On the Couch with Greta Kelly

Greta-Kelly-photo-by-Juanita-BroderickWho is Greta Kelly?
I play the violin and shah kaman (a Persian spike-fiddle by luthier Peter Biffin), co-manage and co-produce three independent projects; MZAZA, with it’s French, Balkan and Turkish mix; DeepBlue, a string ensemble with electronics, sound design and choreography; and Ostoorah, my new middle-eastern ensemble.

What would you do differently from what you do now? 
You know how musicians get told to have a real job to fall back on – well for 10 years I designed online learning systems and was in multiple bands. Then 10 years ago I quit my desk job to pursue music full time and each day has felt like a treat. So I’d not do anything differently except find more time to hang with my nieces and nephew.

Who inspires you and why? 
Ross Daly because of his knowledge, interpretation and teaching of modal music. Linsey Pollak because he’s off the wall and deeply musical at the same time. My sister, Kristin Kelly because she showed me how the fiddle can open doors to foreign lands. My Mum, Barb Kelly and Pauline Maudy my partner in crime in all things MZAZA who both teach me how to seize each day.

What would you do to make a difference in the world? 
Why is this question in the hypothetical future? What about what we’re doing now? Artists make a difference by allowing people to temporarily escape their daily existence.  Music’s power to do this motivates me to work with migrants and refugees when they’re missing home, to show I respect their culture and to compensate in some small way for the shame I feel about the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Favourite holiday destination and why? 
I don’t take holidays. I’m lucky that I get to explore new places through touring and I regularly get away from urban stress down on my farm in North NSW. This sounds ultra-pragmatic but it’s hard to ignore how much pollution has been reduced recently by eliminating unnecessary travel.

When friends come to town, what attractionwould you take them to, and why? 
When we’ve got friends staying at our block we take them walking in Nightcap National Park or swimming in our dam (despite the water scorpions!). The city folk make me really appreciate how lush it is. When we’ve got gardeners staying I take them on a tour of the gardens and orchard and pick their brains.

What are you currently reading?
Orientalism by Edward Said. I just read his daughter Najla Said’s biography, Looking for Palestine and that’s been a gateway to the heavy stuff.

What are you currently listening to? 
MZAZA’s new album, The Birth and Death of Stars. We recorded it at Sierra Studios, Athens with a sensitive, funny, genius engineer Vangelis Lappas – who drew out so many nuanced and musical ideas that he layered into the mix. Now the challenge is to create it live with 6 pairs of hands and 6 sets of vocal chords.

Happiness is? 
Learning and making music with a group of people who are great friends.

What does the future hold for you?
The launch of MZAZA’s new show and album and a 25 date tour of The Birth and Death of Stars around regional Queensland; Ostoorah’s debut season at Bleach Festival; a South-East Queensland tour of Song to the Earth with DeepBlue; and, when the borders open, MZAZA’s tour to fire affected regions of NSW and Victoria.


Greta performs with MZAZA and the launch of their third album, The Birth and Death of Stars at The Tivoli, Fortitude Valley on 10 & 11 September as part of the 2020 Brisbane Festival. For more information, visit: www.brisbanefestival.com.au or www.mzaza.com for details.

Image: Greta Kelly – photo by Juanita Broderick

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