I just can’t give up now
Come too far from where I started from
Nobody told me the road would be easy
I don’t believe He’s brought me this far to leave me
THESE SIMPLE, heartfelt lyrics, sung in perfect, melismatic harmony on a grassy road divide in suburban Coburg sum up so much of the musical journey of sisters Fookcheh “Foxxy” and Ta Tupou.
There is faith, both in their God and their future. There is determination, optimism and joy. And deeper down and perhaps unspoken there is something about family, culture and the migrant experience in Australia.
Foxxy, 17, and Ta, 16, come from a 13-strong family of Cook Islanders, now living in Broadmeadows. Music has always been a part of family life and the girls have been singing since they were toddlers, originally with the choir at their church, the Christian Mission Fellowship.
A little over two years ago the sisters heard about Outer Urban Projects, a bold not for profit performing arts organisation collaborating with young people in the artistically starved outer northern suburbs of Melbourne.
They came to try out for a dance project, but then Irine Vela heard them sing.
‘’The first thing I realised was that there was something quite gorgeous about their voices,” recalls Irine, creative producer at OUP. “But it’s not just talent it’s a great spirit. They communicate that spirit through music.”
Now OUP talks of the pair as having “the potential to take the reins as the new Vika and Linda Bull … blending Maori and Islander influences with their love for pop music and their openness to creating and performing original material.”
The sisters are uncomfortable with the praise. “We just want to showcase our talent, that’s about all. We just want to be heard in a different way by singing,” says Ta.
“Because a lot of our people, they aren’t recognised, even though the community has a lot of talent,’’ adds Foxxy. ‘’They haven’t taken that step forward just to get their music heard.”
Outer Urban Projects has two main objectives, says Ms Vela. One is to create ongoing ensembles in three different art forms: text, music and dance. The other is to service the artistically talented and diverse youth of the neglected outer north and showcase that talent.
The Newsboys’ Foundation in 2011 helped fund an outstanding example of that, a truly cross-cultural collaboration between OUP’s singers and dancers, the Massive Hip Hop Choir, and the classically-oriented Melbourne Youth Music, at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
“Not only was that performance artistically riveting,” says Ms Vela, “but the narrative on stage – just youth up there – was so important. In the meeting of those three worlds on stage was total synergy and admiration for each other.
“Our mob was amazed by the discipline and sight-reading ability of the young musicians and they were enthralled by the vocal technique of these girls, that melismatic style of singing; and then the incredible, intuitive stagecraft of Massive. What you had was mutual admiration and breaking down of barriers.”
Says Foxxy: “That was the experience of a lifetime.” But Irine Vela believes the sisters are so talented there will be many more experiences on their musical journey.