Waratah is a name from the creation stories of the Dharawal Aboriginal people of New South Wales. According to the Dharawal history, the spirit woman Kurrabaree came to Earth from a star, and created the first two people from the mud on the banks of the river Bargo. Those first two people were Wirid-Jiribin (the lyrebird, the communicator) and Waratah (the flower, the beautiful one). All the Dharawal people are descendants of Wirid-Jiribin and Waratah. In contemporary Australian, Waratah is the name of a brilliant red flower (Telopea speciossima), which is also the floral emblem of New South Wales. Sandy Evans, Satsuki Odamura and Tony Lewis use the name Waratah in this spirit, and with the greatest respect to the Dharawal people – and, importantly, with the full consent and approval of the Dharawal community.
Waratah has performed at World Expo 2005 (Aichi, Japan), the Jeonju Sori Festival (Jeonju City, Korea), the Jarasum International Jazz Festival (Gapyeong, Korea), the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, the Festival of Asian Music and Dance (Sydney Opera House), for the Japan Foundation in Sydney and the Japanese Consulate in Perth, Woodford Folk Festival, Bellingen Global Carnival, Government House (Sydney), the Songs of the Wind Festival (Blue Mountains, NSW), Asia Fest (Lismore), the Armidale Regional Art Museum, the Brett Whiteley Studio (Sydney), Café Carnivale (Sydney), the Sydney Improvised Music Association, the Glen Street Theatre and has recorded and broadcast for ABC Radio National’s Music Deli.
In 2006 Waratah collaborated with Dharawal Aboriginal artists – elder and knowledgeholder Frances Bodkin, and musician-dancer Matthew Doyle – to create Dharawal Dreaming, a contemporary interpretation in music, dance and storytelling, of the Dharawal creation stories Miwa Gawaian (“How the White Waratah Came to Be”) and Miwa Gawaian and Wurrata (“How the White Waratah Became Red”). Dharawal Dreaming premiered in Korea in 2006, at the Jeonju Sori Festival (Jeonju City), and at the Jarasum International Jazz Festival (Gapyeong).
Reviewing the Festival of Asian Music and Dance 2002 (at the Sydney Opera House) in the Sydney Morning Herald (August 19, 2002, p.13), John Shand wrote about Waratah:
Satsuki Odamura’s koto, Sandy Evans’s saxophone and Tony Lewis’s percussion created a collective sound of marvellous transparency.
Reviewing the Waratah CD “Time Never Sleeps” in the Sydney Morning Herald (April 3-4, 2004, p.12), John Shand wrote:
The members of Waratah……[are] players of such innate musicality that they can wing their way between continents, drawing inspiration where they will, and make it sound not only cohesive, but wondrous.
Ms. Odamura [represents] a new generation of koto performers who are intent on crossing traditional lines, pushing themselves and their instruments to new frontiers and viewing their instrument as an instrument of the world. (Ethnomusicology, Winter 1995)