Ten years of Sand Tracks in the Central Desert proves it’s stronger than ever

Ten years of Sand Tracks in the Central Desert proves it’s stronger than ever

Carla Steele

Central Desert communities were treated to a double dose of Top End bands for the 10th anniversary of the Sand Tracks tour this year.

Ritchie Guymala of Black Rock Band. Photo: Bill Pheasant.

Saltwater Band from Galiwin’ku, led by singer Manual Dhurrkay, were supported by emerging band Black Rock Band from Kakadu for the 24 day cross-border tour.

The tour kicked off with a massive night just outside of Alice Springs at Bush Bands Bash after three days of Bush Bands Business where the Sand Tracks bands, along with a number of bush bands, were mentored by music industry veterans including Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes, Mona Foma) and Drew Goddard (Karnivool).

Saltwater Band and BlackRockBand prepare for the start of Sand Tracks. Photo: James Winwood.

The tour then headed off to visit Amata in South Australia and Irrunytju, Warburton, Warakurna and Kiwirrkurra in Western Australia to a total audience of 4,850, running workshops in each community and clocking up over 6,600kms.

In its tenth year, Sand Tracks continues to be a highly anticipated event in every community it visits annually.

“Some people are saying the first time they danced this year so Saltwater Band make them dance so I feel like Saltwater Band still rocking and make us more happy. We’ve been playing for 24 years so our music still strong.”

– Manuel Dhurrkay, Saltwater Band lead singer

The local community dances to Saltwater Band in Kiwirrkurra. Photo: Bill Pheasant.

The bands ran workshops in each community that ranged from songwriting, sharing language and culture, to tech support, and explaining healthy living. In one community the school class had pre-written lyrics to an anti-smoking song which they then performed on stage with Saltwater and Black Rock Band at the concert.

Members of Black Rock Band and Saltwater Band lead a workshop in Wingellina. Photo: Bill Pheasant.

“This Sand Track really change so much young fellas. And they into music too, and they go into Wingellina and do their music thing and learn. So Sand Tracks really helps the young fellas. Yuwa.”

– Daisy Ward, Warakurna

The bands lead a music workshop in Amata. Photo: Bill Pheasant.

Pairing an established band with an emerging band to mentor and share knowledge and experience throughout the tour is a huge part of Sand Tracks. The two bands on tour this year connected so well that they spent most of their time off between concerts and workshops jamming and writing songs together.

“It was great for (Black Rock Band) to travel with the Saltwater Band. To write songs with them and be on stage together – learning from their experience after being together for more than 20 years. By the end Black Rock Band and Saltwater Band were working together a lot, supporting each other and being like family.”

– Bill Pheasant, Black Rock Band Manager

Watch ABC’s coverage of the 2018 tour and read more about the history of the Sand Tracks program.

Sand Tracks is presented by Country Arts WA and Act-Belong-Commit. The project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts funding and advisory body, and through the Indigenous Languages and Arts program.

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