© 2008 JOHNNIE MAC. All Rights Reserved

 

Nicotine Dream

ATTENTION ALL SMOKERS...

          PLEASE DON'T TAKE OFFENCE...!

I'm definitely no do-gooder trying to spoil your fun or preach about what you should or shouldn't be doing.  I'm simply 'venting off' after being provoked by a documentary I saw on TV that told the story of an African woman who lived in a poverty-stricken, isolated area with limited facilities.

To fill you in on the picture.... her daily routine involved walking incredibly long distances to collect wood so she could cook food for her family and boil water to prevent them getting sick.  She also grew, harvested and cured tobacco for a well known tobacco company and earned very little for this labour intensive, time consuming chore. Her life was a struggle and each day she found herself having to travel further distances and search longer to find any wood.

The reporter presented a situation of despair and injustice. Yet she seemed to somehow take it all in her stride.  Although she was not content, the strength of her Spirit shone through.  She had amazing vigour and a positive acceptance of life, regardless of her difficult circumstances.  Even though working with tobacco provided her livelihood, she did feel very strongly that she was a slave to other people's addictions.

Not long after watching this story, I was enjoying a few lagers with friends at a bar and I couldn't help but overhear some people nearby deep in conversation. It appeared that they had pretty simple lives with few hardships.

As I watched them sitting at the bar, suckin' hard on their ciggies (that's when you were allowed to do that kind of thing in the pub!)  it seemed they were constantly blaming this person or that person for something that was happening in their lives. Complaining about the government, their boss... workmates... relationships, etc, etc, etc.

 

Their smoke infused whinging bought my attention back to that amazing African lady and her understanding of life.  As these people around me obliviously chain smoked the night away, I began to wonder who the slaves really were?  Suck It Hard, Suck In The Heat.. As You Dance In Chains To Your Nicotine Beat!

 

Later still... as I sat deep in thought strumming my guitar until the wee hours, this song came together with zest, piercing the smoky haze at my Kings Cross abode.

 

Warning:  This song will make you either quit or light up in revolt!

 

One Farewell

This is a story that's close to my heart.  Of course all my songs are close to my heart – but this one more than most due to my burning passion for our natural environment, Australia's rich cultural heritage, the stories of its people and the strong cultural connections I have experienced whilst wandering this big brown land.

Other than doing the usual things that muso's do mainly on weekends, I fill my weekdays with activities like planting, fossicking and exploring Aussie plants, propagating and harvesting bush foods and medicines sharing my knowledge with others and cooking delicious Aussie cuisine. 

I've spent the last 20 years playing and working amongst the Aussie bush and a lot of that time within many different indigenous communities all over Australia.  I've learned so much from the environment and from the descendants of the Original people who shared their stories with me and taught me to listen to the Spirit of the land for a different learning.

 

In 1999 a beautiful woman came into my life... my soul mate and life partner. And even though she was a nomadic kinda girl, our common desire to wander started to reduce not long after we headed north from the hustle and bustle of life in the city and found ourselves frolicing and discovering and growing and learning and expanding and playing on the 100 acre sanctuary we moved to in beautiful northern New South Wales.  The lush environment that surrounded us refuelled my environmental and cultural passions and urged me to make contact with the local Bundjalung elders.

I first met Bundjalung elder Uncle Kevin and his son Kyle in 2002 after I sang at the Wollumbin Festival. An event to raise awareness about the Bundjalung people and the importance of their sacred mountain -Wollumbin (Mt Warning). Since then a beautiful friendship has developed as we work together to establish a cultural and environmental education centre in Mt Burrell.  Being one of the traditional owners of our land, Uncle Kev gave us permission to start our project and gave us the name Ganngjalah meaning Place Of Learning (or more simply – 'look, listen, learn') after he learned of our passion to establish a environmental and cultural reserve so we could replant the bush where land had been cleared, bring back the bush foods and medicines and share the land with community for health, recreation and educational purposes.  As our friendship strengthens, Uncle Kev and his family continue to share many stories with us about the Bundjalung history, the protocols, laws and customs of the Original northern New South Wales / southern Queensland people.

We have learned that although our indigenous elders pass on, this is only one farewell - as their Spirit remains present.  If we take the time to listen, if we connect with nature and most importantly - show respect, we will receive the powerful messages from our ancestors.

The story of Ganngjalah is a rare positive story of true reconciliation at work, which has unfolded from honouring indigenous protocol, listening to the Spirit of the land and respecting the guidance.

The message Kyle and myself express in this song poured from our heart and soul so effortlessly in the studio as we felt the energy of our ancestors, our friendship and our common desire to share this ancient message with the rest of the world, bringing this unrehearsed sacred song to life.

 

 

Insecure

My hidden past exposed! 

Ok... so I've come out of the closet.  I'm insecure! 

Well... I was when I wrote this song, but thankfully a few

challenging life experiences over time has made me stronger

and given me the opportunity to feel comfortable being who

I really am instead of simply faking my individuality to blend in with the crowd.  But yes, I admit it... this song could easily have been a repetitive soundtrack in the back of my mind for a big chunk of my life and it now becomes even more meaningful as I cant help but notice, feeling ‘uncool' is undeniably what holds way too many people back in life.

I thought it was just my teenage angst... comparing myself to others, watching TV and feeling inadequate because I didn't have the perfect body, face, car or lifestyle.  But guess what? I soon discovered this character destroying existence is a common burden - not just my own!  It started to become painfully obvious when a close friend of mine expressed similar dissatisfaction about her life – feeling unattractive, not good enough, etc, etc... but she chose to hide her insecurity behind the curtain of drugs.  I sat on the sidelines unable to convince her otherwise and watched her go through a confusing, chaotic stage in her life, battling drug abuse, which she eventually came through.  I soon recognised that many of my close friends were going or had gone through the same stuff... sadly some of them didn't make it this far. All of them at one time or another expressed the sentiments in the rap part of this song.

Growing up in Sydney and busking my way around the world, I've seen many people caught up in drug abuse... feeling that they have an illness, a disease, some end up suffering mental illness, others are just plain paranoid. But hey it seems we all have a common thread - apart from addiction or the feeling of not being cool enough....

I guess we're just...  INSECURE (an sic u r)

I wrote this song thinking about why we become so full of self doubt, and if you relate to what I'm saying then just sing along with gusto and maybe you'll soon laugh about it... who knows you may laugh enough to realise there's no point comparing... just fill up on confidence (rather than uppers) and get on with life no matter what!

 

Jesus Drove A Holden

Now this song seems to have caused a bit of a stir and gotten me into a bit of unexpected trouble. 

It seems that many people lose their sense of humour completely, the moment the word Jesus is mentioned.

I guess, all I can suggest is to try and let go of your judgements for the next couple of minutes, listen to the lyrics and enjoy my Jesus Holden fantasy!

This story is simply a bent Aussie interpretation of what could have happened to his life and message if perhaps, Jesus did return 2000 years later.

It's doesn't have to be that complicated at all.  This song is about feeling warm and fuzzy – something we all want no matter how culturally different we are. I've just gotta ask...  why do so many people resist our enlightened teachers and make life so complex?  Lets just get on with it... live and let live... in peace... for fucks sake!!

 

The World Seems Happy

...  ITS JUST A STORY!

I've watched a lot of my friends get on the drugs and alcohol rollercoaster and many of my songs have an underlying angst about the turmoil we obliviously create.   This is my reflective song... a moment to ponder about WHY?

Why is it that most of the people we meet in our everyday lives seem happy and content.

"How ya goin mate?"
"Good Mate" ... "How ‘bout you?"
"Yeah I'm great"

Yet....underneath this shiny, bright exterior, deep within, we all have some form of anger, resent, hatred, conflict, confusion, struggle and a bounty of other negative emotions bubbling under the surface just waiting for the perfect moment to rear their ugly heads or the perfect person or situation to dump it all on.

Do we recognise the inner turbulence or spend all our time smiling on the outside whilst churning, squirming and burning on the inside?  Do we know we silently attract more of the shit we avoid and anaesthetize with cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, shopping and other addictive obsessions?

Do we know what we want? What do you want???

I want what I think most others want....

Love, peace, happiness, equality, a clean, green, diverse safe planet to live in!

Until then...... the world seems happy, but it's not my place yet to LIVE in.

 

The Chant of Namatjira

This is one of my favourites and one of my most requested songs, so whenever I play live, this one is always on the playlist. Something that never ceases to amaze me, is how many Australian people ask... "What's a Namatjira"?  It's comments like this that inspired me to establish the Mt Burrell Cultural Gardens to bring about more awareness of Australia's rich cultural heritage and the interesting stories that come with it.

Albert Namatjira (28 July 1902 – 8 August 1959), born Elea Namatjira , was one of Australia's most acclaimed visual artists. He was a Western Arrernte man, an Indigenous Australian of the Western MacDonnell Ranges area in the Northern Territory. Namatjira is considered to be one of Australia's (if not the worlds) great artists, and perhaps one of the best known Aboriginal painters.

Though in his early career he painted a wide variety of subjects, Albert Namatjira is best known for his distinctly unique Australian outback desert landscapes. His colours were similar to the ochres that his ancestors had used to show the same landscape, but his style was appreciated by Europeans because it met the aesthetics of western art. While his work is obviously the product of his life and experiences, his paintings are not in the highly symbolic style of traditional Aboriginal art; they are richly detailed depictions and his pictures hang in famous galleries all over the world.

In 1938 his first exhibition was held in Melbourne and sold out. For ten years Namatjira continued to paint, his works continuing to sell quickly and his popularity continuing to rise. By 1956 he had become popular, critically acclaimed worldwide and wealthy. The Arrernte culture expected him to share everything he owned and as Namatjira's income grew, so did his extended family. At one time he was single-handedly providing for over six hundred people.

Namatjira is also well known due to being the first Northern Territory Aboriginal to be granted Australian citizenship. In 1957, the government granted Namatjira and his wife Rubina Australian citizenship, which exempted them from the restrictive legislation that applied only to Aboriginal people. This entitled them to vote, own land, build a house and buy alcohol. Although they were legally allowed to drink alcohol, their Aboriginal family and friends were still Wards of the State, and were not.  When an Aboriginal woman was killed, Namatjira was held responsible for bringing alcohol into the camp. It was against the law for an Australian citizen to supply alcohol to a native and Albert was charged with leaving a bottle of rum on his car seat where another Aboriginal could get access to it. He was sentenced to six months in prison for supplying an Aboriginal with liquor. After a public uproar the Minister for Territories, intervened and he was released after serving only two months due to medical and humanitarian reasons.  Despondent and ashamed after his incarceration, he suffered a heart attack. He died soon after of heart disease complicated by pneumonia on September 8, 1959 in Alice Springs, only two years after he was granted citizenship.

The story of Namatjira's life paints a familiar picture of the indigenous and non indigenous interactions within Australia and this story remains an important point of reference for our cross cultural relationships which seem awkward, uncomfortable,  often non-existant and in most cases based on fear, suspicion, lack of respect and understanding.

Many successful Aboriginal Australians have followed Namatjira's path from celebrated and admired cultural icon to community rejection and self destruction. It seems non-indigenous Australians are ashamed and afraid of these truths being exposed to the rest of the world.  Indigenous success brings attention to the story behind the story.... the current health and wellbeing of indigenous people in Australia which is grossly neglected.

This song was written to honour a great man and to inspire action to overcome.... white mans fear of the Namatjira.

A love song about an Aussie girl I met in Europe and although the love story never went further than a colourful European fantasy, this song has travelled with me all over the world and is the most requested song I’ve ever written.

A story of how the bright clothes she wore would match her moods. I secretly believed that this was also how she wanted me to feel… a romantic and mysterious way of encouraging me to connect with her. A quirky daydream that inspired a song I love to sing.

 

 

Colours of Her Mind

During my worldwide busking adventures, I could guarantee myself a meal every time I sang this song. A wealthy Frenchmen heard me singing it on the street and invited me into his friends café in Normandie but insisted I sing it for him again and again. I sang the same song for 16 hours that day as he, me and the song slowly got memorably smashed.

One More Candle

 

I wrote this song sitting in a detention centre in Dover, south east England.  I had been in Amsterdam for quite some time and decided that London might be fun, but the customs man decided differently after I innocently let slip that I would be busking to cover my travel expenses.  And although street performance is now widely accepted as a modern day artform, the old fashioned way of thinking had Mr Customs man sternly looking down at me and informing me that I would be denied entry into his country due to 'begging' being against the law and totally unacceptable. As I tried to come to terms with his judgements, for the first time in my life I understood, to some degree, what refugees must go through. The difference was I had peace of mind knowing that I could return to a beautiful home in Australia whenever I wanted to.

While awaiting their decision on where and when I was going to next, I toyed with boredom - daydreaming of the home I had just come from and my Aussie homeland and flipping over into the mind of someone sitting in a detention centre for months on end with no hope in sight. The song emerged as my mind shifted from detained muso to downtrodden refugee.

As I sat and pondered about my fraudulent slip, I realised there was more to it.  I summed myself up as an honest, well educated, financially independent travelling gypsy at that point in my life. Wearing op shop clothing for convenience and comfort rather than as a fashion statement.   But the eyes behind the customs counter saw only an image they frowned upon.

It made me wonder... isn't a disorderly image how most refugees would look after escaping the daily struggle and hardships of a war torn or poverty sticken country and then embarking upon a long voyage in a desperate attempt find freedom and hope?  Is it this image that determines how asylum seekers are treated by those they seek help from at a dismal, yet somewhat hopeful time in their life.  Is there any respect or understanding for who they may be behind the appearance and what they may offer their new country and the communities within it?

My experience got me interested in the systems... and I soon learnt that these 'seekers' - who are simply doing anything they can to make a positive change in their lives are treated as criminals in most cases – screened and isolated until it is decided what the consequences of their actions may be.  Months or even years behind barbed wire fences with confused children by their side may pass by.

It all seems radically unfair. There must be a better, more just solution to the way in which disadvantaged people are treated in this day and age.  Considering the rapid advancement in many other areas of human achievement, sadly it seems human rights is still keeping us in the dark ages.

Can You Imagine

 

This song came out of the abyss as I travelled across the top end of Australia in 1998 with my new family in our brightly painted 'where the wild things are' toyota coaster bus.  In the confines of such a small space with nothing else but red earth, blue skies and each other, our realness was quickly revealed and I discovered the vulnerable side of the princess I married.

I sang this love song again and again during our outback adventure as we stirred the dust and began to delve deeply into the intimate yet challenging journey of love.

In 2006, I recorded this song to surprise Michelle for her birthday and it came together so beautifully in the studio that I decided to include it on the album in celebration of our loving relationship which is stronger now than ever before.

As it turns out, many people can relate to the turmoils of love expressed in this song and share with me this deep desire of wanting the one you love to let go of their fears that may stem from a wounded past. To drop their guard, to open up and love fully. To trust completely and share all their secrets regardless of what their hidden past may be. To feel completely safe and to just be..... WITH you.