Awards

by Claudia Robin Gunn, Lucy Hiku

On Foreign Soil: Major Minor Music Australia Awards

In October 2023 Australian children’s music artists Benny Time, Angie Who and Tina and Mark Harris (Lah Lah) invited Chris Lam Sam, Lucy Hiku, and Claudia Robin Gunn over for Major Minor Music Australia’s (MMMA) second annual children’s music awards. Benny had attended the NZ Children’s Music Awards this year and spoke at Kiwi Kids Music’s AGM. This trip diary is a little peek into what is becoming a new tradition connecting our respective kids’ music makers.

Thursday, October 5 – departure day

Claudia: I’m a nervous flyer, and Lucy has FND which is fatiguing and unpredictable so she travels with a wheelchair, so we really supported each other in this trip over the Tasman. We flew out on Thursday night and thankfully, it was an easy flight. Lucy wore noise-cancelling headphones that help reduce the sensory overload on flights.

Angie picked us up at the airport and we headed for her in-laws’ place in north Sydney. They were generously hosting us along with Angie’s family for the weekend. We all wanted to stay up and chat and sing but it was super late so we only managed a short little 3-part harmony jam.

Lucy: After flying to Auckland previously, for our Aotearoa Children’s Music Awards, I had learnt a lot of ways to make travelling easier (including requesting assistance at the airports, planning rest times and wearing the sunflower lanyard to let staff know I have an invisible disability). As I’m only two years in with FND it has been new territory going to events in my wheelchair, but everyone has been so inclusive, supportive and respectful.

Friday, October 6

It was an early start packing for the WOW Festival for Children and Young People out at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, about a 40 minute drive to Sydney’s west. Noisy birds with different songs reminded me I was in a different country. Lucy would be taking a quiet day at the house to recover from the flight.

Angie and I managed to nearly, but not quite, twin with our Gorman dresses. We practised harmonies for the songs off her album and our collab Echidna Lullaby, all the way to the show. By the time we arrived and met Angie’s producer and bandmate Luke, it was all locked in.

Casula Powerhouse was completely decked out with activities for kids of all ages including kite making, rock painting, silent disco, and much much more. The atmosphere was magic. But as we followed our event guide through one room of wonder after another, the scene that awaited in the theatre was even better yet.

Benny had gathered a ‘world orchestra’ to accompany the guest artists. Tiptoe Giants and Josh Pyke were also on the bill that day, with Peter Combe the following day. We quickly sound checked with Angie and Luke’s instruments in a spotlight surrounded in a semicircle of musical magnificence. Instruments included Persian Tar, Japanese Shō, Chinese Yangqin, Egyptian Riq and Indian Tabla, plus a rhythm section of drums, bass and keys.

The performance went like a dream, and afterwards the kids in the audience got to come on stage and meet the instruments and their players.

Saturday, October 7 – YouTube meet up

The day was primarily about video, with Lucy, Chris and I guest speakers on a panel chatting about audio strategies – releasing music, building playlists, and forging community by supporting fellow artists. There were heaps of questions raised from our friends in the room, and it was so special to share ideas. Husband and wife duo Pevan and Sarah were also speaking about their success in touring and creating educational music for children.

Tina and Mark Harris run a hugely successful YouTube channel for kids, and they are super generous in the way they foster new voices and music/video creators. We loved getting to meet so many Aussie artists we have been in touch with and even co-written with over the last few years – too many to name but they can all be found on the MMMA website!

Later at Angie’s family’s place we convened with Chris and Benny where there were misheard song lyrics, more raucous Aussie birds interjecting into the conversation, and more three-part harmonies.

Sunday, October 8 – Major Minor Music Australia Awards

Claudia: This was quite a blur of beautiful songs, poignant and entertaining speeches, and the stunning red carpet and leadlight windows of the Enmore Theatre in Darlinghurst. Meeting more wonderful musicians like Justine Clarke and Peter Dasent (co-writers and friends of NZ’s Arthur Baysting), and industry contacts we had only emailed with before, was heart-warming.

Patsy Biscoe was honoured with the lifetime award and Peter Combe performed songs from his new album. I hope I’m still writing songs and entertaining like that in 30 years’ time! The Wiggles even had a rep in the room with Dorothy the Dinosaur. We were pretty star-struck to meet Australia’s biggest YouTubers from Bounce Patrol.

The event was a packed house, with Aussie kids musicians in attendance from Sydney as well as Melbourne and Brisbane, Oz-based kiwis Punk Rock Socks and Miss Nicky Says, as well as industry reps from APRA, ABC, Kinderling Kids Radio and more. It was so fulfilling to meet these friends in real life that we had been writing and singing with over the past few Covid and post-Covid years.

Lucy (with Itty Bitty Beats) and I both sang on Benny Time’s 2022 ARIA-nominated album ‘Benny and Friends’ (along with Ōtautahi’s Loopy Tunes Preschool Music), so we formed musical friendships in that process, along with Benny’s producer Mike McGlynn (who sadly passed away earlier this year).

The MMMA Awards actually presented a new trophy in his honour – the Michael McGlynn Newcomer Award. It was introduced with a heartbreaking and beautiful speech by Mike’s partner and Tiptoe Giants member Meg Lipworth. Having the chance to be present and pay our respects in that musical community was healing, and First Nations artists Alinta and Waveney deservedly won the accolade. Tiptoe Giants won best song with their co-write with Josh Pyke, Formidable Vegetable took out best album and video for Micro Biome, and Pevan and Sarah won the Kinderling Kids Choice!

After the awards event we continued to a local bar where we were joined by former Wiggle Sam Moran, The Quokkas, the Beanies, Whistle and Trick, and some incredible First Nations artists. Meeting our radio contacts from ABC Listen and Kinderling was amazing after so many years of pitching songs from across the seas. There was a lot of talk about future collaborations and ongoing trans-Tasman support, which has been exciting. I already had a plan in place for some new songs with Angie and Benny, and it’s going to be super interesting to see how these friendships lead into musical creations in future.

Monday, October 9 – heading home

Claudia: The only job we had on Monday was buying some souvenirs for the kids, so we met for brunch, found some books, and traded ideas about how to create more connections between our fellow music makers in the future. The Sydney sun was beaming over the harbour bridge and the Opera House, and the Australian birds were still raucous. Here’s to dreaming big and overcoming your fears by realising you are not alone.

Lucy: We had such a great time, and we came home with new connections, and collaborations in the works (and a few of us with Covid!), but it was well worth it.