Irish singer-sonwgwriter Luka Bloom returns to Australia with his latest album, Refuge. It will be his 13th tour in a country he considers a second home. Nance Haxton interviews him during the first few dates:

It’s a strange thing indeed to connect with a country on the other side of the world to where you grew up, so much so that you feel the same sadness when leaving it as you do when you leave home. But this is the experience of Luka Bloom, the great Irish songman who for more than 40 years has put his passion for social justice to music, and given voice to those who aren’t often heard or recognised.

His songs have touched a chord in Australia, so much so that he has now toured the country more than a dozen times, undertaking his “lucky 13th” tour down under through March 2019.

Luka Bloom Refuge

This connection started at his first concert in the country in Sydney’s Enmore Theatre decades ago.

“I first came in 1992 and fell in love. It was love at first gig.

“There were two thousand people there, at the Enmore in Sydney, and I was very moved and very affected that here was this place that had no sense of my history, that just embraced my songs, and it gave me a great feeling of connection and confidence and I made a decision right there and then that Australia would forevermore be a country that I would want to return to, for as long as I possibly could.

“So here we are twenty-seven years later, still singing.

“It’s a very strange thing to travel over so many countries between Dublin and Sydney and arrive in a country that’s where I feel so completely at home.

“It’s the only country in the world when I’m on the plane going back home to Ireland, that I feel a mixture of emotions. Of both joy to be going home and a little bit of sadness to be leaving Australia.”

Luka Bloom Refuge

Bloom’s latest album Refuge features many and varied locales around the world where this world wanderer has travelled. But it’s Australia that has the most resonance for this Irish balladeer.

“I call Australians Paddies with sun tans. I mean, the connection is huge.

“Many, many, many of my country men and women were forced to leave Ireland across many generations and found themselves mostly in America, but many of them found themselves in Van Diemen’s land and making their way throughout Australia over the last two hundred, three hundred years.

“And obviously in recent times, since the 1980s, so many young people have made the choice to come and live in Australia. There’s great symmetry between the story of Australia and the story of Ireland.

“One of the things I like about Australia is that physically it’s an enormous continent. There’s a sense of decency and a lack of imperial ambitions about Australia that really appeals to me. I think that Australians, the one thing Australians take really seriously is sport and you’re the worst losers on earth.

“But apart from that, you don’t take yourselves too seriously, which is the way life should be lived.”

Luka, Hanne and Marc

One of the songs on Refuge – Dadirri – is dedicated to a refuge in the Northern Territory.

“I stumbled upon this Dadirri, this is a story that belongs to a place called Tipperary, which is two hundred kilometres south of Darwin.

“And there’s a woman there called Miriam Rose. And her foundation is called the Miriam Rose Foundation.

“And she brings I suppose you could call them retreats of young people from different parts of Australia, different cities. And they travel to her and she’s created this discipline called Dadirri. And Dadirri is her tribal word, which translates into English as deep listening.

“And the purpose is to teach people, especially young people, the value of sitting with nature, sitting by the river, sitting with the animals, listening to the birds. Getting interconnected with nature and ultimately getting connected with your own true self. And I found her, and I found this practice, to be really inspiring to me. It connected with me.”

Bloom is pleased that Aboriginal artists are finally getting more recognition in their homeland.

“I’m really happy to see that in more recent years more and more people from other backgrounds in Australia are connecting with those artists and enjoying their music, and learning something from their culture”.

Luka Bloom tours new album Refuge across Australia until 5 April 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit his website.