The UPK – Uwankara Palyanku Kanyitjaku – (everybody creating and holding the future) program is an initiative of the Nganampa Health Council that uses music featuring local artists to address and fix the social, emotional, environmental and health problems in Alice Springs and surrounding areas.
With the first album being released in 1989, the UPK project has gone on to release another four albums. In their very popular songs, some of which have received significant airplay, they confront issues such as suicide, substance abuse and renal failure.
“We decided to use music because there were a lot of skilled musicians on the lands. Whilst there may be low numeracy and literacy levels and high unemployment and all these sorts of things there was still a lot of endemic skill in people,” says Public and Environmental Health Officer at Nganampa, Steph Rainow.
“In the original album a lot of the musicians were actually health workers or were directors of our local clinics. We thought there was real value in people writing songs about particular themes that related directly to themselves and the situations that they find themselves in communities today.”
Many of the songs are sung in language. This helps even more so in sending a message to the local communities.
“We thought that that way the messages were more accessible and a lot of the songs are in language, therefore that was the best chance we had to get the message through and, hopefully, get some measure of behavioural change as long as the infrastructure was there to facilitate that,” he says.
Steph even says that when questioned about a certain issue he can simply recite a song verse and most will instantly understand it.
“I can go to a meeting about environmental health issues and sit in a council meeting and they’ll say ‘well what’s environmental health?’ and I’ll just start singing a verse out of a song and they’ll go ‘of course, we all know what this is about’,” Steph explains.
UPK doesn’t know when they will release another album, although there is demand for it in the community.
“The fact that we’ve now got five albums, and there was a long gap between 1989 and 2002 but there were continual requests to keep producing this music and we’ve now got grandsons of the original musicians playing on these albums,” he says.
For more information on UPK visit http://upk5.com/site/
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