The name means “Sand Hill Women” and refers to a mysterious bush woman from the sand hills of the Northern Territory desert. The music they create is a combination of traditional indigenous sounds and the latest technology as MC Kayla chimes in with her spoken word to give their sound a contemporary hip hop flavour. The end result is stunning. Trevor Jackson caught up with Kardajala Kirridarra’s Eleanor and Beatrice backstage at Bigsound.
Tell me the story behind this mysterious bush woman from the sand hills…
Eleanor: She is what we believe to be an ancient being. A spirit woman that has many songs and she would sing things in form so she had creation energy to bring life to those sand hills. She was a healer as well, so she could heal the land over and over again. That was her cycle, that was her purpose. She was the mother to the land and I believe she was a goddess.
Is she the inspiration behind all that you create?
Eleanor: She is the energy we carry, that’s where all the songs come from because she was a creator.
Your music is a sublime hybrid of the traditional and the contemporary. Did you have a clear idea of what that sound was going to be when you first got together?
Eleanor: When we wrote our first song together there was a feeling I had where I wanted to show Beatrice what I felt. As Beatrice isn’t indigenous and comes from Melbourne I wanted to sing to her in a way that she could feel this place, to feel the magic in a way that wasn’t forced.
Beatrice was there an implicit understanding when Eleanor first began to sing to you that you got it and knew where you could take it?
Beatrice: Absolutely. For me personally I’d been living and working in the desert for quite a while. I had some other musical projects going on and it was then that I realised I should probably be working on them in my studio back in Melbourne. But then when I heard Elly sing I knew that I really wanted to work with her and that has now taken me on this amazing journey.
It must be an exhilarating experience combining instruments that have been used for thousands of years with contemporary technology – how does that process work?
Beatrice: When we were writing in Marlinja (Eleanor’s community) the silence there is like nowhere else on earth and in that silence that’s when your ears become attuned to all of the amazing sounds of nature from the incredible storms that hit the desert to the rustle of the seed pods in the trees. Eleanor’s dad Raymond makes these amazing clap sticks too so it’s all of these things that become part of the fabric of our sound.
Are all of your songs based on traditional stories?
Eleanor: Most of them are because of Kardajala. The energy of it is very ancient and sacred but it’s coming through us as young women carrying that spirit and we express that in way that is happening now.
How essential is it for your music to empower indigenous women?
Eleanor: It’s incredibly important. I definitely see myself as a role model for young women in the community. If I can create a pathway for young indigenous women who want to do music and create opportunities for themselves then that’s a positive thing. It’s important for all women to feel free to express themselves, not just for indigenous women, but for all women because we all have that creative energy to give life. It’s a gift and sometimes we all need reminding of that.