They’ve taken Campbelltown by storm and now Apakatjah have set their sights on the world.
Dion Forrester and Jonathan Lindsay-Tjapaltjarri Hermawan, two young musicians from Alice Springs, have just spent a few days in our town as guests of the Campbelltown arts centre.
Their music residency included workshops at local primary schools as well as a concert at the arts centre, where Apakatjah performed their beautiful blended sounds that combine Aboriginal desert reggae and western rock music.
A day before they headed home, the South West Voice sat down with Dion to talk about where the band had come from and where they’re headed next.
Dion and Jonathan, who first met in Alice in 2012, share a heritage that combines the cultures of Aboriginal Australia with a legacy that also includes European, Indonesian, Irish, Welsh and Dutch ancestry.
“I met Jonathan when I was about 18 or 19, I’d seen him around the town, we were playing in other bands at the time in Alice Springs,’’ says Dion.
“We bumped into each other at the local basketball court, and as you would have it we were both leaving the bands we were with at the time, and we decided to catch up and have a jam, just an acoustic jam.
“The jam session was our song Desert Man, and that pretty much started up Apakatjah.
“I didn’t really like it at first, I took me a while to like it, but I am glad we did stick with it, because it’s got a big story behind it, and we tell the story, and I think it‘s part of the reason we’ve got a bit of a following as well,’’ says Dion.
His own musical influences growing up included Slim Dusty, Cliff Richards, The Shadows, even country music.
“We started off trying to do that rock stuff with a bit of country, but we ended up producing our own sounds, Apakatjah, our own language, so our next record we’re trying to stay true to that,’’ he says.
“We don’t write the songs you will hear on commercial radio, all that pop stuff, nothing against it, but we just write music straight from the heart.
“Our songs speak to pretty much everything around us; we write about our country, where we’re from, and the issues Aboriginal people are facing.
“And the style of our music varies – pop rock, desert reggae,’’ says Dion.
The residency at the Campbelltown Arts Centre was the first time the boys had been to our town, and Dion says they were so impressed they’d love to come back.
“You walk down the street and get a “hello’’, we like it here, it’s very nice, and Macarthur Square, a big shopping centre, man,’’ says Dion.
At their concert, which attracted a large audience, the boys met Uncle Ivan Wellington, the local Koori elder from Kiama who calls Campbelltown home.
“He was a great bloke, Uncle Ivan, we had him on stage and he sang a song with us,’’ says Dion.
Part of their residency included music workshops at local schools with large numbers of Indigenous children, such as Claymore Public and Briar Road at Airds.
Dion says they also went to Reiby detention centre for young people but unfortunately plans for a concert there fell through.
They also went into the city for an ABC interview.
Apakatjah have pretty much played everywhere in Australia, so they are now looking at spreading their wings overseas.
“We’d like to go overseas, play a festival or something, there may be a tour to South American next year, fingers crossed,’’ says Dion.
“The second album’s on the way, so we’ll see where it takes us.’’