From 1981 to 1982 Chi was the lead singer of the band Kuckles, before they disbanded.
Chi's most acclaimed work is Bran Nue Dae, written in collaboration with his band Kuckles, Scrap Metal, the Pigrim brothers and friends. Bran Nue Dae, is a partly autobiographical work which took Jimmy many years to write. It celebrates family, forgiveness and reconciliation and was a hit at the Festival of Perth in 1990 where it was performed by the Black Swan Theatre. It went on to tour Australia extensively and it was Australia's most successful musical play of the early 1990s.
One of the famous verses from a song in the musical sums up Chi's dry humour and sharp political approach:
There's nothing I would rather be
Than to be an Aboriginewith superficial existential shit.
and watch you take my precious land away.
For nothing gives me greater joy
than to watch you fill each girl and boy
It brought acclaim for many Aboriginal artists including Ernie Dingo, Josie Ningali Lawford and Leah Purcell. The musical's success was also instrumental in the formation of the Black Swan Theatre Company.
He also wrote the musical Corrugation Road, which was first performed by the Black Swan Theatre at the Fairfax Studio in Melbourne in 1996. It toured Australia and broke box office records. It smashed taboos surrounding mental health, abuse, sexuality and religion with humor and optimism.
Both musicals played a significant role in the development and direction of Indigenous performance.
Chi's music has come to represent the colour of Broome. Broome's Opera Under the Stars festival has featured Chi's "Child of Glory", from Bran Nue Dae, at every festival since 1993. His hymns are regularly sung at Aboriginal funerals in Broome.
Awards and honors
Chi won the Deadly Sounds National Indigenous Music Award for Excellence in Film or Theatre Score in 1998.
In 2004 he was acknowledged by the WA Government as a State Living Treasure.
Chi now chooses to spend most of his time at home in Broome with his family and friends. In spite of life's challenges, his work continues to be imbued with an underlying sense of hope and humanity.
- Broome songwriters with Michael Manolis and Ron Harper (Hodja Educational Resources, 1985) ISBN 0-949575-37-2
- Bran Nue Dae (Currency Press, 1991) ISBN 0-86819-293-7
- Corrugation Road (sound recording - Angoorrabin Records, p1996)
- Eckersley. M.(ed.) 2009. Drama from the Rim: Asian Pacific Drama Book. Drama Victoria. Melbourne. 2009. (p9)
- "Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 1991 Winners". State Library of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
- Eckersley. M.(ed.) 2009. Drama from the Rim: Asian Pacific Drama Book. Drama Victoria. Melbourne. 2009. (p9).
- "1991 Human Rights Medal and Awards". Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
- Profile: Jimmy Chi Arts in Australia (Retrieved 1 August 2007)
- Jimmy Chi's magical musical 11 September 1991, reviewed by Peter Boyle from Cultural Dissent, Green Left Weekly issue #27 (Retrieved 1 August 2007)
- Jimmy Chi AustLit Agent (Retrieved 1 August 2007)