Being the first MC/Rapper from Thursday Island to record, Patrick ‘Mau’ Power is travelling his own unique road to success and his new single ‘Freedom’ featuring Archie Roach is both inspirational and brilliant in equal measure. A lyrical storyteller hailing from Thursday Island in the Torres Straits, Mau Power’s own story is one of redemption and freedom in itself. As a young man he spent some time in prison where he used the solitude and ample time to reflect on his life’s choices. If he was to change and be a success, then it was up to him alone to make positive changes. After his release he created his own music label and has since been a strong community leader and mentor to youth in both the Straits and in Australia.
The opportunity to work with Archie Roach on ‘Freedom’ he says, was an awesome yet humbling experience. “Because he’s an icon, someone who has paved the way musically for young people like me, getting him on the record and knowing he wanted to collaborate was an honour.” The pair met several years earlier at the Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival and it was then that Power, who gained Roach’s attention, approached the elder singer with an idea for Roach to help on ’Freedom.’ Of course Roach jumped onto the idea.
‘Freedom’ is a about transition and change, largely Power’s own experience in understanding both his own culture plus the Hip Hop culture that he gravitated towards. “Being able to sit with my elders and cultural mentors, I came to a point in my life where I really felt connected to my roots and that’s where ‘Freedom’ came about. That period also inspired ‘ My Blood, My People’, and ‘ Warupau Nur’ (Sing Strong) with King Kadu which is sung in language.”
Both songs focus strongly on the passing on of cultures and traditions, and ‘Freedom’ is a kind of follow on from these. “It’s about the entrapments that people go through, and about making change as an internal process- firstly freeing the mind, ending mental slavery, and then finally removing restrictions that are placed in front of you which was based on my personal experience at the time. It took me over ten years to get into that mind state, and those emotions inspired the song.”
Having personally dealt with lack of freedom at a personal level, Power is quite open and positive about his time in incarceration and sees it as an integral part of the role model he has become. “This is the path that was laid out for me, I can ‘t wish I had another life in place of it so I just acknowledge the current one in which I live. Everything that I experienced was for a purpose, and is responsible for moulding and shaping me into the person that I’ve become.” Of that process, he gratefully acknowledges his community mentors who pulled him into line, and who shifted him from a negative to positive path.
These days, his community sees him very much as a role model, to which he responds,” I see myself as a ‘real’ model actually. A role model is placed on a pedestal and idolised as faultless, but once something negative happens it casts a great shadow upon them, whereas a ‘real model’ is actually living the experience…mistakes and all.” It takes a courageous person to face their mistakes openly, and an even greater man to change himself for the better. Power is humble, honest, and has both wisdom and integrity beyond his years. He certainly understands what struggle and hardship is, and given that Hip Hop has traditionally been a means of non-violent expression stemming from oppression then perhaps it is only natural that a man as lyrically and vocally talented as Power gravitated towards the Rap culture. “Hip Hop gave people without a voice -a voice, those considered hopeless -hope, and the ability to be able to freely express yourself and become a better person.” In Power’s case, it has certainly achieved those goals.
I ask Power if he thinks that music can also help towards improving indigenous and mainstream relationships, to which he articulates the following in a passionate, heartfelt tone. “I wrote in a song some years back that reconciliation is nothing but a word. Without action or commitment to some sort of change, that’s all it is- a word. Words like that have no meaning until some action is applied to it. The colour issue i.e. between black and white- well, it gets back to forgetting the colour sequence and at a human level showing respect and acknowledging the things that have happened. The most significant part of change, whether at individual or societal level, is the healing process. Nobody really speaks about that. Understanding your past, and knowing the cause of the hurt is key to commence healing. Bringing the issue to the surface is a start, but forgiveness is a big thing from both sides and being able to speak about reconciliation freely will bring about actual change.”
I couldn’t agree more with him.
His latest album ‘The Show Will Go On’, is a musical autobiography of Mau Power’s own life and is a storytelling experience of a lengthy one man journey.
“The album is a story of how ‘Mau Power’ came to be over sixteen years, the process of searching and me finding not only my voice, but about saving my life.”
He carries a strong message of hope and possibility, particularly for troubled youth who may be taking some negative pathways. “It doesn’t have to be like that! You have this gift called choice- you can choose to travel a difficult journey and a negative path that will burden and trap you, so stop and reflect. Take a look at what you’re doing and if you believe you deserve something better, which you do, then go for it!”
‘The Show Will Go On’ was released in late July.
Further details on Mau Power:
Interviewed by Darren Hassan