REVIEW: Tjintu Desert Band | Tjamuku Ngurra (Grandfather’s Country)

“For our community of around 200 people there is one general store, no mobile phone range and little access to the internet. But Ikuntji (aka Haasts Bluff in the Northern Territory) is much more than the town itself – it’s the rocky hills, the red earth, the country of our Dreaming, our grandfathers’ country.” Tjintu Desert Band.

The debut record from Tjintu Desert Band serves as in introduction to the flagship sound of Indigenous Central Australia, the band peddling in a musical hybrid known in their parts as ‘desert reggae.’ And this is indeed an apt description, with reggae inspired grooves (in addition to a light funk-rock vibe) forming the cornerstone of large chunks of their debut album, Tjamuku Ngurra.

Having previously cut their teeth for 15 years under the name of the Sunshine Reggae Band prior to the release of Tjamuku Ngurra, the band’s dexterous musical chops are on full display throughout this record. The vast majority of lyrics on the album are sung in the band’s native tongue of Luritja (a dialect of the Western Desert People), delivered with soulful aplomb by lead singer Terry Marshall.

The title track Tjamuku Ngurra lays down one of the album’s highlights, riding a funk-reggae bedrock with the band’s passionate vocalising speaking directly to their people, of their people and for their people.

Walpa Warri is a down-tempo reggae-rock number in turns loping and epic, and on Ngurra Ikuntjinya the band raise the tempo on the back of a slinky groove and a rousing chorus.

A slight hue of My Morning Jacket is present in the inspired guitar flourishes of guitarist Jeffrey Zimran on the song Tanyjirrintjaku, adding a welcome oomph to the band’s dependable reggae-rock template.

And final track Grandfather’s Dreaming serenades on the back of a desert lullaby, the band’s sweet vocalising embellished with tasteful guitar, harmonica and traditional percussion, the perfect soundtrack to ’sitting around by the campfire light, under the moonlight, listening to the Dreamtime story all night long.’

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