The best in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Music

Illana Atkinson

With her incredible voice and natural ear for music, 18-year-old singer/songwriter Illana Atkinson is ready to take on the world. And with an award under her belt and a song contest in Vietnam to attend, it looks like the rest of the world is keen to listen.

It might seem like a case of ‘overnight sensation’, but Illana has actually been singing since the age of four. “Because I was always jumping around as a kid, mum used to play her Tina Turner albums, and I remember singing along to them all day long,” recalls Illana.

Illana wrote her first song at the age of 10. When she was 16 she participated in the Songlines Mentorship Program, working alongside mentor David Bridie for 12 months. The fruit of that collaboration was the song “Just Go”, which Illana wrote about her mother.

The song turned out to be a big success and was included on the compilation CD Making Tracks, which was launched at the Melbourne Concert Hall in 1999.

Illana has sure come a long way since her Tina Turner days. She’s already worked with performers such as Kutcha Edwards, Yothu Yindi, Killing Heidi, Tiddas, Paul Kelly, Frank Yamma and Rita Mills. And in 1998 she won an award for Best New Talent at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The following year, Illana was given the opportunity to take part in the Urban Traditional Cultural Exchange in the Northern Territory. Along with four other artists, Illana wrote and recorded a song at the Wirnya Development Studio.

“My time spent at the Urban Traditional Cultural Exchange has inspired me to write more music and has even given me a better understanding of the values of other people’s lives,” says Illana. “I was told many stories by the Aboriginal Elders from the region and it has definitely been a huge influence on my song writing and personal values.”

Chief Executive Officer for Songlines Aboriginal Corporations, Grant Hansen, speaks highly of Illana’s talent. “She has a big voice and a big future,” he says. “She’s come a long way, and continues to grow from strength to strength.”

Right now, Illana is planning to take Vietnam by storm as an entrant in the Vietnam My Love 2001 songwriting and performance competition. Head to head with 80 other performers from 40 countries, Illana will be up there with the best. But Vibe is confident that she’ll do us proud.

And the icing on the cake? Illana plans to release her debut CD by year’s end. We can’t wait for that one.

“My ambition is to give my listeners something to hold on to,” she says. “Music is my dream, and one day I hope to share it with the rest of the world.”

Lastly, Illana would like to thank her family for supporting her in her chosen career. “Their support has given me the necessary drive to pursue my dreams of becoming a successful musician.”


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