Wicked Beat Sound System - Dreaming
Fri 5th Dec, 2008 Music Reviewsin
I found this an awesome album for a couple of reasons. First, although conceived in Sydney, it immediately evoked memories of nights in Broome, that magical place in Western Australia’s Kimberley region where the desert meets the deep blue sea. While living there, I would frequently shiver in delight listening to the haunting and ancient strains of didgeridoo and traditional singing floating through the air.
Second, it fuses those sounds and other traditional instruments with modern beats that weave from electronica to reggae, dub and hip hop – my favourite kind. Third, if you haven’t noticed, indigenous music is kind of “hot right now” and worth exploring in detail. Leading the charge is Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, the 37-year-old, blind-from-birth, upside-down guitar playing former member of Yothu Yindi who has dazzled audiences around the nation with his songs about the Yolngu people’s creation stories and growing up on a remote island off the north coast of Australia.
While Yunupingu’s style may differ considerably and he is by no means the first Australian Aboriginal artist to hit the mainstream, his success paves the way for other lesser known acts to take their place in the spotlight.
In any case, I wasn’t sure to expect from this album at first. I hadn’t heard much of Wicked Beat Sound System’s stuff or seen them live, but word on the streets was that they were pretty damned good.
According to their PR peeps, this album was born when producer/composer Damian Robinson was approached to compose the music for a cleansing ceremony she was directing, a theatrical adaptation of the rainmaker creation story to be performed by several indigenous dance groups at Sydney’s Olympic Park. The disc contains a variation of that music around the themes Salt Water, Fresh Water and Desert and is the culmination of several years work.
As it happens, the album is a joy, showing extraordinary range and barely hitting a bum note in a musical journey incorporating the beats and chants, a dabbling of soulful downbeat tunes and a cacophony of other interesting sounds, such as children giggling and a mystery object – don’t ask me what! – rasping away. If you’re a fan of world music, you’ll love this. You can also be justifiably proud that it was produced on our shores and keeps alive the sounds and stories of our history.