Bart Willoughby

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Bart Willoughby
Born12 September 1960
OriginKoonibba, South Australia
GenresIndigenous rock and reggae
InstrumentsDrums, guitar
Years active1978 – present
Associated actsNo Fixed Address
Coloured Stone
Mixed Relations
Yothu Yindi

Bart Willoughby (born on 12 September 1960) is an Aboriginal Australian musician. He became notable during the 1980s for introducing a unique style of music, mixing aboriginal music with reggae and rock music. Willoughby is often seen as a pioneer for modern indigenous musicians in Australia.[1] He was the first Aborigine to sign a record contract and the first to compose the music for a movie. His band No Fixed Address was the first indigenous band to tour overseas.

Since then, Willoughby has performed with many famous musicians and bands, including Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, Peter Tosh, Shane Howard and Yothu Yindi.[2][3] Willoughby is now known as one of Australia's leading Aboriginal rock composers and performers. His song "We Have Survived", composed when he was 18, is often seen as a kind of anthem by indigenous Australians.[4] Others of his more well known songs include "Black Man's Rights", "Aboriginal Woman" and "My Father is an Aboriginal Man".

Childhood[change | change source]

Willoughby was born in 1960 in South Australia. His father was Kokatha, with relations to the Pitjantjatjara and Warlpiri nations; and his mother was a member of the Mirning people, from the Nullabor Plain.[4] Willoughby grew up at Koonibba, which was a Lutheran mission at the time.[1] When he was 15 years old, he began learning at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music at the University of Adelaide.[1][4] Here he was introduced to drumming, guitars and Western music. Over the next few years there, he developed an unusual style of music by mixing traditional indigenous music with modern Western music styles, particularly reggae.

Career[change | change source]

No Fixed Address[change | change source]

In 1978, Willoughby formed his first band, No Fixed Address. This was Australia's first indigenous rock band. The band played its first big concert in 1979, and held several gigs over the next few years. They mostly played at concerts that promoted political and social causes.[5] The band signed a recording contract in 1982, with Rough Diamond Records. It was the first record deal with an Aboriginal musical act in Australia. The deal produced the band's first extended play, From My Eyes, which began with the song "We Have Survived". Its sale was launched in Sydney by the Prime Minister Bob Hawke.[6]

Later in the year, Willoughby and his band toured Australia as the opening act for Peter Tosh.[5] Willoughby also played drums with Shane Howard and Goanna during their own tours of the country. The success from Tosh's tour led the Aboriginal Arts Board to give No Fixed Address a grant, to be used for a tour of their own overseas.[7] The band toured England, in 1984. It was the first Aboriginal band to travel and play overseas. They played in nine cities, including London, Bristol, Leeds, Plymouth and Manchester. They also played at the Elephant Fayre festival in Saint Germans, Cornwall, and at a benefit concert for the miners' strikes.[5]

After coming back to Australia, Willoughby joined his cousin's new band Coloured Stone. He played with this group from 1984, including during its tour of Scotland in 1986. They played at that year's Edinburgh Festival. They returned to Australia for the Australian Music Awards at the end of the year, and won the Best Indigenous Album award for Human Love.[5]

Willoughby reformed No Fixed Address in 1987, and the band toured Europe during 1987–1988.[5]

Mixed Relations[change | change source]

Late in 1988, Willoughby was asked to join the newly formed Yothu Yindi as drummer on their tour for the album Diesel & Dust. The tour visited 73 cities in the United States.[5] Willoughby left Yothu Yindi in 1989 after the tour, and formed a new band Mixed Relations. This is the band he currently plays with. They have toured many Aboriginal communities and Australian cities, as well as several countries in the Pacific Islands.[5]

In 1989, the band performed as the closing act for the very first Invasion Day (an alternative to Australia Day) concert at La Perouse in Sydney. They returned every year after that until the concerts stopped in 1994. They also represented Australia at the South Pacific Music Festival in 1990 and 1992, and at the Asian Music Festival in 1990 and 1992.

Film and television[change | change source]

In 1980, Willoughby starred with another indigenous band (Us Mob) in a movie called Wrong Side of the Road. It was a biographical drama movie about racism against Aboriginal musicians in rural towns. The movie won an award from the Australian Film Institute (AFI) in 1981.[3][5] In 1990, Willoughby was cast in a small role in Until the End of the World. The movie starred William Hurt and Sam Neill, as well as indigenous actors Ernie Dingo, David Gulpilil and Jimmy Little.

Willoughby also composed and recorded the soundtracks for several movies (mostly documentaries). These were done with No Fixed Address, and included Always Was, Always Will Be in 1988 and Special Treatment: Locking up Aboriginal Children in 1991. In 1992, he became the first Aboriginal to compose, play and direct the music track of a feature film. The movie was Jindalee Lady, directed by Brian Syron.[5] The movie was shown as part of the International First Nations Art and Film Festival in Edmonton, Canada, and the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Later years[change | change source]

Willoughby was given the very first Indigenous Australian Music Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 for his contribution to the growth of indigenous music in Australia. Sol Bellear, Commissioner of the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) said that Willoughby had been an "innovator" for indigenous musicians in Australia:[5]

"He notched up a list of firsts that paved the way for a lot of indigenous artists. He was the first to perform on Countdown, his was the first Aboriginal band to make a documentary, the first Aboriginal band to sign a record deal and the first, the very first, to tour overseas. Willoughby was the first, the very first to score, play and direct the music track of a feature film itself the first to be directed by an indigenous director. Bart's contribution to Aboriginal music in Australia is prodigious in book, film and record."

In the same year, Willoughby began teaching music to children at a Pitjantjatjara school in Yalata.[5]

In 1997, Willoughby signed a contract as a solo artist with CAAMA Music. His first album was Pathways.[5] It was nominated for an award by the Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA). In 2011, both No Fixed Address and Coloured Stone were put in the National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame.[8]

Discography[change | change source]

Soundtracks[change | change source]

  • Always Was, Always Will Be (1989; documentary)
  • Special Treatment: Locking up Aboriginal Children (1991; documentary)
  • Jindalee Lady (1992)
  • Wrong Side of the Road (1980)

Records[change | change source]

With No Fixed Address
  • Rock Against Racism, Vol. 1 (1979; live recording from concert)
  • National Aboriginal Music Festival (1980; live recording from concert)
  • From My Eyes (1982)
  • Take It or Leave It
  • Aboriginal Woman
  • Love
With the Big Heart Band
  • Stompem' Ground (1991)
Solo work
  • Pathways (1997)
  • Frequencies (2000)

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Bart Willoughby". Murundak: Songs of Freedom. Daybreak Films. Archived from the original on 10 January 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  2. Staff writer (19 May 1989). "Entertainment Guide". The Age. p. 3.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Coupe, Stuart (21 December 1980). "Aboriginal band plays on pride". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Staff writer (15 November 2008). "A legend of the land". The Age. Fairfax Digital.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 "Bart Willoughby". Celebrity Vibe. VIBE Australia Pty Ltd. 2005. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  6. Briggs, Shannon. "David Briggs". Production Workshop. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  7. Ryan, Adrian (21 December 1984). "The trouble with Rastafarians in London". The Age. p. 13.
  8. "Top End stars shine bright on indigenous music's night of nights". National Indigenous Music Awards. 20 August 2011.[permanent dead link]

Other websites[change | change source]