The Most Exciting Indigenous Australian Acts In 2014

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In celebration of NAIDOC week, we asked Double J's music mad presenters and specialists to tell us about the indigenous Australian acts they find most exciting right now.

Tjintu Desert Band

Hailing from the remote area of Haasts Bluff/Ikunjti, located 250kms west of Alice Springs, Tjintu Desert Band are one of the finest exponents of the desert reggae currently popular in remote indigenous communities of Central Australia. They bring their own twist to the sound, mixing elements of dub and rock with a dash of funk, singing in a mixture of their own language, Luritja, and English. 

Their subject matter is predominantly the land that surrounds them, the land of their Dreaming, the rain, the wind and their people and culture (their single 'Tjamuku Ngurra' means Godfather’s Country). They’re the biggest thing to come out of their small community, a town of 200 people that has one school, one shop, is accessed only by unsealed roads and no mobile phone reception.

They’ve got their debut record out now and a brand new video that shows how they inspire some of the best dancing you’ll see. – Myf Warhurst

Emily Foster

Brisbane-based singer-songwriter Emily Foster was born on Groote Eylandt, the largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, about 50km off the eastern coast of the Northern Territory.

Her songs are honest and expressive, sitting somewhere at the crossroads between rootsy folk and soulful R&B. But the sparse piano chords and atmospheric harmonies of 'Blue Moon, Black Sea' hint at what could be a new direction for her in the future.

At only 18 years old, it's up to her where she takes her sound from here. I'm looking forward to hearing what happens next. – Tim Shiel

Radical Son

From the Kamilaroi nation of Australia and Tonga in the South Pacific, David Leha – aka Radical Son –possesses the sort of voice that’s equal parts power, sincerity and pure seduction.

His songs blend hip hop, spoken word and soulful grooves and the stories of his journey to healing that he shares on his upcoming album Cause And Effect are filled with the sort of depth and rawness that will both move and haunt you. – Caroline Tran

Sue Ray

Her voice is gutsy, her lyrics are heartbreaking, her charm is endless. Without a doubt, Sue Ray is one of the most exciting Americana songwriters to emerge from the Queensland roots music scene in recent years.

With a few albums under her belt and a whole lot of gig experience, Sue Ray recently moved to Nashville where she is currently wooing the locals with her effervescent personality and serious musical chops.

I first met Sue Ray in Tennessee, in a bar (where else?), where we bonded over a mutual appreciation for Patsy Cline and tequila. She's still there at the moment, recording new material and playing a tonne of shows.

What is it about Sue Ray that's exciting? Aside from her obvious musical talent, it's her determination to be heard the world over. Sue Ray is most definitely one to watch. – Emma Swift

Thelma Plum

Young Brisbane singer Thelma Plum has the kind of attention grabbing voice that makes one sit up and listen immediately. I loved this song from the opening bars of twanging guitar. It's incredibly catchy and highlights Thelma Plum's great talent as a singer.

In 2012 Plum won triple j Unearthed's National Indigenous Music Awards bringing her songwriting immediate recognition and her debut EP Rosie, featuring gorgeous folk-pop soon followed.  

This new single, 'How Much Does Your Love Cost?', marks a new direction for Plum- towards edgier R&B production, courtesy of a collaboration with Melbourne producer M-Phazes. At 19 years old she has a big future and a new EP Monsters out now. – Karen Leng

Birdwave

Though George Rrurrambu was best known for his work as frontman with the Warumpi Band ('Black Fella, White Fella'), in his later life he fronted the group Birdwave. They released a couple of hard-to-find independent 45 7" vinyl singles on Australian labels Rex J and Jaycees in the early/mid 2000s.

'Dhimurru' (Eastern Wind) unfolds with an insistent and sinister ostinato groove, punctuated with a haunting Melodica solo and some tight organ work.

'Gating' is a snappier, drum-driven work out that illustrates why Rrurrambu had often been compared to James Brown throughout his career.

These brief sonic snapshots are evidence of an exciting fusion of indigenous textures juxtaposed against raw soul and funk grooves.

Sadly cancer struck George Rrurrambu down at the age of 50 in 2007 before he could extend upon these exciting concepts. 

He left us with a rich musical legacy as one of this country's best-known Indigenous musical artists. Ever-evolving right up until the end. - Lance Ferguson

Tom E. Lewis

Murrungun man Tom E. Lewis is most popularly known as an actor though has tried his hand at a few musical projects over the years to a fair degree of success.

His latest record, Beneath The Sun, is a dark, gritty release that sees him channelling the likes of Tom Waits and Bob Dylan with some stunning production tying Lewis' fascinating tales together.

'Can't Change Your Name' has Lewis singing about identity over a rolling banjo, while angular lead guitar and the occasional horn and organ interludes add both dirt and majesty in equal measures. It's a good introduction to one of the great Australian releases of 2014 and one that will no doubt continue to be championed in years to come. – Dan Condon

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