She is like a travelling minstrel straight out of 16th century Europe, performing all over the world, each song a minature autobiography of her facinating life. Her music compares new love to budding jacarandas and broken hearts to rotting fruit. A 28 year old from the Dandenong ranges in Victoria, Penelope Swales is one of Australia's hidden musical gems
I remember the first time I saw Penelope Swales, it was at the International Women's Festival for 1997 in Mullumimby, a tiny town 20kms north of Byron Bay. Night had fallen and I was tired from all the excitement of the day so I headed to the writer's tent for a late coffee before leaving, and joined the 50 or so people drawn to this incredibly talented, wickedly witty woman.
Swales captivated this small but intimate audience with her sardonic sense of humour, sweet and powerful voice making light of technical difficulties and the yobbo standing behind her making drunken, obnoxious comments. Before she introduced each song she explained how it came to fruition with amusing and often sad acedotes. These acedotes gave the audiance an insight into a remarkable woman who has travelled all over the world, lived on the streets of The Cross, experienced the turbulance of marriage, the exquisite sensation of deflowering young virgins in hidden bush communes, new love, bitter love and faded love.
She appears to have a song about every lover she's ever had and on her 1995 album, Returning on Foot, she thanks these men that have inspired her music. She evoked tears throughout the audience with Lost and Found, a song about her friend that went missing in Sydney while she was living on the streets. She is female erotica epitomised through music and her raunchy The Panther, her song that explores the delights of being lured into a male panther's den to surrender to a dangerous and exciting romp, put a smile on every woman¼s face. Her social commentary is poignant and illuminating, pleading with Mandela to rectify our racial hypocrisy in Our Apertheid and translating the experience of protesting into music with Blockade. Since the Women's Festival I have seen her perform several times and each time I see her I walk away captivated and inspired.
I am curious as to why the Australian music scene hasn't discovered the pleasurable sounds of Penelope Swales. Is it due to the limited tastes of the Australian music scene (how many ARIAS can You Am I and Tina Arena win?). Or maybe this travelling mistral just doesn't want to be discovered. I am happy with that, it means I can continue to see her in relaxed environments, crowdless and hypeless.
So fellow maidens if you are looking for something a little raw and inspiring, get hold of one of her CD's, Returning on Foot, in particular is exceptional. This woman deserves a place in Australian music as one of our most talented. Look in your local papers for perfomances in obscure bars and music festivals.I have searched high and low for information about Penelope on the web and but have been unsuccessful in finding anything. However I do have her postal address from her CD, so if you would like to make any enquiries to her or order some music her address is :
PO Box 136, Emerald, Victoria,
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