Mambali, a nine-piece band from Numbulwar, Northern Territory, fuse their traditional heritage songs contemporary sounds to create a vibrant and impressive spectacle of talent. Their traditional songs are about country, culture and the Dhumbul Dance (Devil Dance) performed with edge, energy and a whole lot of love.
Eleven years since the conception of the remote NT outfit, it’s only now that spirit of community and that love of what they do is seeping out of their hometown and into the rest of the country. People are giving Mambali more recognition and really appreciating the work of Indigenous artists more and more. “It’s very exciting for us, our music going out to the mainstream and people loving it,” says vocalist, Brad Bara. “Most of all, we like to play music.”
You can see in the live videos they’ve released online just how much Mambali love what they do and how much joy their music brings – even mentioning that to Bara induces smiles all around. Laughing he says, “The boys are all excited. From going from a small community and our music going to a mainstream level, it’s good, you know?”
That mainstream level is none other than WOMAdelaide in March, where for the first time Mambali will perform on a more mainstream stage. This will be only the second time Mambali have left Northern Territory. Excitedly, Bara says, “A few of the boys, going to Meredith, it was the first time jumping on the big plane.” The dedication is real.
In their native language, Nunggubuyu, Mambali share their culture through music to the mainstream and the younger generations, to help them understand which tribe they’re from. Music is for Mambali as much as maintaining their traditions as it is educating in a modern way. The band could easily have gone for traditional instruments but the example they set for the younger generations is there can be a fusion, a unity, between Indigenous and Western instruments. In this day and age, Bara says fusion was the best way for their traditions to continue and for their people to invoke Western influences. “We can continue music both ways,” he says, “traditional way, modern way, all in music.”
The ultimately hope Mambali have in what people will take away from their performances all comes down to understanding, Bara says. “Understanding two cultures. In our belief, our culture, two cultures need to become one.
“White, black, need to become one. That’s why we share our music in a modern way, our traditional songs made modern. We want everyone to understand each culture and to live as one community.
“That’s or belief, especially in small communities – we want two cultures coming together, understanding both sides and becoming one as a community, as Australians. That’s our belief.”
WOMADelaide 2019 will be held from 8 – 11 March in Botanic Park, Adelaide, South Australia. For more information and tickets visit www.womadelaide.com.au.
Written by Anna Rose
Photo by Duane Preston