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Canberra Today 7°/10° | Friday, May 24, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

How Yang’s paradise became a ‘living hell’

Canberra singer-songwriter Kim Yang. Photo Corinna and Dylan Kovacevic.

CANBERRA singer-songwriter Kim Yang was one of many ACT residents trapped in a campsite near Eden on New Year’s Eve and she’s written about the experience in a new song, “Garden of Eden”.

A well-known performer of cover songs at markets, pubs, cafes and weddings who studied jazz and blues standards at CIT, she is adamant that she’s not a pop singer, saying, “I still have my standards” and has made a name writing about her own life story through original songs, seen in her debut EP “Ocean of Mind” which was promoted at the National Folk Festival last year.

Nice to have the exposure, but the Taiwan-born contemporary folk vocalist was well aware that her musical idols, Sarah Ann McLachlan, Joni Mitchell, Regina Spektor and Joan Baez, had always been driven by the flames of passion.

Her moment came when, holidaying with her Australian husband and some old friends near Eden, she found herself forced to search fruitlessly for places to hide or shelter when the fires swept through.

“Garden of Eden” CD cover.

“Once it was the/ Garden of Eden/ Now it is a living hell,” the chorus runs in her song as she describes the difficulty of trying to stay calm while some idiots were still observing the New Year’s Eve countdown.

“I was definitely not in the mood,” Yang reports and even now, the thought of the relentless partying makes her hopping mad.

“I was quite angry with people who wanted to party, drink and smoke – with the fires so close by.”

“Reckless youth/ this night drags on and on/ waiting for midnight/ how do they still smile?” the song continues, echoing the nightmare the evening had become.

Looking back, Yang says, “It was chaos. Everyone was trying to go to pharmacies and the IGA to get food and people were pleading to get the last loaf of bread – similar to the way things are right now.”

It got her drawing parallels to other terrible experiences that assail modern Australia, shown in the words, ”Asylum seekers/ Drifting in a haze/ Eyeing the last bread”.

Eventually she did get to sleep in the tent back at the campsite. First thing the next morning, the road home via Brown Mountain was opened so they packed quickly and drove back to Canberra.

The moment she got home, Yang started composing a song far different from the sweet, melodious songs about love, hope, homesickness and loss for which she had become known. This time she was really fired up.

Kim Yang. Photo Corinna and Dylan Kovacevic.

“I had bits and pieces that I hadn’t used from other songs, so I put them into the new work… I wanted to create a vivid picture of my experience with the fires, an image of the panic and the empty shelves.”

Starting with her own guitar and vocals, the song gradually layered on cello by Tabitha Hart and piano by Guy Lilleyman, the producer and sound engineer who recorded and produced the song.

The impact of the bushfires on the mental health of Australians was truly horrific but the way she sees the panic reactions to the COVID-19 crisis, “it’s all happening again”.

“Because of that, I was hesitant about sharing the song, but I thought talking about the problem was a good idea because we are all in the same boat.”

She’d been expecting to front up to the Folk Festival again this year but the festival’s cancellation has left her and other artists high and dry.

“I used to be a shy person. I buried my feelings and refused to open up to others. But music and songwriting have helped me express myself,” Yang says.

Kim Yang’s single, “Garden of Eden”, released April 2020, purchase at kimyangmusic.bandcamp.com/releases

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Helen Musa

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