From 1-6 January, Sydney’s Cahill Expressway will be transformed into a music stage. The historic freeway will be the site of a new festival called Elevate, which is delivering a free six-day program of music and performance. Among the line-up is neo-soul artist Ngaiire, who will come with a new album’s worth of songs to show off.
Released in August, Ngaiire’s third LP – aptly titled 3 – explored both her experiences of new motherhood and growing up in Papua New Guinea, where she was born and lived from age seven to 16. Proudly staking claim to the latter was a line in the sand for Ngaiire – in earlier years, she says, she stopped identifying herself as Papua New Guinean because she worried it might impede her music career.
At home on the New South Wales Central Coast, a certain quintessential PNG kitchen tool has recently become Ngaiire’s most cherished object. Here, she tells us what that utensil represents to her, as well as the story of two other important personal belongings.
What I’d save from my house in a fire
Probably our coconut scraper. My parents were living with us for about six months at the start of Covid as they’ve both lost their jobs. So as a thank you to us, they’d do real Backyard Blitz-level renovations on the house and garden, as cute surprises while we’d be out running errands or jobs.
Once, we came home and they’d erected a much-needed shelving unit in the laundry and, in addition to neatly stacking all our laundry items on the shelf, they had tucked in a brand new coconut scraper.
It’s a staple in most PNG kitchens but big and dangerous enough to need a space somewhere like a laundry. My parents have since moved back to PNG after 20 years in Australia, so I see that scraper as a real representation of their love and sacrifice, but also connection to home.
My most useful object
My studio mic. I have a little Røde mic that I won in a competition run by Happy Mag during the start of Covid. They wanted to support artists who were doing it tough while we watched our gig calendars get completely wiped.
It’s not a big fancy condenser mic, but previously I didn’t have a proper studio mic at all, and I can honestly say that the only reason I have been able to do most of my vocal sessions remotely and still make money is because of this little USB mic. It’s probably the most used gift anyone has given me in the last two years.
The item I most regret losing
My son’s hairbrush! He has the most glorious afro you’d ever see on a three year old but the maintenance on it is a commitment. There are at least four of these plastic pharmacy brushes floating around the house and when “hair washing day” comes along – usually a Sunday – do you think I can find any of them? Heck no!
After his hair gets washed, the trick is to lather and brush hair cream through before the moisture evaporates from his curls, then wrap them up in plaits for a few days so you have less knotty hair the rest of the week. When you can’t find a brush in sight, it’s a race against evaporation time to get those curls in plaits, otherwise you’ve gotta be that parent brushing the knots out of his hair the next day while he’s crying through every brush.