Shane Howard playing at Mullum
IT MAY be coincidental but as NAIDOC Week continues, who should visit our neck of the woods but the man who wrote Solid Rock, a song that has been part of indigenous Australia's protest music catalogue since it was written in 1982.
‘White fella' Shane Howard, who first championed Aboriginal causes three decades ago in the Goanna Band, is playing Mullumbimby tomorrow night to launch his new album Goanna Dreaming.
He'll play one of the album's most arresting tracks, Clancey & Dooley & Don McLeod, which covers the ‘Black Eureka of 1946' and its legacy. Eight hundred dispossessed Western Australian Aborigines went on a three-year strike for pay and better conditions.
Howard described the story as one of human triumph against overwhelming odds.
“It doesn't do any of us any good to sweep that history under the carpet,” Howard told Pulse.
“Our generation is at a turning point in history. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from telling the truth. We need to celebrate our Aboriginal heroes as well as our non-Aboriginal heroes.
“If we can celebrate Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade, we can also celebrate our Aboriginal resistance heroes. After all, they were fighting for their country, our country.”
Although the goanna appears in the new album's title, Howard said it's not a return to Solid Rock days.
“Goanna Dreaming is about something more than the Goanna Band,” Howard said. “For years, I tried to escape being the ‘goanna fella', the ‘Solid Rock fella'.
“But this far down the track I accept it's my story.”
For someone who claims to have started out naive about Aboriginal culture, Howard has made sure he lives his ideals.
“It's been a long journey for me but a natural one,” Howard said. “It's not forced.
“I think I've finished the apprenticeship and my realised self begins here.”
Howard recently released Lyrics, a book retrospective of his career, and its companion album, Driftwood.
These days, he's also a card-carrying member of indigenous supergroup, The Black Arm Band, a children's book author, and is walking on bridges he's helped to build.
The Black Arm Band ensemble is evidence of that, with members including Howard, Leah Flanagan, Archie Roach and Dan Sultan – to name just some of its distinguished line-up.
“I was involved initially as a musical director and repertoire advisor,” said Howard.
“As a ‘white fella', it's been a great honour to be invited to work and travel with so many old friends and be a part of such a beautiful Aboriginal musical journey through Australia's alternative soundtrack. Very inspiring and very fulfilling. It's now up to the next generation to take it further.”
And take it further they are.
The Solid Rock song has a fresh life. Howard has worked with Peter Hudson and the young people from the Mutitjulu, Imanpa and Docker River communities to create a children's book of the song. And he has collaborated on a hip hop version with the Street Warriors and Shannon Noll.
“Music is the great universal language that probably brought many of us together in the first place,” he says.
Shane Howard launches Goanna Dreaming at the Mullumbimby Civic Hall tomorrow night.
Tickets $20/14 at the door. Doors open 7.30pm.