As the Australian music scene continues to gradually return to its pre-COVID glory, community radio Music Directors and presenters from around the country shine a light on the finest local talent doing the rounds today.

While many of us are adjusting to a new sense of normality after 2020, Australian musicians are still facing enormous limitations in working opportunities to support and sustain their careers. Exposure is more important than ever and ironically harder to come by in today’s media landscape.

The Australian Music Radio Airplay Project – best known as Amrap – offers Australian musicians a pathway to airplay to the many community stations who have long championed Australian music of all stripes. Providing exposure often before anyone else, community radio is a strong and unique network immune to passing trends.

In this Tone Deaf series, we’ll turn to the Music Directors and presenters at some of the amazing community stations from around the country and get their latest favourite Australian music discoveries from Amrap.

Benjamin Erin, station manager of Alice Springs’ 8CCC, continues this series with Australian music available on Amrap to help compile a playlist of the best homegrown tunes doing the rounds on community radio for you to sink your teeth into.

8CCC Community Radio broadcasts on Arrernte Country in Mparntwe/ Alice Springs and Warumungu country in Tennant Creek, with a commitment to featuring one third local and one third Australian music. The stations vision is ‘Many Voices, One Frequency’, which reflects the diverse cultures, languages and music of Central Australia and The Barkly region, and is available to listen on 102.1FM and streaming via 8ccc.com.au.

Check out ‘Endelea’ by Katanga Junior:

Xavia – ‘Saulė’

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Xavia is an Alice Springs based indie-folk artist who draws on electronic and acoustic production to create richly layered music. Her track ‘Horizons’, recorded in Mparntwe, has been streamed over 3.5 million times with listeners around the world. 

With her new single ‘Saulė’ (pronounced Soul-lay), Xavia collaborates with NT electronic producers Dave Crowe (aka Resin Moon) and Ben Allen (Broadwing) with her autoharp and shimmering vocals driving the song:

“’Saulė’ is a celebration of the burning star at the centre of our universe – the source of life on earth,” Xavia explained. “I was fascinated with how light and energy from the sun is so constant and at home, yet so distant and fierce. Now feels like a perfect time to shroud listeners in golden, desert light and bask in the wonder of our miraculous existence, however dark our corner is feeling.”

Xavia will be performing for Darwin Festival August 8th and the Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs August 21st in collaboration with the Alice Sings Choir. ‘Saulė’ officially releases August 6th with XAVIA’s EP, Mountain Whisper, due in October – keep an eye out for the music video!

Katanga Junior – ‘Endelea (feat. D-Day)’

‘Endelea’ is a collaboration between Tanzanian born artist Katanga Junior And D-Day (Darcy Davis) – both home in Alice Springs. “Endelea” means “keep going” in Swahili and serves as a repeated driving refrain throughout the track.

Katanga Junior is a powerful and versatile MC who adapts his distinctive deep voice to different genres from Swahili ‘Drill Music’ to hip-hop, ragga, reggae, and indie-folk like sounds with flow and momentum.

This track, recorded and produced at Red House Records by Darcy Davis. It’s part of Katanga’s Moto EP – which means ‘Fire’ in Swahili. The EP was mastered by Monkey Marc, and you just know it’s meant to be heard through a big bass sound system. Turn it up.

Check out ‘Holding Pattern’ by David Garnham & The Reasons To Live:

David Garnham & The Reasons To Live – ‘Holding Pattern’

‘Holding Pattern’ was written in 20 minutes while Dave Garnham was in a plane, in a holding pattern above Brisbane Airport.

“It was one of those beautiful writing experiences where the song was done, completed without even having picked up a guitar,” Garnham said. “I thought I was writing about my mate who was having a hard time in a destructive relationship. Upon reflection I wasn’t just writing about her, it was also about my own situation some years back. So it was almost healing in a way.”

David Garnham & the Reasons to Live are based in Top End NT – Darwin – though happily adopted by the Central Australian crowds who have lost track of the number of times the band has driven the 3,000km round trip to Alice Springs, playing the pubs, clubs, and road stops along the way.

Colin Lillie – ‘Sacred Sound’

Colin Lillie’s ‘Sacred Sound’ is a cinematic epic which allows the impact of Colin’s writing to shine through as a potent narrative of struggle and hope.

Recorded by Jamie Trevaskis (The Wilson Pickers) from Wild Mountain Sound Studio Brisbane as part of his second studio album, Shades Of Love, Colin says, “Jamie completely understood what I was trying to convey with this album and his production gave it the light and shade to compliment it.”

Rich orchestration underlays Colins voice and together imparts a bittersweet depth of emotion. Colin performs with honesty and creative integrity and Sacred Sound is a standout track within an album that should be listened to from beginning to end.

Check out ‘Lottery’ by Sally Balfour:

Sally Balfour – ‘Lottery’

‘Lottery’ is Sally Balfour’s fourth single, released from her home studio in Tennant Creek and features a collaboration with Bill Chambers who tracked his slide guitar from the ‘Chambers Avenue’ studio on the Central Coast of NSW. 

A reflection on the devastating 2019/2020 bushfires across Australia ‘Lottery’ speaks from the perspective of a firefighter processing the daily challenges of their work. The nature of luck in determining life or death situations is an open question in a haunting track that evokes the devastating scenes encountered when fighting fire.

“Facing death and destruction daily must put many facets of life and death into question,” Balfour explained. “Sometimes it makes sense, other times it makes no sense at all and in the end it makes you feel like life is a game of chance.” 

Lottery’s release was supported by MusicNT and Spotify AU’s Catch and Release Grant and builds on Sally’s experience as a songwriter and producer for her recent album Clara The Crocodile – a who’s who of NT Music royalty transcending the genre of children’s music.

Sally’s music has made an impact with her release ‘Calling Me Home’ placing 9th in the Territory Sounds Countdown – a top ten popular vote of the best Northern Territory songs of 2020, and the only Central Australian artist to cut through.

Jessica Wishart – ‘That’s What Love Is’

‘That’s What Love Is’ is the second single from Jessica Wishart from her upcoming album Colours, released through the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association’s CAAMA Music Label.

A reflection on the nature of love and what experiencing it should be like – ‘That’s What Love Is’ was co-written between Nancy Bates and a group of inspirational women at the Adelaide Women’s Prison. Nancy is a long-time collaborator having sung on Jessica’s Debut EP My Black Boy released in 2017.

A proud Bidjara woman, Jessica Wishart is a singer and songwriter based in Alice Springs. Her writing reflects her experience ‘walking in two worlds’ and draws on her life as an Aboriginal woman, daughter, mother and educator.

Recorded in Adelaide at MixMasters with producer Kevin Bennet (The Flood), ‘That’s What Love Is’ is a warm and spacious mix that allows Jessica’s voice to shine through, supported by gentle harmonies and Hammond organ tones with Leslie tremolo, a nostalgic and reflective space is created for the words to hit home. It has us eagerly awaiting the release of Jessica Wishart’s album Colours!

Check out ‘My People’ by Karnage N Darknis:

Karnage N Darknis – ‘My People’

‘My People’ is the title track off KND’s second album, following on from their debut release, Only Tha Strong Survive, in 2010. 

Karnage (Tristrum Watkins) a Western Arrernte man from Hermannsburg and Darknis (Corinna Hall) a Ngarindjerri/Kokatha woman from Raukkan, S.A. kicked off their hip-hop partnership in 2008. Through hip-hop and family the duo work together whether cowriting tracks or raising their two children. 

‘My People’ was recorded in Mparntwe between Red House and CAAMA Studios, produced and mixed by Darcy Davis and released on CAAMA Music which is celebrating 40+ years of Aboriginal Media in Central Australia. 

KND’s music delivers fresh beats that are grounded in heritage and cutting lyrics that call for action – tracks such as ‘Always Was Always Will be’, ‘We Have Survived’ and ‘Let Dem Know’ are empowering anthems for future generations: themes embodied throughout ‘My People’.

Check out our playlist of community radio’s Australian music picks: