The West

Yamma a rare cross-over treat
Yamma a rare cross-over treat

Given his background, it seemed only natural that the revered Aboriginal singer-songwriter Frank Yamma, who writes and sings in both English and his native Pitjantjatjara language, would be drawn towards a life of music. The youngest of seven brothers, he was born at a waterhole near Kaltukatjara in the central desert region of the Northern Territory.

He followed in the footsteps of his late father, Isaac Yamma, one of the earliest musicians in Australia to become well known for writing and singing Western-style songs in a native language. He also helped establish the influential Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association.

"In the 1970s my old man used to write a lot of songs that he passed down to us kids," Yamma explains.

One of those songs, Docker River, about a place 5km from the WA border, features on Yamma's atmospheric second solo album Countryman (2010) that was co-produced by the seven-times ARIA Award- winning musician David Bridie of Not Drowning Waving and My Friend The Chocolate Cake fame.

The album was partly recorded in an isolated, rundown farmhouse in Goulburn, Victoria, and has earned five-star reviews in Australia and the UK. It has helped open doors for the deep-voiced singer, who has not enjoyed the same public profile as fellow indigenous singers Gurrumul, Kev Carmody and Archie Roach.

Yamma and Bride met in the mid-90s in Alice Springs through the Yamma's ex-manager and they remained in close contact.

In 2001, Bridie produced a new version of a potent song called Coolibah that Yamma wrote in his teens, about the problems of alcoholism in Aboriginal communities.

Together they won the AGSC Screen Music Award in 2005 for the song Pitantjara that was produced for the ABC TV series, The Alice. Since the release of Countryman on Bridie's Wantok Music label the two musicians have been performing together occasionally around Australia.

On the eve of the release of Bridie's new solo album called Wake, they are sharing the bill at an intimate concert in Fremantle on Friday night.

Frank Yamma and David Bridie play the Fly by Night Club on Friday. Tickets from the venue.

The West Australian

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