Bush Bands

By Renae Saxby
November 16, 2021
July 9, 2024
Last Updated
October 20, 2022
Written by
The Common Ground Team
Written by
Written by

Presented by MusicNT, Bush Bands is an annual program that brings together two of Central Australia’s biggest music events: the Bush Bands Bash and Bush Bands Business.

Both events provide opportunities for First Nations musicians from remote communities across Central Australia. Selected musicians can strengthen their performance skills, gain industry knowledge and experience, and be part of a large concert centering First Nations talent. 

Bush Bands Business

Bush Bands Business is a three-day development camp held in Ross River. Ross River is about 80km from Mparntwe (Alice Springs). Bands selected to play at Bush Bands Bash are also invited to Bush Bands Business. The camp comes before the concert.

Bush Bands Business connects First Nations bands and musicians with music industry mentors. There’s workshops, talks and time for rehearsals so the bands playing in Bush Bands Bash feel prepared for the concert and excited for their futures in music.

Bush Bands Bash

Bush Bands Bash is the biggest annual celebration of contemporary First Nations music in Central Australia. This year the celebration was held on Sunday 12 September at Telegraph Station in Mparntwe.

The lineup included Docker River Band, Mr J Whiskey Trio, Wildfire Manwurrk, Eastern Arrernte Band, DESERT 7 HIPHOP, Jonathan Doolan and the Areyonga Band, Karrku Reggae Band, Moonlight Reggae, plus Divas: Ray Ray, Kirra Voller and Desmo Lewis.

Ray Ray
Wildfire Manwurrk

While at Bush Bands on behalf of Common Ground, Renae Saxby had the opportunity to yarn with band members from DESERT 7 HIPHOP and Mr J Whiskey Trio.

DESERT 7 HIPHOP is from Ampilatwatja. Ampilatwatja is a remote community located 320km north-east of Mparntwe. Renae spoke to Cleveland, Steven and Preston about the importance of sharing positive messages through music.

Cleveland: Our music is about letting people know to keep their culture strong, and giving out strong messages for young ones. Keeping them out of trouble and keeping them from getting locked up. There’s no life like that. We want them to be in their community and listening to their Elders, to get ideas and experience, to understand where they’re coming from, and represent themselves and show them what they got.

Steven: The messages are all in our music… Party Up is not a party song to drink. It’s just to have fun. You don’t have to get drunk to have a good time. You can just have a good time high on life. Love the nature and have a good time.

Preston: It’s good that Bush Bands Bash recognised us and want us to come back again and perform and make new songs. We’ve got good, educational songs, good words for all the young ones. So they can wake up and understand and go to school and be educated and maybe one day they can make their own music. And look after the young ones in their community.

C: When we started making hip hop, we was like, “nah we don’t wanna be like those other people doing the violent hip hop.” Let’s make something that can touch people in their heart and make them understand our truth. We got a lot of good messages going out. We want to make people be happy, love our music, and maybe one day they’ll be going back to their community and encouraging their young ones to make their music. Different styles, different flows — the new generation coming up, up ahead.

Mr J Whiskey Trio

Mr J Whiskey Trio is from Yunkuntjarra in the APY Lands of South Australia. ​​Jeremy Whiskey is a Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara man and the leader of the band. He talks about the power of music for connection and healing.

Jeremy: Music brings hope, happiness, connection, relationship, healing — it’s good medicine. I think it’s about family. It brings a band member into a different level of respect and looking after each other. And showing that we care. We have to be there to support each other if another band member is sad. We’ve got to make them happy and encourage them.

5 min
5 min
5 min