Marlene Cummins
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Marlene Cummins

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | INDIE

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | INDIE
Band Blues Soul


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Pension Day Blues - single

Koori Woman Blues - album (TBR)



Marlene Cummins is Australia’s pre-eminent Indigenous female blues writer and performer. Born in the southwest town of Cunnamulla, her traditional homelands are Laura up Cape York way on her Fathers side (Guguyelandji), and Keppel Island (Woppaburra) on her Mothers side. Marlene comes from a large family of ten and grew up around very poor, oppressive conditions. Her father worked for rich landowners in Queensland but the family lived on a fringe camp called Boomerang Alley in the town of Winton as Aboriginal people were not treated as citizens until 1968. Marlene would sometimes wander off into the bush unbeknown to her family and find the largest dead log for her "stage" and perform on her own.
Marlene was raised with a very political 'grassroots' upbringing as her Father Darcy Cummins was a pioneer in fighting racial injustice. After moving with his children to the city, Darcy was instrumental in bringing about many Aboriginal dances (Opal Dances) that were organised as a place of entertainment . He played in a band called the "Opals". OPAL was an early Aboriginal organisation Darcy was involved with which stood for 'One People Australia League'. Just like her father, Marlene likes to use music as a medium to make the world a better place to live in.
Marlene's strongest musical influence also comes from her father who was an extremely talented musician with his own band called ‘The Ravens’. He played many instruments including guitar, steel guitar (pedal & lap) and trumpet in the Winton Town Band. Darcy and other Aboriginal musicians e.g.; Ducko Fraser, would find solace in jamming in those oppressive times and Marlene grew up on this diet of grass roots music and politics.
“You think of Buddy Guy as a real blues artist today but he hasn’t lived that life of apartheid and segregation that Marlene has”, says her album producer, Richard Field. “The life Marlene has lived is closer to the life of original blues singers like Muddy Waters than any contemporary American”.
Richard Fields is referring to the American blues artists who came off sharecropping into the ghettos. Marlene came off a mission and into the slums of Sydney where she endured hardship, segregation and discrimination.
Marlene knows the Blues from an Aboriginal perspective in this country.
As a young woman, she became a member of the first and only Australian Black Panther Party. Marlene has maintained an outspoken stance on political issues committed against Aboriginal people.
Despite a stellar career as a saxophone player and blues musician herself, with hits like Pension Day Blues, and despite recording her debut album in 2005, Marlene is only now preparing to release her full debut album.
“This album was recorded in 2005 but this music comes from so deep in Marlene’s heart that it’s been really traumatic for her to let it out and let it go”, says her producer, Richard Field.

“When you listen to this album you’re looking right into the core of who Marlene Cummins is – and that takes enormous courage and honesty. She is completely vulnerable. “

The album presents a biographical journey; a myriad of political, social and personal experiences that content her lyrics and songs, right through to her signature tune, the stirring epic 12 bar blues anthem, Koori Woman. Songs like Insufficient Funds are so full of character it could inspire a whole film, and Boomerang Alley, a biographical song about life growing up in the town of Winton, the birthplace of 'Waltzing Matilda' and QANTAS, features a wonderful guitar boogie.

The album features a sterling cast of some of the world’s finest blues musicians including Gil Askey on trumpet, Fiona Boyes, Buddy Knox, Ray Beadle, Jerome Smith on guitar, Mark Atkins on didgeridoo, Joel Davis, Murray Cook on keys, Stefan Sernak (accordion), Andy Baylor (mandolin), Shannon Barnett on trombone, Paul Williamson on baritone sax and Marlene herself on alto sax.

Marlene has been invited to launch her album at the next Message Sticks Festival in January 2012. You Can’t Win will be released as a single from the album over the coming months to lead into the album release.
You Can’t Win is an anti-gambling song. Marlene is a recovered alcoholic & drug addict and admits this unashamedly. She insists on being a role model for anyone who may come against this problem and feel they can’t get past it. You Can’t Win is her musical expression of this struggle.
Marlene is also working on an adaptation of her album songs to a musical stage show as a vehicle not only to tell her life story, but also promote her songwriting and performing talents and her debut album.

Currently, Marlene is also engaged in putting her story down for Rachel Perkins (First Australians, Bran Nue Dae) for a documentary based on the Black Panther Australian chapter.

The album will be launched at the next Message Stick Festival on the steps of the Opera House.

Marlene is also currently a regul