Writer of classic songs like Blackfella Whitefella, Long Grass Band and Good Light in Broome, Neil Murray gives OTL an insight into the NT hotspots that have inspired his craft.
Long Grass Band – written in Darwin
In the late nineties through to about 2002 I lived in Darwin, and I’d see the long-grassers jamming at the markets. I’ve always been struck by their gritty, heroic and irrepressible energy. I wanted to honour and celebrate that energy.
Once I had the idea in mind, “You can’t be sacked in this land, when ya play in the long-grass band”, I knew there was a song there that I wanted to uncover. I had an idea for a junk band type of sound – I’d seen these guys playing on battered acoustic guitars with only two or three strings, with someone else sitting cross legged playing the drums on the body of the guitar, with clap sticks and didgeridoo’s mixed in. I was moved, and uncovered the song that way.
Jailangura Pakarnu – written in Alice Springs
Driving around Alice Springs you’d often see an Aboriginal man standing on a street corner, wearing clean clothes with a brand new hand-bag, clean shaven with slicked back hair looking a bit lost. We’d be driving past and show him the hand-sign, which means ‘What’s up, what are you doing?’, and he’d yell out ‘Mgayulu Kuwarri Jailanguru Pakarnu ‘, which means I just got out of jail.
That song went on to become our first single and was credited as being the first pop-rock song in Indigenous language. It’s a fairly upbeat, happy song – ‘you’re getting out of jail, and going home’. The reality is that most Aboriginal men from communities end up doing a stint in jail at some point; it’s just an accepted thing. That’s the other side of it, the spirit and exuberance of saying ‘I’m going to leave that jail and I’m getting out for good’.
WHEN: Sat 26 May WHERE: Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs COST: $40 | $35 conc
WHEN: Thu 31 May WHERE: Darwin Railway Club COST: $25
WHEN: Sat 2 Jun WHERE: Katherine Country Music Muster COST: $20 | $10 Conc | Kids 12yrs & under Free