Rubina Kimiia – creating cultural, social and musical harmony


Thursday 30 September 2021. A musician and producer, songwriter, and vocal arranger, Rubina Kimiia might be best known in Cairns as the founder of Sounds of AustraNesia, however, right now she is stretching her musical wings with an incredibly catchy musical score for JUTE Theatre Company’s up and coming production of La Bella Figura, premiering next month.


Before meeting and working with two of JUTE’s co-founders, the powerhouses of Suellen Maunder and Kathryn Ash, in the making of Cairns’ 2018 Commonwealth Games musical behemoth, Beginnings, Rubina had only ever experienced JUTE Theatre Company through the eyes of an audience member and recalls having enjoyed various shows over the years.  


“JUTE are excellent ambassadors of supporting storytelling from our very own community through theatre. I’m trying to do the same thing through music with AustraNesia,” Ms Kimiia said.


According to Kathryn, it was in fact Rubina who initiated Beginnings – first presenting the idea to the show’s producer Roz Pappalardo, also co-creator and lead of La Bella Figura.


While claiming the title of Cairns’ largest musical, it was this remarkable show that provided lasting and creative bonds with JUTE’s Suellen Maunder in her role as director, together with playwright Kathryn Ash and the incredibly talented Italian set and costume design duo, Simona Cosentini and Simone Teseriori. It was later that Kathryn, together with Simona and Simone, added their magic to AustraNesia’s very own musical, Woven that featured 11 of their female artists.


In her role as Musical Director for La Bella Figura, Rubina says that like Beginnings and Woven, it extended way beyond supervising the production’s music. 


“I compose, arrange, orchestrate and have prepared notation for the chorus and for instrumental players for the studio. These roles are typically filled by different people. I would probably call this a play with music rather than musical theatre. The songs are spread out – a couple are catchy and humorous and others are poignant in differing ways,” she said.


According to Rubina, her creative process is a straight forward one.


“Once I know how it fits in the story arc, and have an idea of the sentiment required, I draft a song, referring to notes from Kathryn to make sure I stay on track. Writing and arranging are the easy part for me. I send the draft to the Director and Playwrights for feedback, particularly on the lyrics. Sometimes I interpret correctly. Sometimes I’m a bit off the mark. I revise and re-draft as required until it sits right with me and this particular group of people.”


For La Bella Figura, there are five songs plus a reprise of the theme song at the end. 


“I’ve been fortunate to have Frank D’angelico advise me on cultural context and offering Italian language which I’ve used at every appropriate opportunity.”


Rubina says she has kept the play’s musical palette very simple, with identifiable Italian elements except for one song that is set today and is contemporary.  She said that having Italians in the room listening to the drafts was an excellent way of making sure she was metaphorically speaking, hitting the right notes.


“I have learned so much through the process of research and being educated by my Italian friends and yet I see much of my own Pacific Island culture represented in this story of second-generation migrant experiences. It is a meaningful work and being part of the creative process is wonderful. But just as important as the art, are the people I get to work with. I feel blessed by the beautiful ‘famiglia’ I have come to know through this process.”


With La Bella Figura deeply embedded in its rehearsal phase Rubina is already busy working on her next big thing – this time Brisbane based with a much larger cast. She is fortunate to have a consistent variety of projects requiring skills she has to offer. This, along with her role as a music educator and teaching students to find their feet with music, is a life calling and source of great satisfaction.

This is another local story being brought to the stage by JUTE Theatre Company, reflecting the diversity of our community on stage. Tickets are now on sale via www.jute.com.au/LBF

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