31 July 2023

The Illawarra’s musical gumbo Jam n Bread knows how to roll

| Siobhan O'Brien
Start the conversation
Sanjeet Mishra and Chris Fields

Sanjeet Mishra and Chris Fields share their music mastery at a Jam n Bread event held at The Servo, Port Kembla. Photo: Supplied.

In a divisive and discordant world, the opposite can shock. But causing a stir wasn’t the idea behind Jam n Bread – the Illawarra’s celebration of music and gastronomy – creating unity through philanthropy was.

The concept is fairly straightforward: draw culturally diverse communities together to make music. African. Columbian. Latvian. Celts, even. Oh … and as the tunes permeate the atmosphere bread that hails from the country du jour is baked and shared. But the spirit of this community focused event features a menu that offers fancier seasoning than a baritone horn blowing Balkan while baking pogacha.

According to Ann Lehmann-Kuit, music therapist, educator and staff member of Our Community Project (OCP), Jam n Bread “is about breaking down the barriers between cultures through inclusivity and exploration. It’s a way to bring people together and allow them to be seen, along with their talents. In many respects it provides a window into another world in a clear and transparent way”.

READ ALSO Regional students invited to audition for Bell Shakespeare theatre scholarships

The initiative was masterminded around a decade ago by Ann after she recognised the cultural diversity and musical talent in the Illawarra and sought to explore the sum of its parts. Over the years, she and her colleagues at OCP have applied for – and received – funding from Multicultural NSW, the Federal Government, Culture Bank and Wollongong City Council.

“We were able to acquire instruments with our initial funding – ukuleles, drums, guitars, djembes and such. It really helped set us up. Now we have them for everyone to use,” Ann said.

Today the scheme is anchored with monthly performances at the OCP headquarters on the corner of Wentworth and Church Streets, Port Kembla. It’s here that musicians, dancers and bread makers assemble to feed the soul and the belly.

“Everyone has a connection to their own culture, the rhythms and the food that sustains them and the common language they share,” Ann said.

George Stanton

George Stanton from Bollywood Hindi fusion band Electric Korma performs at Indian Music and Harmony Week.

Other Jam n Bread projects that occur on an irregular basis include festivals, documentaries, mentoring programs and the like.

In 2021 Jam n Bread hosted a day-long festival at The Servo, a performance space located close to the OCP. The event provided emerging and experienced musicians with the platform to showcase their work, access to mentoring and the opportunity to create new work. The event was filmed. A longer documentary is in the works.

READ ALSO Mystery surrounds deaths of three sharks found on South Coast beaches

“The impetus for the footage is what we’ve come to think of as the secret, beating heart and musical soul of the Illawarra,” the producer of the film in progress, Sarah Hudson, said. “We intend to explore the concept of hidden maestros and the histories of local musicians.”

Ann Lehmann-Kuit

Ann Lehmann-Kuit, music therapist, educator and staff member of Our Community Project, enjoys some Peshwari Naan at a recent Jam n Bread event.

“All ages and abilities are invited to join us,” Ann said. “As a child, I lived in Zimbabwe and Norway before emigrating to Australia. As an adult, I lived in Spain. Rather than feeling like an outsider, I want a society that celebrates and embraces our cultural diversity.”

Sounds like that’s something worth breaking bread for.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.