Bad//Dreems were joined by Peter Garrett, Emily Wurramara and Mambali’s Brad Bura and Don Murrumgun for an epic version of The Warumpi Band’s Black Fella/White Fella on triple j’s Like a Version this morning. You can watch it here:
Guitarist Alex Cameron said….
“Black Fella/White Fella is a song written by Neil Murray and George Rrurrambu Burrarwanga and performed by the Warumpi Band. The Warumpi Band was made up of George (vocals, didg) from Elcho Island, Neil Murray (guitar) and the Butcher Tjapanangka brothers Sammy (bass) and his brother-in-law Gordon (drums). They came together in the Warumpi community in the early eighties, where the Butcher brothers lived and where George’s wife originated from. Neil Murray was originally from Melbourne and was a teacher in the community. They are credited with being one of the first rock bands to sing in language – George sang in Luritja language of the Western desert people.
I think I first probably saw this song for the first time on Rage. I loved the clip and the song straight away. I discovered more about the band through Andrew McMillan book “Strict Rules” which chronicled Midnight Oil’s 1986 tour with the Warumpi Band through the centre of Australia and Arnhem Land. The Oils’ support helped Warumpi Band get some national attention, although they never had the industry success they deserved.
We were lucky to have to have some special guests lend their talents to this song. Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil remained a good friend of George and the band after their tour together. Brad Bura and Don Murrumgun are members of Mambali, a band from Numbulwar and Groote Eylandt in North East Arnhem Land. Both Brad and Don remember watching Midnight Oil as young boys when they played on Groote with Warumpi. Warumpi were a big inspiration for them. They use their traditional songlines to create new music. They contribute a section in this cover sung in Nunggubuyu – a traditional song line handed down through generations, which is probably thousands of years old. We were also thrilled to be joined by Emily Wurramara, who is probably well known to Triple J listeners and who is also originally from Groote Eylandt. She is a relative of Brad and Don and has previously collaborated with them on their song Yuwani.
We are very privileged to be joined by these amazing artists, who each have special connections with this song. It was an unforgettable experience to spend time collaborating with them and hearing their stories. The message of unity that this song espouses is as poignant now as it was when it was first delivered by George in 1986, especially given the events of this week.
Stand up and be counted.”