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Music NT Presents: Manuel Dhurrkay

FORMED IN 1996, Saltwater Band are recognised far beyond their native Elcho Island and indeed, far beyond the Territory.

Synonymous with an island reggae roots sound, Saltwater Band’s lead singer Manuel Dhurrkay has ventured out on his own for the first time with his new release ‘Nawumul (Canoe)’.

MusicNT spoke to Manuel about old friends, new musical styles and fresh opportunities.

Congratulations on the new single ‘Nawumul (Canoe)’! What does this single mean to you?

It’s an opportunity to change my music, my voice and my life in an effort to continue my career and my love of singing, and support the young singers in my community. To give them a role model, and a path that they can follow.

The single features backing vocals from your cousin and musical co-collaborator, the late Dr G. That must be pretty special?

Dr. G was my second singer when we formed the Saltwater Band together in 1996. We shared songs together – when I sang my songs, he’d sing backing vocals for me, and when he sang his songs, I’d sing back vocals for him.

We recorded two albums, then the third Malk over 10 years. After that, Dr. G started his solo project, and now [this] is my solo project following Dr. G.

Our life was in the music, songwriting and harmonising together, making our voices beautiful. He helped me like he was my teacher, and when we sang on my single ‘Nawumul (Canoe)’, it reminded me of when we were in Saltwater Band.

This is your debut solo release despite being in the game since the 90s – why has it taken so long to branch out on your own?

I’ve been waiting until I had developed a new sound that I liked. And also waiting a respectful period of time because I have Dr. G on this track.

I was with the Saltwater Band for 25 years. Now, it’s my chance to change my music style, write more songs, and to share my story and my people. Show that we’ve got a strong culture and to make our community proud.

So far the single’s received outstanding reviews, are there more solo releases on the horizon for you?

Yo, there’s a lot more to come soon. I want to focus on releasing good songs from my time writing with Saltwater and Geoffrey, but also a lot more new songs. It feels like I’ve got a new life and new career now.

You recently held a free gig in Darwin – any chance we’ll see you again any time soon?

When everyone hears our voices, it makes people happy. I make music that makes people feel good. I am planning some big shows for here and shows nationally, and I have had some invitations to play internationally soon.


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