Deline Briscoe : Wawu Review
Deline Briscoe is a Melbourne Australia singer and songwriter that has a unique twist on the world music genre. While touring the globe as a principal artist with one of Australia’s leading Performing Arts Companies “Black Arm Band,” she is able to fine-tune her songwriting and performing skills. Her music has been featured at Australia’s largest music export market, Bigsound (2019), and was featured on National playlist all over the Australian Radio Networks. Briscoe regularly tours with a unique combination of musicians; percussionist Airileke Ingram (Yothu Yindi), Jamaican jazz pianist Stephen Maxwell (Jimmy Cliff), and double bassist Robbie Finch. The Trio brings a powerful and tasteful soundscape with a percussive bite, which Briscoe adds her blues grit and jazz-infused vocals. With her stunning solo debut album, Wawu, she is joined by Paul Coyle on trumpet and Phil Bywater on clarinet/saxophone. Together the ensemble takes us through thirteen wonderful songs. Special guests on the project include Andrea Keller (piano/composer), Tiddas (composers/harmony vocals), and Emma Donovan, Jessie Lloyd, and Jess Hitchcock (harmony vocals). The songs are sung in the Yalanji language as well as English. The themes deal with people struggling in life, an acknowledgment of their pain, and a tender reassurance that can only come from women who have risen, triumphant, from the darkest of times.
“Wawu” is the first track. Briscoe speaks in Yalanji as she conveys a message encompassing the concepts of spirit, heart, love, and connections between people, land, past, present and future. She tells the story of four generations of women from one family: Deline, her daughter Jadamali, her Mother, and her Mother’s Mother – Ngadijina. Maxwell’s piano playing is sensitive as he layers colorful chords over Finch’s and Ingram’s relaxed groove. Although the piano is not in-tune, the music is still meaningful, and the players perform excellently. The rhythmic aspects of the Yalanji language are beautiful. Briscoe sings a syllabic melody at the end of the song to form the perfect finishing statement.
“Heartbeat” opens with a gospel-like hand-clapping figure that Briscoe sings with. Her voice is warm, and the lyrics are eloquent. The background vocalist joins, and the bluesy/gospel melody is enriched with beautiful harmonies. When the band enters, the energy level is intensified. The background vocalist provides a full vocal pad for Briscoe to sing over. The lyrics are based around a repetition of the word “heartbeat,” so to keep variety, there are plenty of band hits and stops to add diversity. Briscoe’s vocalizations at the end of the song show off her soulful and bluesy vocal chops. The ending is excellent and again builds on the rhythmic power of a phrase to conjure emotion.
Briscoe has a winner with Wawu. There is a variety of instrumental sounds, vocal and spoken sounds, and a well-rounded list of guest artists. The music has a powerful message that is contagious. The melodies are constructed around rhythms that built to highlight the world music presentation. This is uplifting music in a time of sensory overload and chaos. Briscoe has a voice, and thankfully she is using it for good with her powerful music.