CREW

George Alexander  – Front Of House

Phil Free                – Monitors

Steve Pauner        – Lights

Terry Fisk               – Lights

Lash                               – Stage

Charlie McMahon   – didjeridoo, vocals, didjeribone

Peter Carolan   – synthesiser

Eddie Duquemin   – drums, percussion

GONDWANALAND

Gondwanaland Live at the Greek Theatre 1989 is the 41st release of the Australian Road Crew Association’s (ARCA) Desk Tape Series.

The Series was created by ARCA to raise badly-needed finances for Support Act’s Roadies Fund to provide financial, health, counselling and well-being services for roadies and crew in crisis.

Over 40+ artists have now thrown their hats in the ring to help support those in need.

The Desk Tape Series recordings are made off the sound desk by a crew member. In this case front of house sound was mixed by sound engineer George Alexander and released on ARCA’s Black Box Records through MGM Distribution and on all major streaming services.

They are made by a crew member straight from the sound desk at the show, and the Series is acknowledged in media for its historical importance in capturing great live music from great live acts.

Thanx to Charlie McMahon and Tony Mott for the photos, Nprint for the artwork, Phil Dracoulis for the mastering, and especially Gondwanaland for their support of roadies and crew.

GONDWANALAND Live at the Greek Theatre Melbourne 1989
BAND
Charlie McMahon       – didjeridoo, vocals, didjeribone
Peter Carolan            – synthesiser
Eddie Duquemin        – drums, percussion

     

ROAD CREW
George Alexander      – Front Of House
Phil Free                    – Monitors
Steve Pauner             – Lights
Terry Fisk                 – Lights
Lash                          – Stage


Steve Pauner
TRACKS
1.Drought
2 Deja’Vu
3 Highway
4 Ephemeral Lakes
5 Log Dance
6 Choppers
7 Emu
8 Bullant
9 Rainforest
10 Landmark
11 Troppo Wet
12 Bedrock
13 Danger

Gondwanaland Live at the Greek Theatre Melbourne 1989 live tape and all the ARCA Desk Tape Series recordings are available through Black Box Records – ARCA (australianroadcrew.com.au)

Gondwanaland Live at the Greek Theatre 1989 (they played with Not Drowning Waving on the show) captures the sound of Australian nature, through didjeridoo, synth and percussion with great imagination and gorgeous melodies.

The Greek Theatre, Melbourne.

Leader Charlie McMahon explains to his audience what the songs are about, the endurance in “Emu”, the toxic bite of “Bullant”, and the multi rhythms of “Log Dance” and “Rainforest”.

The mood they were trying to convey on “Drought” was, according to McMahon, “Endurance. Perseverance. You can’t do anything about it. You just have to slug it out.”

On Rainforest “the aim is to convey they are noisy places, a lot of life’s in there, and something’s always happening.”

   

What Gondwanaland did was to put the didjeridoo at the centre of the music and put it in a contemporary frame setting the mood and driving the rhythm.

First Nation tribes had played it for an estimated 2,000 years but not as the focus.

Adding to the appeal were McMahon’s inventions, like the didjeribone (1981), a sliding didge made from two lengths of plastic tubing and played like a trombone. He also came up with the didj horns in 1996 and the Face Bass in 1997.

Via a mouth-held geologist’s seismic sensor, the Face Bass picks up the didgeridoo vibrations in Charlie’s body giving the didjeridoo a more complex and deeper sound.

Major Label
Gondwanaland got signed to a major label (Warner Music), won an ARIA award and developed a huge following in Eastern Europe (where they toured in 2004, 2005 and 2006) and in Japan and Europe where they made 13 visits.

In Australia they set a record for one of the largest live shows at the Tomita Sound Cloud in Sydney Cove. They drew 120,000 to Hymn to Mankind, a $3 million light and sound, opera spectacular in November 1988 as part of Bicentennial celebrations.

McMahon, who grew up in the countryside of NSW’s Blue Mountains, spends a lot of time convening with mother nature. He doesn’t need to meditate. “A normal pulse rate is between 70 to 100 per minute. Mine is 46. I’m a naturally chilled person!”

The band spent time together in the outback, and got inspired by “Ephemeral Lakes”, which McMahon describes as about “never ending space, the great quiet, with beautiful waterfall.

“Makes you realise how large the world is. People have told me they use it as a soundtrack for birthing, for its deep steady breathing. I recently did a video where I played the didg upside down in the yoga position. People freaked out about it (laughs).”

Jedda Movie

When Charlie McMahon was four years old, he went to see Charles Chauvel’s movie Jedda, which featured First Australians in the lead roles.

“In the movie there was a guy playing didg. I was a changed person after that. There were no Aborigines living where we were at that time. There was no TV. That was my first experience of a cinema. It changed my life forever.”

The 1955 movie, about a First Nation girl adopted by a white station owner’s wife to replace her own child who had died in the first scene.

The woman’s name was Sarah McMann, similar to Charlie’s mother’s name Sarah McMahon). The end scene was shot near the Blue Mountains near where the McMahons lived.

Jeda was not allowed to follow her culture, which her foster mother described to her in derogatory terms.

It created an identity crisis and led to her looking for her tribe.

She met Marbuck, a didg player. But he fell foul of the justice systems of his traditional and European systems.
In the end they eloped and killed themselves.

McMahon recalls, “It had some tremendous scenes of Aboriginal life and culture. I was mesmerised. I was fascinated with their lives. I used to run away to be in the bush naked.

“I learned to play the didjeridoo using a garden hose or a vacuum cleaner nozzle.

“I saw the movie again when I was in my 30s, and it had the same impact on me. I realised it was my destiny to play the didjeridoo.”

After the family moved to Bankstown in Western Sydney when he was seven, he still managed to “go bush”.

Accident
The didjeridoo went on to play an essential role in McMahon’s life after an accident in 1967 when he was 16.

He and a friend were experimenting with a homemade rocket in a backyard, when it exploded and he lost his right arm.

“Before late 70’s it was not popular for anyone really to play didj. I brought my first one in 1970 from Charlie Perkins at the Aboriginal Advancement League store on Broadway where the gun shops used to be.”

   

He won a university scholarship and got an honours degree in in Arts and Town Planning. At the end of it he became a lecturer and tutor in Town Planning at the University of Sydney.

But that only lasted for 12 months as he found academic life stifling.

At the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, Charlie chanced on 25 year-old UK-born actor and musician Peter Carolan, playing dulcimer, in an experimental theatre troupe.

Central Australia
In the meantime, after hand-building his own log house on his thickly-forested 40-acre (16 ha) on the NSW southern coast, he moved to Central Australia after being offered a job as Development Coordinator at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA).

Charlie’s first job was at the infamous Papunya community after the current out-stations manager had a nervous breakdown, but Charlie loved it. He developed a good relationship with the Pintubi.

“I wasn’t giving out grants but seeing that funding was properly spent. Mostly I was involved in foundation essential services, water, communications clinics etc for clans that were moving from being on missions and government settlements to reoccupying traditional lands, that I did for two communities Kintore (Wallungurru) and Kiwirrkurra. There was admin stuff too like being the local go to guy for Social Security payments. It was Pintubi and Luritja clans over a period of 6 years only”


Kiwirrkurra lunch with Charlie Tjakamarra winter 1984

Most Pintupi left their trad life between 1940’s to 1960’s and did so willingly for the reliable and easy food, clothes, blankets etc and relative security. Also the adjacent clans they had intermarried with had gone in leaving little to no choice in adhering to the strict kin code.

  The Kin Code

The first roads that were built were done to find rockets launched from Woomera and made the Great Sandy Desert accessible. This was so the Australian government could use the Woomera Range Complex to test the blue streak rockets.

The Pintupi elders asked Charlie if he could develop water bores so they could move back to Papuna.
   
Wimparku Bore drilling Oct 1983                Wimparku lunch with George Abba

Charlie resigned from the DAA to work for the Pintubi’s councils.

By 1984 Charlie and the Pintubi had gone so far into unknown Australia, that they came across a family of 9 Pintubi people who had been living the traditional life for 20 years with no contact with the modern world. This became sensational news and made international headlines with Charlie becoming a face of the story. This came by way of photographs in media archives from his appearances with Midnight Oil.

“The media called them the lost tribe which was wrong,” Charlie said. “They just wanted to go home.”

“I wouldn’t make a big deal about being let in on secret business, witnessing ceremony and the like out of being well regarded. Fascinating stuff but I had too much work to do. We were a crew living and working together, very basic since we were doing the foundations for new communities.”

Reconnected
After returning to Sydney, he and Carolan reconnected, with Charlie playing didg, narrating and some singing. Peter moved to synthesiser to give the soundscapes greater dimension.

They first named themselves, Gondwanaland Project, after the ancient supercontinent where Australia, New Zealand, South America, Africa, Antarctica and the Indian Subcontinent were linked together.

                       Gondwanaland
After releasing the Terra Incognita album (1984), which Midnight Oil’s Rob Hirst described as “seminal”, McMahon flew briefly to London to play
with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on Maurice Jarre’s soundtrack to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

On his return, the two placed an ad declaring “Gondwana Wana Drummer”.

Only one person responded, a multi-instrumentalist and percussionist called Eddy Duquemin, who was quickly nicknamed “brolga”, after a dancing bird, for his energetic movements on stage.

Midnight Oil took them under their wing, inviting them on a 26-date tour through Australia and releasing their second album Let The Dog Out through their own Powderworks/ RCA label.

For the third album, Gondwanaland, they signed to WEA/Warner in 1987, and followed it up with Wildlife, Wide Skies and, as Gondwana, Travelling, Xenophon, Bone Man and Didj Heart.

The band winning Best Indigenous Release at the 1988 ARIA awards was met with resistance in some First Nations and media circles including the ABC because none of the members were from any of the First Nation tribes.

Dreamtime
However, Charlie was not upset as he had many strong connections with Arnhem Land and desert people, who had given him skin, meaning “family”, and named him Tjapangarti (desert) and Bungardi in the top end.

“My skin or kin name Tjapangarti was given because I was deemed friendly and they are made on how the giver wants to relate to you, e.g cousin son, son in law et al there are 8 for men and 8 for women. But folks there generally call me Murra (hand) Hook.”

   
“In our community, around Lithgow in NSW, I get on really with the local indigenous people because I have a decades long involvement with indigenous.

“The two kinds of dreaming are clan and individual. Clan ones are passed on from generation to generation and are thought necessary for the continuity of culture and nature. Songs attributed to, or owned by individuals, are said to have come in dreams which are perceived as being spirits in the mind of the dreamer. Real life experience is deemed to be too mundane as a source of inspiration of worthwhile knowledge.”

“In the Top End, for instance, these characters in dreams are called the mimi. They believe they taught us all we know through our dreams. So when someone comes up with a song, they invariably say they dreamt it.”

Gondwanaland’s last gig was in 1994 where we were the opening act for PM Keatings seminal Redfern Speech at Redfern Park. Later, when the politics became unfavourable in mid-90’s. Charlie toured Russia, Europe and Japan as Gondwana from 1994 to 2013, playing solo or with occasional ring-ins.

   

Peter Carolan died on July 28, 2012 from a respiratory illness.

Eddy Duquemin continued to make music, including a solo album Crossculture in 2002.

Aside from his music, Charlie McMahon volunteers on teaching people with respiratory problems how to breathe, teaches young musicians how to play the didg, and continues to convene with nature by growing avenues of trees in bushland.

For more information on ARCA, go to https://australianroadcrew.com.au/ and to check out the 40 other Desk Tape releases, go to The Desk Tape Series – ARCA (australianroadcrew.com.au)