We’ve been recording interviews with some of the bands and community leaders, about what music means to them, and talking about their relationship and history with Desert Feet.
We’ve edited them a little to cut out long pauses, etc. Transcripts are below the videos.
The feedback we get is consistent and clear. From the perspective of the people who matter most, our programs:
- Help build community pride and spirit;
- Strengthen language and culture – especially for kids and youth;
- Build self esteem and a range of personal skills;
- Enable self-expression;
- Help overcome mental illness such as depression and suicide;
- Divert people from drugs and alcohol;
- Give people an activity to pursue in community, rather than head to town for drinking;
- Provide a much-needed source of enjoyment for everyone who plays or listens;
- Provide a vocation and source of employment for artists.
This is Elliott Gibbs. He’s based in Jigalong and Cotton Creek. We are in Jigalong Community. Behind here is Desert Feet Tour truck and we are practicing and recording. Writing more songs.
You fellas have done it before?
Yep. We’ve done it before.
You’ve written songs, recorded them, put the CD out there. What happened from that?
From that, everybody liked it and we are starting to try and build it more and write more songs so that everybody happy and enjoying it.
What do you reckon it means for the kids, the little kids?
Oh, it’s like sport or activities. They are enjoying it and listen to the words and what we are singing about. For us its feeding words to the people, we are singing about our country, our grandfather, problems and communities, songs and histories.
Do you reckon the kids and everyone else in the community, what do you think they get out of it.
Happiness, Joy, fun. They want to be next band player so we try and be role models and stuff, as a leader.
Do you have much other Martu music?
Yeah we got more music but, we are slowly recording it, and you know, it takes time to record. We’ve got a lot of music, we have a lot of history. We need to tell people that we have a lot of history and let them know by singing.
What would happen if you didn’t have it?
We wouldn’t be here. Doing nothing. Without playing music. Music will bring family together and kids and other community, together, enjoying music. Kids meeting up with other families. Music bring a lot of families together.
Same for everyone. Anywhere, any community. What do you want to do with it?
We want to try and go next level and try and record better and we can do tours around. We could end up in Sydney or where ever. Interstates… one day.
Do you reckon that would have much of an impact on everyone else?
We’ve got a lot of support from our old people and young people. Every house you go, you listen to our music playing. Even in the Kimberley and south and eastern states, central desert
I remember when I first came here, when we recorded that first
Its great. For me its bringing family together enjoying music.
I remember listening to some of that music they were asking for, the hiphop, and it is all about guns and pimps and drugs, and that’s what the little kids were wanting to hear and listening to. But then after that when they had your music. I remember I came back a year later and it was cranking everywhere and all the kids were singing it and stuff. But what do you guys sing about?
We’ve got different way of music. We mix it up with reggae, classic, and sometime rock, but we do our music with language as well. That’s why we want to try and keep our language strong through music.
Its hard for us to understand the lyrics usually, unless you write it down for us but what are the songs about, like the one today that we’re recording, what’s that about?
The one I’m recording today. I’m telling all my people to come back to the community. Not living in town.
What about some of the other ones?
Sunset eh? Its about four language groups and three communities. Its based on Martu, It’s Parnngurr, Kunawarritji, Cotton Creek and Punmu. Its got different languages, we’ve got 4 different languages.
In that one song?
One Martu but different language group living in the western desert region. Was living together a long time ago. We want to get that history back about singing music. There’s a language that we’ve got still. Some people use it. And we don’t want any language to be lost. Most of the people lost their language. Through Western Desert we still have language and culture.
When I hear that song I don’t know that right? I don’t know what you are singing and saying. But the music is awesome, a really strong song. That’s the one that the kids come and play and sing as well.
Its about Martu sitting around and singing, which tribes and clan and which language group.
Do you reckon that is why the kids like it?
Yeah, they’ll be asking us questions. Which language I am? Which clan I got? That’s why that song means something for us. Every Martu people.
That’d be a good song to try and push more broadly for everyone else, for non Martu people so you can tell that story.
Do you reckon there is a place for you guys to travel with music and be ambassadors or something like that? Would you want to do that?
One day. Yeah we want to do something different with it. Start planning. If we can get someone to sponsor us, get more funding we can do tours and you know, go and teach other people that you know. About our songs, what we are singing about, go and teach other families or communities about what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of talents around here.
what’s the barriers? What’s stopping us from doing that?
Stopping us is drinking. People going into prison and end up you know. Mainly drinking. Alcohol is a major problem for us. People going out to prison and not coming back home. That’s why we got to try and change the world here. But we want to try and support our people, enjoy yourself. Come and join us and get involved with it, you might learn something about it.
What do we need to be able to take you fellas on tour.?
These songs you know we singing mainly about our indigenous of Australia. Because this world’s changing and we want to let the people know that we’ve got our language and law and culture through songs. And we’re still out in the communities, still living. And we want to try and support the other people that don’t have language or culture left. We want to try and teach them that they might keep the culture strong.
Why do you reckon that is important?
If I lose my language I’ll be nobody. Without my language I’ll be lost. I’ll have nothing to say to my songs and grandsons… It’ll be gone. That’s why we’re still writing in language. And in music you write it down. It’s all about meaning and how we talk to people. That is how we keep together. Because we have 4 languages that was different. So we wanted to bring them together and be strong through music.
Do you have enough opportunity to play music?
We have a lot of opportunity. We are trying to bring back the band now. We used to be in prison through alcohol. That’s why for us as young, we need to be a leader, role model, so we can teach our young people, and support out elders.
What else do you want to tell the world about music, about Desert Feet?
That’s good Desert Feet coming out to our community and support our desert league, music and entertainment, recording, working with children.
Its a journey for us too. Because we don’t know what we need to do different or better. What would you tell Desert Feet and about how to support us. What can we do to help you on that journey, that vision?
if we get more stronger and more song, one day we might go on tour. We’d like support as a band.
what could we do.
help us set up a recording studio out in the community one day, for each community.
we want to change how we do it, to be more of a partnership. So we want to get more members so we know what we are doing is what is needed. We’re on a bit of a path to change what we are doing. Its not just being planned in Perth and coming up and doing stuff. We want to make sure of what we are doing and being involved with. Like when Elliot comes and helps out with the workshops.
It’s probably why they keep playing the music. I play in the school.
Hello, my name is Margaret Samson. I’m the council member in Jigalong community and I’m a Martu person.
Jigalong community sits on the edge of the Gibson Desert. The majority of people in the desert are all Martu. We have set up a committee that looks after Martu footy western desert football league that keeps our young people physically healthy. These other things we see in the community are very important and a big part of that is we have Desert Feet, the people who come out with music and do workshop and they have done a tremendous job in the community where we have seen Martu people especially young fellas that Desert Feet made our boys famous with music wise.
They have produced some music and made CDs out of it. And that is a big thankyou we give to Desert Feet as a Martu person. Speaking for myself, the way I’ve seen Desert Feet touring different communities within the Martu determination area. They have done a good job.
Desert feet comes out every school holidays, every 3 months. They do workshops with our young ones that keeps our kids and our young fellas even old people promoting drug and alcohol awareness through music and doing a lot of good things in the community with all the stuff that Desert Feet has done giving us positive feedback.
Young fellas are great artists I guess because in their own way they express their feelings through music and talk about country, talk about culture as well, and through that listening to music where desert feet has produced so much music for our young fellas like the Wild Dingo Band and Jigalong Band, and giving us back that we can do something in the community and they have been a big part of the community, travelling everywhere doing a lot of workshops with music.
Kids look forward to the next carnival . They know desert feet are bringing something for them. They stay up doing music classes and learning from our experienced musicians which is good and we haven’t had this for a long time till now when desert feet has been a big part of the community and I would like to see that keep going for the future because we have got young generations willing to learn and do more, you know be musicians at the end. That’s a big thankyou for the work they have been doing for us Martu people and we would like to see that continue with Desert Feet because what they have been doing is great for our young fellas and young girls aswell. We have some young girls did some training too from what I’ve heard. You know some of us are real shy, we have hidden talents and we have to express our feelings and we come out through music, that’s really good how I see it, it’s really working for us Martu people and I’d like to see that keep going for the future.
I have seen the changes when the musicians themselves when they come out and sing and come out with different styles because they have learned along the way. How they play and how Desert Feet being part of that one bringing it all together. I guess its pretty much focused on their music and I’d like to see more of our young fellas and young girls get involved with that because there has been a lot of changes along the way and its really good. Its been happening for a while.
The positive thing that comes out of the musicians. We look at it. Our young fellas and song writers are writing songs about country and we feel proud of that that’s a positive thing I look at. It talks about community and goes into town and makes us realise that’s not good. It talks about what affects our lives daily. And that is a good thing that I’ve seen and all our musicians are talking about.
I’d like to see Desert Feet get involved with the holiday programs. Running of the whole holiday program combining with music. These are the things I like to see, because that’s the question that I ask. Desert Feet running holiday programs with this. I’d like to see Desert Feet run all the programs, the activities. When we are talking about keeping healthy physically and mentally.
Some of us, don’t know how to express ourselves. Bit too shy to talk about things I’d like to see Desert Feet get involved with everything, not just music, take on everything that effects the community. You mob have been coming back and forth with music but I’d like to see you get involved with everything that we are going to be involved in the future.
Just like to say we don’t want this program to end. Its the thing that keeps us going every carnival. Its the joy that family comes together and friends that we don’t see for a long time, and you mob being part of it, it’s awesome.
Marlakurriwa means come back, but this song is written by Clifton. I help him to record this song. He told me to play his music and I did. But its all about markakurriwa, to my people left at home go to Newman or Hedland or Perth. Drinking, never going back to home. They stop there for good. This is a message for them to come back. That’s why we write this song to let them know, come back home to Parngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, that’s their home land.
Kuny Kuny is a place for the elders, old people you know. A water hole. People from Parrngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji… People always go there to see the country and start writing songs all about the country side. Where all the old people come from. That’s why we write all the songs all about our country. They stopping in town to see their grandfather, grandmother land.
Another song we write is. Warlangka Tuwangka. Warlangka means the lake and eee means the sand hill. Moora is the home. Myanba, Still there. Its Punmu. Kuny Kuny.
To let the people know, young and old, stopping in town, so they can hear the song, the music. Come back home. There used to be a lot of people at the community. But now there are a lot of people in town living on drugs and grogs and they still living there, and the young kids are even starting to move to town rather than staying in communities. We write all these songs to let them know to come back home. This is a better life in community. Learn guitar and singing so they can begin with their own band. Some of the kids they can play guitar. They can play any instruments. They go back to town they stop there for good they don’t go back to their community. That’s why we write all these songs about the land, the community, the water holes. All these songs we singing through the Mandilyjarra. Four language groups around here. But now we’re stuck on marninjara. We speak Martu, Martu language and write our song in Mandilyjarra. Sometimes we write in our mind, not on paper. We sing here and start playing out loud and learning all the kids.
Its fun for me. I learn by my uncles in Punmu. From there I learn from my brothers, my cousins how to play guitar and we start our own band. First band Parrngurr band. But now we play wild dingo band to represent Western Desert. Thats what is means for the western desert people.
I wouldn’t be playing. I’d join the town mob. I’d be wandering around, going back to Roeburne. Wandering around. Going back to jail. Band is a good life for me, keep me out of jail. My favourite guitar is lead. Solos. I started learning that. I reckon Desert Feet make us more famous, to do more recording for our peoples. When I first came out here I didn’t know Desert Feet Tour. And when I first saw it in Kiwirrkurra I started playing there. Desert Feet has got everything. PA, keyboard, recording stuff, studio and all that. It is good to have Desert Feet going around the communities. Bring all the band and the people from every place to see the live show. Wild Dingo Band, Karntimarta Wanderers, Country Rock. Desert Feet are doing a good job, doing some kind of program with the kids. To write new music and play it on stage. Hopefully they can play more better than me. They start their own song, one day, clear mind, they will play more better than me.