Alice Keath, Slava Grigoryan and Leonard Grigoryan, produced by ABC Classic, 2021
ALICE KEATH: Objects and stories from Australian life.
MULTIPLE VOICES: This is us.
LEONARD GRIGORYAN: Convict love token. An engraved copper coin.
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: Our own family’s stories are in some ways very quintessentially Australian stories. So many of us have come from somewhere else and belong here, this is home.
My name is Slava Grigoryan. I was born in Kazakhstan in 1976 and started prep in St Kilda Primary with no English. I don’t really ever remember not being Australian.
LEONARD GRIGORYAN: I’m Leonard Grigoryan. I was born in Australia in 1985. My first language wasn’t English, it was Russian.
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: A lot of my friends growing up at the time had very similar backgrounds. So, for us, this is a very Australia feeling.
ALICE KEATH: People have come to Australia from all over the world, for all kinds of reasons. Some people to find a better life, others because they had no choice. For convicts it meant leaving behind everything they knew. Missing loved ones. Not knowing if they were ever going to see them again. Just imagine the sense of loss and uncertainty.
Filing down, smoothing and engraving a copper penny, with a message or poem, after sentencing was one way people could leave a memento for loved ones back home in England. There are hundreds of these love tokens, or ‘leaden hearts’, in the National Museum of Australia. And this one, inscribed in 1819, has the words, ‘Dear brother when you see this remember me when I am far away’.
LEONARD GRIGORYAN: When this token popped up I think we just thought it was meant to be. Slav and I we spend a lot of time on the road together. It’s been a long time I think, almost twenty years we’ve been touring together, and all of a sudden with all the drama of last year all of that was put to an end. Quickly. We both miss playing together and performing, but also just spending time together as well. We’re the best of friends so being apart for such a long time wasn’t easy and I think it made it something we could very much relate to. It was quite fortuitous.
ALICE KEATH: And here’s Leonard and Slava Grigoryan’s musical response to this object. It’s called 'Love Token'.
['Love Token' played by Leonard and Slava Grigoryan]
ALICE KEATH: 'Love Token' written and performed by the Grigoryan Brothers. I’m Alice Keath and This is us: A musical reflection of Australia was commissioned by the National Museum of Australia to mark their 20th anniversary. Head to the ABC Classic website to view the objects, find out more and buy the Grigoryan Brothers album featuring all of the music in the project.
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Date published: 01 January 2018