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Tjintu Desert Band

You may have heard of ‘desert-rock’ as a sub-genre of heavy rock music, being akin to stoner or southern rock. But you may not be familiar with ‘desert reggae,’ a relatively new style of music that fuses elements of reggae (obviously), dub, ska, funk and rock, and is heavily influenced in its overall aesthetic by the harsh beauty of the Australian outback. The long-running, all indigenous act Tjintu Desert Band is one of the style’s finest exponents. Frontman and guitarist Jeffrey Zimran, speaking from the heart of the Aussie bush, joined us recently to talk about the band’s unique mix of influences and what they have coming up.

“Reggae is really popular out here in the desert,” he affirms. “Everybody plays reggae. Our music is different, and that’s why we call it ‘desert reggae,’ it’s a really different sound coming out of the desert. It’s a better mix, it’s got a bit of rock to it too, and a little bit of a funky sound to it as well.”
 
Tjintu Desert Band have been heavily inspired by the music of several aboriginal bands over the years, as Zimran outlines. “The Warumpi Band were a very famous band in central Australia,” he states. “They really influenced us, when we were young boys we used to listen to the albums all the time. There was also Yothu Yindi, and all those big names.”
 
The extreme heat, the harshness and the uniqueness of the central Australian landscape and history, have a profound effect on their lives and their songwriting.
 
“It’s pretty hot out here, I can tell ya,” he laughs. “I can feel the hot wind blowin’, and I wish the flies would settle down. But it’s a nice space out here, and it’s been our home for a long time, for many generations.
 
“It’s important for us to keep our language, and stories in our country,” he continues, “And in our songwriting as well, it’s very important.”
 
Their songwriting and live performances are certainly taking them far; they are set to make the long journey down to Melbourne to play the Australian World Music Expo, alongside two fellow aboriginal artists Stewart Gaykamangu and Jacinta Price. Zimran is excited to be bringing his band to perform in the Victorian capital, and at the Expo, for the very first time.
 
“I’m feeling very proud of myself,” he states, “And for the band as well.
 
“This is the first time [the band will play in Melbourne]. I’ve been down a few times, just myself. I went down for the Australian World Music Expo, I went to that twice. I went to see another band, and all I could think was that I wanted to be up there performing with my band, and now it’s really happening.”
 
The band have had a massive year in 2014, releasing their album Tjamuku Ngurra to critical acclaim and some solid airplay on stations such as Double J, playing right across central Australia and beyond and now at AWME. Next year is looking just as big, if not bigger, for the band.
 
“We’ll have heaps of shows next year,” he reveals. “We’re heading down to Adelaide, and we’ll be heading to Perth in WA, and we’ll be performing there as well.
 
“We’re getting on a few festivals as well. We’re going up to Tenant Creek for the Desert Harmony Festival, and the Desert Festival in Alice Springs. Then after that, we’ll be going to Queensland, and maybe even Canberra.”
 
Zimran reverts to his own language when asked if he has any parting words for Melbourne punters on the eve of their trip down here for the AWME. “I want to say, ‘Palya,’ that’s our word for greetings and welcome. And just that we can’t wait to get back to play in Melbourne.”
 
BY ROD WHITFIELD

Tjintu Desert Band will headline the CAAMA Music Showcase at Shebeen as part of AWME on Friday November 14. This is a free show.