Sunday, January 11, 2009
DOWN RIVER – THE WILCANNIA MOB STORY
Kargaru Productions - $23.95
Many of you reading this will have heard of the Wilcannia Mob – five young lads from the town in far west NSW, about 11 hours drive from Sydney and 200kms from Broken Hill. Out of nowhere in 2002, they became overnight sensations with their song Down River (recorded on a compilation All You Mob ) when it became a #1 hit on the Triple J airwaves after a series of hip-hop workshops in Wilcannia.
So, who are the deadly lads?
There’s Walter James Ebsworth, know as Wally. Buddy Stewart Blair, Lendal Isaac King, Colin Roy Johnson, known as Colroy and Keith John Dutton known as Keithy. They call themselves the Barkandji Boys, you see, Wilcannia is the land of the Barkandji people. Barka means river, and the Barkandji people are river people and the boys sing about the river and what they do there.
So impressive was their accidental debut hit that Midnight Oil asked to use Down River as a warm up track for their gigs for the rest of the year. They boys were also invited to perform at Homebake on the main stage in Sydney that year, making them the youngest ever to perform at what is Australia’s largest ‘Australian-only’ music festival.
Further success for the song and the lads included:
* The album All You Mob was listed in the top 10 alternative albums of the year in 2002 in the New York Times.
* Down River was included in the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2002.
* Down River was nominated for the Best New Single in the 2002 Deadlies, AND WON!
Now there is a book to tell the story of the journey. Down River: The Wilcannia Mob Story is a 48 page, full colour illustrated version of their group’s story, but it includes the important role of their families and their community. It traces their origins from a makeshift recording studio in a town long forgotten, to becoming over night celebrities with international acclaim. It is a story of hope, which shows us that when hearts are open and people work together, anything is possible.
I want to point out that projects like this in the book format, are always more than just a story. This book also tells some history, about the history and language of the area
According to Murray Butcher in the book, who teaches Barkandji at the Central School in Wilcannia, “The Barkandji language group spreads from down on the Murray-Darling Junction right up to about Bourke, half-way across to Cobar and Ivanhoe, down, right down across into South Australia, Broken Hill and over to White Cliffs.”
Down River: The Wilcannia Mob Story the book is a useful resource to share with your / our kids to inspire them and get them to do something together in their own communities – write raps, write poetry, take photos, make stories, keep a journal, act like roving reporters themselves and tell the news of their local area.
Down River: The Wilcannia Mob Story is made up of photos, bios and song lyrics and a timeline of how the journey has played out so far – somehow I think there’ll be another book in the future…
I’d like to encourage you all to go down to your local libraries today and ask them to order it in. When school goes back, tell the teachers to check out the website and order the book as well and to use the site in the classroom.
You can order the book on-line and also listen to and sing along to Down River with everything happening on the site: http://www.downriver.com.au/