The world watched as the Olympic Games were held in Sydney in 2000 and as one of Australia’s brightest musical stars, Christine Anu, dazzled her fellow Aussies and new fans worldwide. It had been five years since the release of her platinum debut album Stylin’ Up, but the high-energy singer exploded back onto the Australian music scene in 2000. Anu’s single “Sunshine on a Rainy Day” spent weeks on the Top 40 chart, and her second album, Come My Way, was well received by critics and fans alike. Anu shone at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sydney as she performed the song “Island Home,” an anthem for aboriginal and islander Australians, for an audience of millions.
Born in 1970 in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, Anu is the daughter of Torres Straight Islanders. The Torres Straight divides the Cape York Peninsula in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Torres Straight Islanders are indigenous Australians. Anu lived on the islands for part of her childhood, and her father taught her the island songs that continue to influence her work. Anu draws deeply on her Aboriginal roots to inspire her music, seamlessly incorporating traditional indigenous rhythms with modern dance beats, reflecting her own experience as a Torres Straight Islander in twenty-first century Australia.
Before Anu began her recording career, she was trained as a dancer by the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA). She received her associate’s degree in dance in 1992, and toured North America, Europe, and Australia with the respected Bangarra Dance Company. As early as 1993, though, Anu had turned to singing. She spent some time as a backup singer for the band Rainmakers, and her first recorded release was a collaboration with prominent Australian songwriter Paul Kelly on a dance mix titled “Last Train.” Anu professed a deep respect for Kelly, telling Kathy McCabe of the Sunday Telegraph, “I’m in reverence just being in the presence of this man, knowing so many songs that have touched my heart have come from him.” Anu would collaborate with Kelly again on both of her full-length albums.
Anu signed with the Mushroom label and had her first real hit with her version of “My Island Home,” a song borrowed from the Warumpi Band, an Aboriginal group. The song appeared on Anu’s 1995 debut album, Stylin’ Up. Anu worked with Kelly on many of the songs, and she also collaborated with David Bridie of the band Not Drowning Waving. While these two men contributed to the album, Anu notes that she really became a songwriter while working on the album. She told Michael Smith of Drum Media, “I discovered my writing talents through making it…. I didn’t realize until I’d finished it that I’d written nine songs and discovered I was a songwriter!” Reflecting Anu’s own eclectic influences, the album draws from a range of pop styles as well as Aboriginal music. Glenn Baker of Billboard noted that the recording is a “blend of indigenous Australian funk, soul, hip-hop, rap, and reggae,” and quoted a Juice magazine rave that called the album “one of the most sublime and stylish reflections of Australia’s cultural melting pot ever to be recorded.”
Stylin’ Up proved as popular with fans as with critics. The album quickly went platinum in Australia, and Anu’s freshman effort was named Best Aboriginal Album of 1995 by the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA). She enjoyed several top 40 hits from the album, including “Party” and “Island Home,” and in 1996 Anu won another ARIA Award, this time for Best Female Artist. That same year, Anu was honored by the Deadly Sounds National Aboriginal and Islander Music Awards by being named Best Female Artist.
Following the tremendous success of her first album, Anu contributed two songs—“Nutbod” and “Now Until the Break of Day,” both from Midsummer Night’s Dream —to director, writer, and producer Baz Luhr-mann’s compilation, Something for Everybody. In 1997 the musician and dancer also tried her hand at acting, landing a spot in Little Shop of Horrors and the role of Mimi in the Australian version of Rent. After a successful two-year run in Australia, Anu was offered a chance to play Mimi on Broadway, but she turned the role down in order to pursue another acting job, this time in film. Anu portrayed Arabia in Luhrmann’s film Moulin Rouge. The character was an exotic dancer, and the musical allowed Anu to show off her talent for dancing. The multitalented performer also guest-starred on Wildside, a drama series produced by ABC, and was
Born in 1970 in Cairns, Queensland, Australia; children: Kuiam. Education: Associate’s degree in dance from the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA), 1992.
Toured with Bangarra Dance Company, 1992-93; released single “Last Train” with Paul Kelly, 1993; signed with the Mushroom label, released debut album Stylin’ Up, 1995; starred in Australian production of Rent, 1998-99; acted in Baz Luhrmann’s film Moulin Rouge, 2000; performed in the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games, 2000; released Come My Way, 2001.
Awards: Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Award, Best Aboriginal Album for Stylin’ Up, 1995; ARIA Award, Best Female Artist, 1996; Deadly Sounds National Aboriginal and Islander Music Award, Best Female Artist, 1996.
Addresses: Record company —Festival Mushroom Group, 27 Dudley St., West Melbourne VIC, Australia 3003, website: http://www.mushroom.com.au. Website —Christine Anu Official Website: http://www.christineanu.com.au.
scheduled to star in the musical Hair on tour in Australia in the fall of 2001.
After a very busy five years between her acting career and raising her child, Kuiam, Anu jumped back onto Australia’s Top 40 chart in 2000 with “Sunshine on a Rainy Day.” The song later appeared on her second full-length recording, Come My Way, released by Festival Mushroom Records. The album was written in London and recorded in Sydney with the help of United Kingdom producer Stuart Crichton. Anu once again collaborated with Kelly; the album includes Anu’s version of his “Beat of Your Heart.”
Another song on the album, “Coz I’m Free,” was written as a tribute to Cathy Freeman, the Australian track star who shares Anu’s Aboriginal roots. Anu spoke about her motivation for writing the song in a Mushroom press release: “I met Cathy at the ARIA Awards a couple of years ago but it wasn’t until I saw her in Seville last year that ‘Coz I’m Free’ came together. I watched her win at Seville [the World Championships] and then we caught up in London not long afterwards…. She’s so inspiring—her focus, how hard she trains, all that she’s achieved. When I watched the race in Seville, the camera zoomed in on her tattoo and I got the idea then for a song.” With Freeman’s gold-medal winning performance in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Anu’s own stellar appearance at the closing ceremony of the games, the two women became heroes of Aboriginal Australia.
Come My Way, like Stylin’ Up, received warm reviews from critics. Anu’s second release showed a greater pop influence, and the rapping that made an appearance on the first album was replaced with more dance songs. But Anu continues to embrace her Islander heritage, and she includes sounds of indigenous music in the mix. Steve Rendle of the Evening Post called Come My Way “a great pop record” and “magic.” He also noted that “Anu’s voice is a sparkling joy.” Anu’s enthusiastic fans seem to agree and are eager to see what the dancer, singer, songwriter, and actress will try her hand at next.
Stylin’ Up, Mushroom, 1995.
(Contributor) Something for Everybody, EMD/Capitol, 1998.
Come My Way, Festival Mushroom, 2001.
Billboard, July 8, 1995, p. 55; September 23, 2000, pp. 58-59; September 30, 2000, p. 50.
Courier-Mail, June 13, 2001, p. 2.
Drum Media, December 3, 1996.
Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), April 12, 2001.
New Straits Times (Malaysia), October 8, 1995, p. 14.
Sunday Telegraph (Sydney, Australia), June 4, 2000.
USA Today, September 29, 2000, p. 7F
“Christine Anu,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (June 20, 2001).
“Christine Anu,” Mushroom Records, http://www.mushroom.com.au (June 20, 2001).
Christine Anu Official Website, http://www.christineanu.com.au (June 20, 2001).
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