Indigenous musician William Barton has given a moving performance of Men at Work’s hit song Down Under, splicing the didgeridoo with classical music with the help of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
The 38-year-old performed the classic Australian rock song at the end of former prime minister Bob Hawke’s state funeral on Friday. Barton is one of the country’s leading didgeridoo players, with the performance coming just days after he played at the poet Les Murray’s public farewell.
Mourners inside the Sydney Opera House clapped in tune to the popular song, while those lining the steps outside broke into rapturous applause.
Men at Work frontman Colin Hay praised the collaboration between Barton and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The singer-songwriter, who divides his time between Australia and the United States, said the performance was a fitting tribute for a prime minister who did so much for Australian culture.
“I feel great honour to know that Down Under was played at the memorial for such a great man, especially incorporating didgeridoo,” he said. “It’s probably the way that song should be heard.
“I felt such hope and positive spirit when Bob Hawke was elected. Here was someone who knew the street but could also hit the lofty peaks – and move mountains – to achieve better things for all people. To fast track the social, cultural and economic evolution of a country which had the potential to be the most successful, open society in the world.
“They don’t make them like him anymore.”
Down Under, released in 1980 and again in 1981, was Men at Work’s breakout hit and reached number one on the music charts in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In 2009, the song’s flute riff became the subject of a highly-publicised copyright lawsuit.
“As an artist from far north Queensland, I was proud and honoured to take part in the legacy of our former prime minister and what he achieved in his lifetime,” he said. “The important thing as a musician is to give back. Bob Hawke gave back as prime minister. Today was a merging of that.”
The musician first learned to play the didgeridoo more than two decades ago in Mount Isa, Queensland. He was touring internationally by the age of 15 and in 2012 received an ARIA award for best classical album for his work Songs of Sea and Sky.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald