Hello my fabulous Wandering Journo tribe!
This episode of Streets of Your Town comes to you (again!) from the streets of the Woodford Folk Festival, where the sublime singing of Punjabi Australian singer and dancer Parvyn Kaur Singh drew me into her orbit.
As it turns out Parvyn had just completed a cross country adventure from her South Australian home, bringing all her family up in her Subaru wagon so she could perform at the Festival. She brought her new solo expression to Woodford audiences for the first time, synthesising a lifetime of dance and song into into her debut record ‘Sa’.
“It’s called Parvyn, under my own name. It’s my first solo,” Parvyn says.
“It’s a baby solo record that I’ve put out. It got nominated for an ARIA for Best World Music Album of the Year.
“And Bill Hauritz (festival director) from Woodford, I used to call him Uncle Bill when I was little. He’s been a really great supporter for me, and encouragement, and has given me really great advice over the years that has helped me develop my own voice, or find my own voice. It’s taken me 30-odd years but I finally got there.”
Her eclectic influences range from electronica and jazz to her background in Sikh devotional music and her training in Indian classical music and dance.
But while Parvyn was one of the farthest flung artists performing at this year’s festival, she’s actually also one of the longest participating—having come to the Woodford Folk Festival since she was a child. As Parvyn says, she’s been coming to Woodford before it was known as Woodford.
“Which as an immigrant kid growing up in the Adelaide Hills, my exposure to a lot of different styles of music wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t have the opportunity to go to folk festivals and things like that. So I’m super-grateful for all of that, and now I’ve just put it all together, got my own band.
“It just feels like a lot of aunties and uncles that are just so proud of me, and they’re really happy that I’ve followed my heart when it comes to what I’ve wanted to do in this lifetime, is to pursue the arts.
“Having that representation in that space, I think has been really valuable for me, and making sure that I feel proud of my identity, and that others can be part of that, I can share that with others in a really proud way.”
She tells us on Streets of Your Town podcast (just click on the link above or on your favourite podcast provider) how it feels like she is coming full circle, giving back to Woodford Folk Festival post-pandemic just as her solo career is taking off, having been featured in Rolling Stone India.
“I feel like I’m one of those Woodford children, having been brought up in the Festival. It was just a yearly expedition, heading up from Adelaide to go,” Parvyn says. “I remember the whole family, we would all jump in the Tarago and we would slowly stop and camp along the way.
“I’ve probably been to, I want to say, at least half of the Festivals since then. I have lost count how many I’ve been to, but probably about 17 or 18, or something like that.
She’s also looking forward to her six-year-old son continuing the cycle of Woodford Folk Festival for the next generation.
“Ravi, he’s been going to Woodford since he was in utero. I was pregnant the first time, and then we went, so he’s been already three times,” Parvyn said.
“I just think it’s such a beautiful environment for kids to explore, and be free, and just be exposed to the variety of life that is available in the world, that you don’t see in mainstream media.
“It gives you a different perspective on the possibilities of how this world can be. It’s almost like you go into Woodford and you’re surrounded by this beautiful environment and everything, and then when you come out after a week and you get hit by the grey of concrete, and it’s like, ‘What happened? Take me back to that utopia that was Woodford. Like, why can’t the whole world be like that?’ I’ve missed it.”
In other news
It’s been a busy few weeks getting back into “where did January go?” and straight back into my arts writing for brilliant local online publication In Queensland.
I was lucky enough to interview Australian theatrical LEGEND David Williamson on his latest production for Queensland Theatre of his play Family Values. And I also got the scoop that he isn’t retired after all—hooray!
And I went to see Hamilton with my amazing Wandering Journo paid supporter and friend of 30 years John Maume! If you have the means, please don’t miss this. Featuring our wonderful interview from my last Streets of Your Town Callan Purcell as Aaron Burr, he brought such tenderness, fragility and complexity to this character. I enjoyed seeing him embody this lead role and make it his own so much.
So in the spirit of Hamilton I shall bid you adieu—I have the honour to be your obedient servant!
The Wandering Journo