The best in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Music

Top Stuff from the Top End

This story originally appeared in Deadly Vibe Magazine Issue #7 August, 1997

We have just opened The Vault – all the back stories from old editions – dating back to the 1990s. To know where we are going, it's important to understand where we have been. And that story you can follow in the Deadly Vibe Vault!

Meinmuk – Music from the Top End, Various Artists, ABC Music / EMI

1997 has been a bumper year for Aboriginal music. Exposure has never been greater, what with the ABC Songlines series, SBS TV’s ICAM music clips and now the release of the compilation album, Meinmuk – Music from the Top End. (And of course, there’s also been our own modest little publication, Deadly Vibe.)

All of these serve to highlight the enormous diversity of music that is made by Aboriginal and Islander people. And nowhere is this more evident than on Meinmuk. The styles of music on the CD include reggae, rock, heavy metal, country, ska, gospel and (believe it or not) lounge (listen out for the seventies crooning on Tim Wilson’s contribution, ‘Love is like a dream’).

The idea to record an album of Top End bands was sparked by the Triple J recording of the Barunga festival. The producers realise that a live recording could never do justice to the depth and quality of the music from the area.

So, after a year of submissions, meetings and discussions, a bunch of Triple J producers and engineers headed up to the coast of central Arnhem Land, to Maningrida, where they based their recording studios in the Town Hall. The studios became the focus of activity in the area, with the musicians turning up from 9 in the morning; rehearsals and recordings continued through the day and evening, often not finishing until midnight.

The end of recording was marked by a concert featuring many of the bands from the CD. The concert ended with a rousing version of ‘Island Home’, led by none other than George (from the Warumpis).

Despite the wide range of sounds on the CD, the tracks hang together really well. There’s obviously common links. Given their remoteness, the musicians must have been influenced by various local bands (Soft Sands get a plug on the sleeve notes as well as a track, ‘Promised Land’ on the CD). It is hoped Triple J will undertake a similar project in Central Australia – no doubt that area will provide another distinctive bunch of sounds.

Apparently, the music recorded represents just the tip of the iceberg. There were loads of other bands who, for various reasons, were not able to make it on to the final CD. Some of our favourites which include:

‘Guyullari’, My Boys are Good Boys. Check out those funky guitars!

‘Mamarika’, Harry Yalungani. Wind down the windows and feel the wind in your hair.

‘Out of Control’, Broken English. Incessant bass and wild axe solos.

But there’s loads of other good tracks. So do yourself a favour. Give Meinmuk a listen.

Tune into Deadly Sounds each week to hear tracks from the CD.

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