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Jessie Lloyd A Musical Mission By Shaun Cowe

J

essie Lloyd is an indigenous songwriter and music industry all-rounder based in Queensland who has had a pivotal role in promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music, including co-producing the Chocolate Martini TV series shown on National Indigenous Television. Now, she’s launched a new initiative, the Mission Songs Project.

“I was inspired by songs my family would sing; songs that I grew up with,” she says ahead of her performance at the National Folk Festival this Easter. “I was curious about where those songs had come from and I wanted to find other songs from Aboriginal communities and missions around Australia.” Mission Songs Project is an academic, but also deeply personal, look into Aboriginal mission and settlement life in the 20th century. Lloyd’s family experienced moving around these settlements after her grandfather participated in a Palm Island indigenous rights strike in 1967. Lloyd’s family features extensively on the album and her grandfather was a huge influence. “He died when I was eight, so I didn’t know him incredibly well, but I remember him being a strict man and very musical. He taught all my family to sing the old church hymns and he was a big influence on my family’s musicality. That’s why, when you listen to the album, you’ll hear all those choral harmonies. That’s just how my family sings. “The most recent song in the collection, ‘Our Native Land’, was actually written by my grandfather. I never knew he composed the song but my aunty saw the work I was doing

and told me. She’s the only person in my family that remembers the song since he passed away in the ’80s.” The research behind the project saw Lloyd travel to various Aboriginal settlements and missions around Australia. Aboriginal people were placed at these sites – either run by the state or the church – during the era of the Aboriginal Protections Act, and they have a varied but often chequered history. However, speaking to the communities and musical elders of these places was vital for Lloyd’s compilation. “The first stage of the project was going out to these communities. I visited a lot of elderly songmen and songwomen and asked them who taught them how to play and what music did they grow up with. I got a lot of material that way; lots of first-hand accounts and background about why the songs were. But there was a lot of library research as well.” Lloyd also speaks about her family’s former settlement of Palm Island. Still a functioning Aboriginal settlement today, it was a popular destination for African-American soldiers from the American army base near Townsville during World War II. “The African-American soldiers based in Townsville couldn’t go into the pubs because they weren’t white, so they’d hang out with a lot of blackfellas,” Lloyd explains. “And so when the blackfellas were jamming they were being influenced by their music as well. It was this kind of cultural intersecting that was happening beneath the dominant styles of music at the time.”

Vintage Trouble

“It’s a very big continent and there are lots of industries and cultural influencers in different areas.” Lloyd says she has tried to showcase indigenous Australia’s rich musical background across the project, trying to represent the ten decades and continent-spanning evolution of styles as best she can. “Stylistically, there are various influences around Australia. It’s a very big continent and there are lots of industries and cultural influencers in different areas. In the south of Australia, country and Western music is huge because all the old fellas would work on the stockman routes. Whereas in Northern Australia, after World War II there was a huge interest in American music and South Pacific Hawaiian music because of all the American bases. Which is why ukulele music and slide guitar is in the album – those were the instruments that were popular at the time. “Nothing is ever isolated. Everything always interlinks with something else.” What: National Folk Festival 2017 With: Martha Tilston, Fanny Lumsden, Aoife Scott, Heath Cullen and many more Where: Exhibition Park, Canberra When: Thursday April 13 – Monday April 17

FEATURE

A Rebellious State Of Mind By Anna Rose

T

he charismatically witty and endearingly cheeky Vintage Trouble possess a unique dynamic. Their old-school rhythm and blues vibes have seen the Hollywood outfit make a splash in a big way, and with a résumé that boasts support slots for the likes of Queen’s Brian May and Bon Jovi, it’s no surprise they’re on the up and up. The quartet’s soulful approach to fulfilling the dream they’ve shared since their youth has created something of a domino effect, and frontman Ty Taylor speaks just as passionately as he performs. “From the time you’re kids you imagine and dream, and we are fortunate,” he says. “We look at the audiences and the dream becomes a bigger dream – you’re so thrilled for the honour [of supporting big names], but then as the new kids, [we] start thinking, ‘How do we make this happen for us?’ “It’s interesting that that’s the way life and dreams work. As exciting as it is to be there, you start stepping up to the new challenges, to think about what we can do to get to the levels that are megaphones and the things we want to say to reach people without the support of someone else. It’s an interesting balance of what that moment feels like, because when you feel it, you want it all the time. We’re usually pretty good at stepping up to the plate and making the dream a reality.”

“We look at the audiences and the dream becomes a bigger dream.”

“Sometimes things like radio haven’t been able to place us in a certain genre,” adds guitarist Rick Barrio Dill, “but it’s been kinda cool to seep into all different kinds of music. I mean, how cool is it to be on one tour with Joss Stone then suddenly on tour with AC/DC the next year, you know? It’s all coming from a soul and blues style of music that we’ve all been in love with from the beginning.” And at their very core are their fans,

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