I Can Hear My Colours Singing (Sonny's Song)
This is a very special song for me, which owes a lot to three Australian Aboriginal friends:
# Sonny B., the graffiti artist, who died at the age of 22, who gave me the words of this chorus from the caption of one of his paintings,
# Les B., his Dad, who also painted and who shared his wisdom and compassion with me, and
# Tex Skuthorpe, Australian Aboriginal Artist of the Year in 1992, co-author of the book, Treading Lightly, and all-round great man who treated me like a brother. I gave him this song and he gave me a painting.
It also owes a great deal to Pat Rix - Adelaide-based composer, conductor, creator of the opera, My Life - My Love for the Adelaide Festival, and brilliant leader of community choirs - who wrote a beautiful choral arrangement of this song. She conducted the first performance of it by combined choirs in the Adelaide Town Hall on the occasion of a public address by Robert Theobald in 1998. The majority of choir members came from the Minda Home for people with intellectual disabilities. Minda is an Aboriginal word meaning 'place of shelter and protection.' You can listen to that performance here. It also owes a lot to Alan Stewart who introduced the song to Pat Rix and made this recording.
Soon after, I entered the song in a competition for an Aboriginal Reconciliation Recording Project in Armidale, NSW, and it was subsequently recorded as one of the songs on the commercial CD, Together Together (ANTaR 1999). It was sung by the Armidale High School choir in a slightly different arrangement. You can listen to that recording here.
In 2001, the Adelaide arrangement was performed by a small choir and an Aboriginal dance troupe as part of the indigenous Festival of the Coast in South Australia.The lead dancer was able to speak the words of the chorus as part of the ceremony because they were written by an Aboriginal person.
I still like my own arrangement, too, which is simpler and there is no change of tempo between the chorus and the verses, but the melody is the same. I don't have any notation for the choral versions.
Chorus: I can hear my colours singing
Through my culture deep within
Feel a peaceful sense of beauty
(For) I am brother to the wind
I thought that I had lost my dreaming
I thought that I had lost my way
I thought that I had lost my people
All gone astray
But then I heard the sound of talking
I sat round talking every day
And in the words that I was talking
I heard a black man, black woman, black man, black woman say
Repeat Chorus twice
I thought that I had lost my talking
I thought that I had lost my mind
But then I heard it all around me
Blowing on the wind
The wind that sounds like colours singing
A spirit moving in the sky
And in the words that I was singing
I heard a black man, black woman, black man, black woman cry
Repeat Chorus twice