Geera - The Call of Music
II was taught the Dreaming story as I walked around Geera and Mt. Keira, where I heard this song. Through my music, I aim to bring to life the human values I see reflected in nature’s wisdom.
Guided by the Aboriginal Elders, Dr. Jodi Edwards, a Dharawal Custodian, and myself agreed to collaborate to develop music, songs, and dances for Dreamtime stories and others related to Dharawal Aboriginal Lore.
remember it was going to be a hot day and a sad one. That was the day I was leaving Australia to go to my parents’ homeland on January 10th, 1978. I was not happy, so I climbed Geera, Mt. Keira, and watched the sunrise, as I had done so many times in the past.
I vowed to come back to Wollongong, and so I did.
On January 2nd, 2022, I arrived back in Melbourne, Australia, after having spent 7 months in Spain taking care of my parents.
Sadly, during covid my Mother passed away, and after spending many months organizing my father’s care after her death, I felt it was time to get back to Australia and continue my musical journey as a guitarist and composer.
I was also waiting for the Australian Government to allow travel with less restrictions so I could return on an airfare that would not require me to pay the 15000 dollars Qatar airways was asking for and with no real guarantee of travel.
Etihad airways was even worse as I booked a ticket and paid for it and the day after they stated that the flight might not be available and held on to my money for 30 days not allowing me to use my funds to book elsewhere.
Anyway, even though there are laws, big corporations know that some customers do not have the patience nor determination to discover how the law can be upheld. Luckily the law is above all and it is our only shot at getting things done right.
So I arrived back in Melbourne and immediately felt that the locals were in a sort of traumatic state due to the extended lockdown and isolation and felt I had to move as my intimate music was not on their present bucket list of things to enjoy.
This was what I was waiting for as when I moved back to Australia from Spain in 2012 I wanted to end up in my hometown, Wollongong, but I chose Melbourne since it was at first glance a more musical city. More appropriate to share my music teaching, Spanish guitar music and develop a musical career in Australia.
So off I drove off to Wollongong, Illawarra, Dharawal Country in NSW, Australia and settled down in the house of one of my brother’s best friends from childhood. This is where the magic started that has changed my life for the better.
I am now able to understand better what makes me tick, separate myself from the onslaught of human emotions and be a spectator of existence by sort of seeing the whole picture.
I now understand there is no need for judgment and time doesn’t really exist the way it used to. The when is determined by when I feel it is right. Thoughts take time to understand, listening is crucial for understanding and the starting point of all understanding is the acceptance that we do not understand.
Anyway my music is now simple and straight to the point.
So what changed?
What makes my life tick is music and I now know how to explain my guitar music with words, therefore I feel more satisfied and I know what I feel is more correct and is not just simple imagination.
Dharawal Lore had the Words I was Seeking
All this change occurred by absorbing some Dharawal Aboriginal lore. The words I heard simply made sense as they were what I had been waiting for all my life to give a value to what I already felt.
I never did ask to learn Aboriginal Dharawal lore but not knowing why, when I arrived, I felt It was the right thing to do to ask permission to perform my original music I had created in Victoria based upon a dreaming story of the GunaiKurnai country.
I Thank the Elders
I didn’t know I was meeting the local Elders but since I expressed my desire to share my music from another country in Wollongong, they listened. Furthermore I was asked to meet more of the Elders and tell them my story.
Auntie Lorraine from Coomaditchie asked why I had returned to Wollongong and I told her that all my life I had dreamed of Mt Keira and that when I was a child I started hearing music on the mountain one early morning and since then I have never stopped hearing music.
I felt comfortable talking to the Elders because they listened to what I said, not expressing any judgment, and simply enjoying what I had to say.
They asked, Thomas , now what are you going to do? I told them I would go for a walk in the bush and compose some music.
Months went by and I decided not to pursue playing the music of a creation story of GunaiKurnai country in Wollongong and find a different approach to my music but then I had a call from a respected member of the community.
A Warm Surprise
Dr Jodi Edwards mentioned that the elders had decided to put us together as we had common goals.
Jodi was looking to find a way to compose music for Dharawal language so it could be reintroduced into local use through music. She also wanted to tell stories of the country with the support of music, songs and dance following the traditional way of teaching and learning of Aboriginal culture and in this case Dharawal lore.
I was honored to have this trust placed upon me as a consequence of simply expressing my story to the wise Elders.
In the following months I learnt a lot of Aboriginal lore and it is not my intention to share it in this blog but rather what I learnt that helped me place words to what I always felt and was not sure.
Connecting to Nature
You see, my life is a reflection of music. My music follows the pathways of nature that I chose to see as a child. Dharawal lore connects thought and nature and it can help express this connection that I felt so comfortable to live in as a child.
I hear nature music but they have heard its music and given it words for over 50000 years. So I think the Elders know much more than what I can ever express with my music.
They are the true musicians and listeners. God bless them. I do wish we all develop the need to listen to them and learn from their wisdom.
Upon asking why the Elders trusted me I was reminded that the Aboriginals were treated fairly by some Spanish, Italians and other immigrants in the Warrawong, Port Kembla and the Warilla community. We grew up together and were also harassed and discriminated against by the white locals.
Racism in the 70s
When I was a kid we lived in Keiraville. My folks moved there so we could integrate better into the white community and this was a mistake at first.
Some kids would throw rocks at my mum, my father would give me and my brother brass knuckles and other objects to help us fight our way to school in the morning. My brother was black belt before he was 14 and mom used to pick us up at the local bus stop with a baseball bat in her hand.
Those were the good old times.
Then it rained one day and down Geera came a huge mudslide that only impacted the house of the nasty racists. Their house was destroyed and who were the first to help them out? My folks.
From then on, they respected us and all the discrimination in the hood disappeared.
In order to feel safe I used to spend my evenings running around the slopes of Mt Keira and enjoying it’s caves.
Geera Inspires Many
I saw how the University decided to build its grounds around Mt Keira and gardens popped up all around the mountain. I wasn’t the only one inspired by its protection.
My brother would come with me and we were both inspired by its beauty. My brother followed a path of explaining mountains to the world as a Geophysicists and me as a musician.
The day I left for Spain I was 14 and I cried from the slopes of Geera pledging to return to their safety and inspiration.
I now feel it was the grandmother mountain always taking care of the little ones, me and my brother. For all those who wish to listen it became a place of learning.
Take care of Geera, Mt Keira.