The best in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Music

Sammy Butcher

>Deadly Vibe Issue 77 September 2003

Famous Warumpi band member Sammy Butcher didn’t have to look far for inspiration for the title of his latest album.

“Out here in the desert, when you look out at the sand hills, you can imagine them as being huge red waves on the ocean,” says Sammy, who lives at Papunya in the Northern Territory. “So I named my new album Desert Surf Guitar.”

Although his touring days with one of the most popular and most requested Indigenous groups may be over, Sammy still leads a hectic life.

In fact, Sammy has been so busy with the work he takes on as a community leader that he could hardly find time to get into the studio.

“This album has been seven years in the making,” says Sammy. “It’s taken me a long time to finish it because of all the other commitments that I’ve had over the years.”

Although Sammy took his time getting the album ready, the wait seems to have been worth it. He says that his new music is being well-received in his home town.

Sammy says one of his favourite songs from the album is Misty Morning Rain. “It’s about waking up early in the morning and walking out into the country, and getting that feeling that there is no one else around but you.”

In the end, it’s quite understandable that a song about silence and peace would appeal to a man that has spent more than 20 years in a rock and roll band, and who now works passionately to uplift his people as much as possible.

“Another one of my favourites is called Footy Fever,” Sammy says. “Everyone up here loves the footy, so I made a song about that.”

Outside of his love for music and football, Sammy’s passion for his country, culture and people is as strong as ever.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work with local kids, trying to keep them on the right track and out of trouble,” he says.

The opening of a new music studio in Papunya has created a great positive buzz of excitement around the community, and will open up many new opportunities for Indigenous artists in the region. Sammy is as pleased as any to see the opening of the studio in his own community.

“We’ve just had everyone here for the new studio, performing and getting together,” he says. “The good thing about this studio is that it will be for everyone to share, not just for recording and making music, but also for the older people. Now they can come in and tell their stories, and we can record it onto CD. In that way, we can preserve our culture and traditions.”

Sammy still credits the experience of travelling with the Warumpi band around Australia and overseas as the most gratifying aspect of his musical career.

Fittingly, due to the group’s influence and status within the community, the boys got together for a special performance at the Papunya studio opening.

“We all still have very strong feelings,” Sammy says. “After playing at the studio we talked a little about what we might do together in the future, but right now there are a lot of other things I am already committed to.” “There are a few other bands around that I’m helping out with at the moment. For the community, we need strong people to help everywhere.”

Putting his community before anything else, Sammy Butcher continues to inspire others not only through his music but through the strength of his character. And with the new studio now complete and Sammy there to provide a guiding hand, who knows that the next chapter for one of the country’s richest pools of musical talent will be?


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