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Cairns, Queensland, Australia | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | MAJOR

Cairns, Queensland, Australia | MAJOR
Established on Jan, 2008
Band World Folk




"WOMADelaide and Port Fairy Folk Festival - 2015"

Email from Danni Colgan, the Program Director of the 2015 WOMADelaide festival:
Dear Tony and all members of Kamerunga,
On behalf of our Director, Ian Scobie, and all of us behind the scenes at WOMADelaide, THANK YOU for your great performance over the festival weekend. It was an pleasure to have Kamerunga play WOMADelaide on our final day of this year’s festival. I heard many great comments about the performance and I am glad the band played the festival before members start their international moving plans and great to finally meet in person.

Review in Broadway World - http://www.broadwayworld.com

The Australian Folk band Kamerunga took to the Zoo Stage with new and intelligent interpretations of the songs of the genre. They took old and rather tired pieces away from the camp fire and the dusty shearing shed, dressed them in clean new clothes, and proudly paraded them along the 21st Century city street very successfully...'

From Michael Fix, one of Australia's finest acoustic guitar pickers:
I saw Kamerunga play at Port Fairy Folk Festival recently. It was at the noisy stage, but I sat near the front and had a good listen … thoroughly enjoyable and very entertaining and original. You’d be having enormous fun in that group! Very clever arrangements. - WOMADelaide

"Reviews of Kamerunga's 'Terra Australis' album 2015"

Australian folk music and bush balladry can be dry and somewhat hackneyed when welded to its strict origins. The Bushwhackers Band dragged it into the 20th century and now Kamerunga, the Cairns based sextet, has breathed new life into the form. No longer is this music solely reliant upon its Irish and English beginnings, instead the infusion of African rhythms, jazz, reggae and even funk creates a global melting pot whilst still ensuring the authenticity of the bush is maintained. It could have gone spectacularly wrong, but David Martin (vocals, violin, mandolin), Andree Baudet (sax, keyboards), Peter Ella (guitar, violin), Tony Hillier (guitar, vocals), Will Kepa (bass) and Nigel Pegrum (drums, producer) have instead made Terra Australis a contemporary triumph, placing Australian folk music firmly on the World stage.

Interwoven with the traditional tunes is a judicious mix of originals, all steadfastly maintaining the colonial spirit; ‘Burke’s Lament’ is a highlight, a poignant storyline based on the ill-fated explorer’s final letter, an exceptional ballad swathed in swirling keyboards and Joseph Tawadros’ atmospheric oud (Arabian lute). The traditional ‘Ryebuck’ is a delightful excursion into funk a-la The Blockheads, ‘Lazy Harry’s’ hints at the sound of Madness gone bush, and the spoken word of ‘Mulligan’ may well be the first folk-rap song; Kamerunga’s inventiveness at times can be breathtaking. The band saves its finest moment until the final track, ‘South Australia Suite’, the much loved sea shanty is gloriously transported upon its own musical journey, a voyage of fluctuating orchestral discovery – great stuff.

Kamerunga has taken Australian folk by the scruff of the neck, and injected it with originality and vitality, breathing warmth, new life and enjoyment into the genre. Performances at the major Australian folk festivals are already scheduled, and with plans afoot to head to Europe for festival engagements, Terra Australis is a mighty calling card.

Trevor J. Leeden

4-star review in the January issue of Germany's national 'inMusic' magazine:

With Terra Australis, Kamerunga presents an album full of playfulness and good humour. For years, the Australian folk-rockers have played Celtic-Australian folk music and their new disc is all about this extraordinary mixture. Again and again, the sextet succeed in imbuing old songs with life, and with crazy ideas and modern updates they create a completely new sound. So here we have an impressive mix of styles which radiates power from every groove. - Rhythms and 'inMusic' magazine

"Terra Australis review by Norman Darwen"

As it is a relatively new country, it certainly makes sense to update Australia's folk music, looking at developments back in the old countries and reflecting the new nation's multicultural background. As a mission statement, that is praiseworthy; as a CD it makes for great listening.

Kamerunga show an easy familiarity with Irish, Scottish and English folk music and later folk-rock, with rock itself (particularly of the prog variety) and with Middle Eastern music, reggae, urban and ambient sounds, whilst the songs and tunes remain resolutely Australian.

This is their third CD and the band can cover a Capercaillie tune, reggaefy a bush classic a la Edward II, and occasionally recall Steeleye Span — though maybe that's just a result of knowing that Nigel Pegrum is on drums — whilst all the time giving the impression that this is indeed contemporary music, and with both humour and attitude in places. - R2 magazine (UK)

"'The Hour Before Dawn' single and video"

Kamerunga's new single release 'The Hour Before Dawn' — available from iTunes and many other digital download platforms — is being acclaimed by punters and industry professionals alike ... read on:-

From UK bass ace Danny Thompson (Pentangle, Richard Thompson, John Martyn, Everything But The Girl et al) : " ... a powerful portrait of [WWI] horror ... it all means so much to many of our generation…"
From Australian folk authority Warren Fahey: "The Hour Before Dawn is timely and beautifully done … it deserves wide exposure."
From leading Aussie singer-songwriter Fred Smith: "An important sentiment well expressed. In the orgy of digger jingoism that's about to ensue, this is an important point of view."

From revered UK singer-songwriter Steve Tilston: "It's a very good song in the tradition of 'The Band Played Waltzing Matilda' … it could go massive."

Adam Stephen (ABC Radio Far North Drivetime presenter): "It's brilliant … I can foresee it being a real hit."

Richard Dinnen (Station manager ABC Broome): "Lovely song, very moving and beautifully recorded."

From ABC listener Charles Silver: "I don't do this sort of thing often, but having just heard your latest, beautifully performed and deeply moving tune .. 'The Hour Before Dawn' .. well, I'm moved to pass on my sincere congratulations to you all. Truly, in my humble opinion, an iconic piece in the making that will, and deserves to, take its place with the best of the genre.

Angie Lemon (PR person Arc Music label UK): "Lyrically and musically, it is a very classy production." - various sources

"Press Release for The Hour Before Dawn"


To coincide with the fast-approaching 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, Kamerunga — one of Australia’s most lauded folk fusion bands — has released a fair dinkum tribute that salutes the courage of the ANZACS while acknowledging the horror of war.

‘The Hour Before Dawn’ has already been compared favourably with Eric Bogle’s First World War classics, ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘No Man’s Land’.

“It’s a song that we’ve felt compelled to record and put the Kamerunga stamp on ever since we first heard it,” says the band’s co-founder, manager and player Tony Hillier, himself a national music critic.

Featuring poetic and poignant lyrics penned by esteemed Victorian writer Ian Bland, resident bard at premier Melbourne public radio station 3RRR, ‘The Hour Before Dawn’ calls the World War I action like it was.

Lacerating lines like “adventure we thought when we answered the drum/ not the journey to hell shortly to come” and “both the living and dead share the mud of this trench/ no words can describe the horror and stench” pepper verses that go to the heart of the “Great War”.

Kamerunga will be debuting their stirring new version when they take to the stage at the Port Fairy Folk Festival during the first weekend in March and at WOMADelaide a couple of days later.

In the interim, ‘The Hour Before Dawn’ — recorded by the band’s drummer and ARIA-award winning producer Nigel Pegrum at his Cairns studio — will be available on iTunes and other digital download sites.

More on Kamerunga at: www.sonicbids.com/kamerunga
For interviews or further information, contact Tony Hillier on 07 40534578 or via kamerungaband@gmail.com - Tony Hillier

"Kamerunga on top of the world"

Preview of the Cairns launch of Kamerunga's new album, 'Worlds Kaleid' - Cairns Post, March 15, 2012

"Kamerunga gets the thumbs up in the UK!"

Australian outfit mixing Celtic, Anglo Saxon and native folk strains with jazz and rock elements that include a horn section. Clever and tasteful concoctions devoid of overkill and kitchen sink tendencies. Ethnic elements breathe peacefully within the cosmopolitan jungle. Recommended." (fRoots magazine, UK, March 2010) - fRoots magazine, March 2010

"Songlines UK **** review"

What makes their arrangements unusual is that their sprightly jigs are interwoven with creative time changes, Latin-jazz touches and Middle-Eastern instrumentation. - Songlines

"Worlds Kaleid - current reviews"

The Cairns Post made 'Worlds Kaleid' its CD of the week, saying: "It's not often a five-star album lands on the timeOUT desk, let alone one written and created locally. Yet with Kamerunga's second full-length album, here we are with one of the most innovative and creative takes on folk music ever to emerge from Australia ... it is essential listening for fans of both Australian and world music."

The Weekend Australian gave the album 4 stars and said: "The term world music is often misused as a catch-all for anything that sounds vaguely exotic or unfamiliar to Western ears, but it's a tempting label for the organic product of well structured dalliances between boisterous Australian folk and the infectious rhythms of a veritable multicultural melange."

In another 4-star review, the Sydney Morning Herald commented: "Part of the album’s appeal, apart from its very obvious exuberance, is its sensitive and intelligent use of virtuoso musicians ... Worlds Kaleid is a fine example of innovative musical cross-fertilisation. It is original and it works."

Shane Howard, one of the country's most respected musicians, commented: "Worlds Kaleid is one of the more interesting albums to come out of Australia for a long time in the Folk/World Music spectrum. It's inventive, bold, and shines with brave and dazzling musicianship.
Worlds Kaleid surprises. At times, it sounds like influences from Yes and Madness colliding with Australian bush ballads. At times jazz, at times jigs and reels. It rocks, it folks, it jazzes and gypsies it's way into your head and I can't get it out. It's a great record."

Luke Plumb, virtuoso mandolin player from Shooglenifty, said: "Its a very slick sounding album with a huge sound that at times reminded me of the vibe from Salsa Celtica."

Leading Australiana expert Warren Fahey said of 'Worlds Kaleid': "It smacks of early Afghan hawkers traveling the outback flogging spices, curries and bolts of cotton and silk."

World Music Central website: "Fashioning a sound of world music, folk, rock, jazz and reggae, only to reinvent the lot into a fresh version of Australian folk, Kamerunga’s quirky and hopelessly charming sound is addictively bright and breezy with some truly expert musicianship to tie the whole sound together ... World Kaleid is deliciously good and we can hardly wait to hear what comes next."
- Weekend Australian, Cairns Post etc

"Sydney Morning Herald review"

Part of the album’s appeal, apart from its very obvious exuberance, is its sensitive and intelligent use of virtuoso musicians who have obviously washed up in Cairns and wandered into Pegasus Studio where Nigel Pegrum, one-time drummer with Steeleye Span and member of Kamerunga, now operates. There’s Dobe Newton who, with such modest instruments as the lagerphone and spoons, makes a significant contribution to a very funky reading of Lime Juice Tub (there’s also an amusing touch at the end of the song with violins and drums playing a snippet of Macarthur Park); oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros adds an exotic, Middle Eastern flavour to the hauntingly beautiful Burke’s Lament and the ever-reliable Jeff Lang provides exotic slide guitar on the instrumental The Cameleers/Soldanza. This is a fine example of innovative musical cross-fertilisation. It is original and it works." - Sydney Morning Herald

"CD of the Week - Kamerunga's Worlds Kaleid"

It's not often that a five-star album lands on the timeOUT desk, let alone one written and created right here in Far North Queensland. Yet with local heroes Kamerunga's second full-length effort, Worlds Kaleid, here we are, with one of the most innovative and creative takes on folk music ever to emerge in Australia. Taking some of the most influential folk ballads of the last 200 years of Australian history and turning them on their head, they do the near impossible - breathe fresh life into the songs without losing what makes them special in the first place. Essential listening for fans of both Australian and world music.
- Jesse Kuch, TimeOUT, Cairns Post - TimeOUT, Cairns Post, March 15th edition 2012

"World Music Central review"

Worlds Kaleid
Worlds Kaleid (Kamerunga Records, 2012)

Sliding the northeastern Australian band Kamerunga into a genre would be a bit like putting a sweater on my cat – difficult and in the end pointless. Of course, slipping Kamerunga’s second recording Worlds Kaleid into the CD player is a hell of lot more entertaining than the mere idea of putting a sweater on a cat any day. Fashioning a sound of world music, folk, rock, jazz and reggae, only to reinvent the lot into a fresh version of Australian folk, Kamerunga’s quirky and hopelessly charming sound is addictively bright and breezy with some truly expert musicianship to tie the whole sound together.
With their debut recording The Push, an ARIA nomination for Best World Music album and a series of appearances at Byron Bay Bluesfest, National Folk Festival and the 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival, Kamerunga has set a course to make a name for itself and put Australian folk on the musical map with joyous abandon.
Dipping into some Latin rhythms, sassy trumpet lines provided by Harry James Angus and slick guitar licks against a folksy tune on the opening “Queensland Whalers/Sligo Creek,” Kamerunga dazzles the listener with its cross-pollination sound.
It’s impossible to resist such tracks like the traditional folk tune “Lime Juice Tub,” or “Fannie Bay” with its hauntingly lovely opening before it shifts into a thick, funky reggae ballad.
The lesson of Worlds Kaleid seems to be expect the unexpected as with “Burke’s Lament” and its opening oud intro by Joseph Tawadros before slipping into an original musical cautionary tale based on a letter written by the explorer Robert O’Hara before he died while exploring Australia’s “red heart.”
Worlds Kaleid just gets better with tracks like percussion driven “The Cameleers/Soldanza,” the wild ride of “Lazy Harry’s” and feel good feel of “Seisia.”
One only need to look at the musical line up for proof of the gender-bending nature of Kamerunga, and that jam packed goodness of Worlds Kaleid is served up by vocalist, violinist and mandolinist David Martin; guitarist, mandolinist, violinist, keyboardist and backing vocalist Peter Ella; saxophonist, keyboardist, cellist and backing vocalist Andree Baudet; bassist, percussionist, ukulele player and backing vocalist Will Kepa; guitarist, kazoo player and backing vocalist Tony Hiller, and percussionist and drummer Nigel Pegrum.
World Kaleid is deliciously good and we can hardly wait to hear what comes next.
Listen to samples and buy MP3s:

Worlds Kaleid
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CD available via The Planet Company
- World Music Central

"Warren Fahey's review"

Most folk probably think I am a staunch traditionalist who wouldn’t entertain musicians experimenting with the sacred church of the old bush songs. On the contrary - I am all for it as long as the song’s essential storytelling remains intact. There are no rules as far as interpreting Australian folk songs and if anyone tells you otherwise - tell them to take a flying jump in the lake!

Kamerunga, a mob from Queensland’s far north, have been playing around with bush songs for a few years and with their latest recording, cheekily titled ‘Worlds Kaleid’ they have certainly thrown the rule book into the billabong. It must be culturally alienating living in a remote city like Cairns where life is tropically relaxed and the ‘living is easy’ (apart from pesky tourists, box jelly fish and other seasonal nasties) and this isolation can often be very good for music.

With an album title hinting at a dash of Middle Eastern music the eight tracks deliver a
bush band sound unlike any other. It smacks of early Afghan hawkers traveling the outback flogging spices, curries and bolts of cotton and silk. In fact one of the tracks, ‘The Cameleers’, written by group member Peter Ella, is a tribute to said camel drivers. Although only eight tracks the album is full of sound and most tracks are a generous five to seven minutes duration which allows for the music to swell and take hold. Unfortunately such lengthy tracks are not too good for radio airplay which usually prefers three to four minutes.

Kamerunga, although is sounds like a cheese, is a town up the road from Cairns. The members of the group are Pete Ella, Andree Baudet, Dave Martin, Will Kepa and Tony Hillier (yes, the same bloke who does the reviews in the Weekend Australian Review). There’s also another member who has contributed a great deal to their recording and live performances - Nigel Pegrum was a member of Steeleye Span and now lives in Cairns where he runs Pegasus Studios. His musical skill washes over all the recording. Nigel also plays drums with Kamerunga. There’s some impressive guests on ‘Worlds Kaleid’. Oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros and slide guitarist Jeff Lang both deserve to be recognised as ‘master musicians’. Perennial Bushwacker Dobe Netwon belts out a mean lagerphone and spoons on a middle eastern reggae sounding ‘Limejuice Tub’ and Harry James Angus blasts in with trumpet on a great version of Harry Robertson’s ‘Queensland Whalers’ which melds into an instrumental ‘Sligo Creek’. ‘Burke’s Lament’, a song by three members of the band, is a stand out, particularly with Joseph Tawadros’s soulful yet totally exhilarating oud intro and outro segments. In a real world Tawadros should have been on every track of the album but guesting in Cairns is problematic and, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.

The album program continues with Doug and Andy Tainsh’s ‘Fannie Bay’, a song about Darwin’s rather notorious goal, and a couple more lively interpretations of bush songs ‘Lazy Harry’s’ and ‘Ryebuck Shearer’. Personally I would have gone for an all-Queensland program because there are so many good Bananabender bush songs that deserve recording rather than these two from the bush band top ten. The final track ‘Seisa’ by band member Dave Martin is probably the most commercial track for mainstream radio because it catches that particular laid back tropical sound identifiable with the warm, windy, far northern coast of Australia.

The album is released by Planet/MGM and also available through through the miracles of modern technology via cyberspace downloads from iTunes, Bigpond Music etc. Buy it!

Warren Fahey 2012
- Leading Australiana expert Warren Fahey

"Kamerunga - Terra Australis album review"

Kamerunga is an Australian folk band that stretches the concept of folk. There are Celtic influences working cheerfully with clear, big band sounds, reggae rhythms are deployed as well as influences from the Balkans, and what is created is a swinging kind of world fusion folk. Energetic, sometimes melancholy and at the same time recognizable as Australian — not just because of the accent but also by the didgeridoo. Jazzy, rocking sometimes spicy, sometimes folky, this band gives a whole new meaning to Australian folk in a way that sometimes is reminiscent of the way Bellowhead's jazz and folk make an incredibly exciting new music genre. Highly recommended in short. - Moors Magazine (Netherlands)

"What the Australian Critics Are Saying About Kamerunga"

"After a decade or two waiting in the doldrums, Australian folk music has finally been given the revitalisation and rejuvenation it needed to allow it to return to festival headline status - thanks to a new band from far north Queensland ... Kamerunga takes traditional Aussie songs like South Australia and the Lachlan Tigers as a starting point, adding elements of rock, classical, jazz, reggae and even rap to the mix to make a well-crafted, accessible and respectful synthesis. It's a lively journey," - Andy Copeman (ABC Radio National's The Daily Planet, 13/11/08, having made Kamerunga’s debut CD, The Push, their album-of-the-day).

"This multi-instrumental, multi-talented Cairns ensemble takes a big stick of funk, jazz and reggae to rouse traditional Celtic and Australian tunes from their safe slumber. Kamerunga's musical dexterity allows it to shift the material from whisky-soaked shanty swagger to reggae-infused bush ballad to lounge-lizard jazz, sometimes within the same song" - Brian Bolton (Weekend Australian, 22/11/08)

"This is the type of project to take Australian sounds to international world music stages — I'm sure that was pretty much the idea behind it, and it's bound to succeed. You can imagine both the narrative content and musical energy of these songs striking an immediate and lasting chord with such audiences." - Martin Jones, Editor (December issue of Rhythms magazine).

"If you are looking for an album of unusual and very original music that really tries to reach beyond the predictable, rather drab Australian folk tradition, then this is a genuine surprise. It basically demonstrates that folk tunes, in the right hands, can be bent in any direction.” – Bruce Elder (Sydney Morning Herald, 10/01/09)

“What sets Kamerunga apart is the band’s solid musicianship, with folky mandolins and fiddles comfortably nestling alongaide steamy sax and a hot rhythm section.” – Seth Jordan (Limelight magazine, February 2009)

- Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Rhythms magazine, ABC Radio National

"Kamerunga article"


Kamerunga have injected new life and imagination into Australian folk music


I’m no folkie, but even I could appreciate that it was high time someone breathed some life back into traditional Australian folk music. No one particularly needs to hear a straight-faced delivery of ‘Click Go The Shears’ yet again. And often the best way to reinvigorate tradition is to mess with it.

I doubt Kamerunga co-founders Tony Hillier (yes, the same) and Peter Ella could have foreseen just how much messin’ was in store when they decided to resuscitate gems like ‘Lachlan Tigers’, ‘South Australia’ and ‘Moreton Bay’, but with producer Nigel Pegrum (Small Faces, Steeleye Span, Uriah Heep, etc) on board and a cast of Northern Queensland instrumentalists contributing, they found themselves walking through some surprising doors. Traditional Australian and Celtic folk was fused with ska, reggae, jazz, funk and more and what emerged is a significant Australian contribution to the world music tapestry. And it’s been welcomed with open arms.

Reviews have praised the band’s vision in bringing Australian folk back to life, and their delivering it to festival stages with both energy and empathy. Indeed, Kamerunga found themselves booked to play a number of major festivals before they’d even made a public debut!

Both Tony and Peter have been delighted with the welcome offered to their debut album The Push and their first live performances (including a run at the recent Woodford festival), all the more so because of the unconventional nature of the project. “Yes there was a risk factor in what we did,” Tony confirms. “But we decided it was high time someone attempted to do something interesting with Australian folk music. There have been precious few attempts at redefining and replenishing our musical and cultural heritage since the Bushwackers merged rock with bush in the ‘70s… I have been listening to bands such as La Bottine Souriante, Bellowhead, Shooglenifty and Kila for some time with awe and admiration. I figured if they could make such interesting fusions with traditional material from their respective countries (French-Canada, Britain, Scotland and Ireland respectively) then so could we.”

Peter Ella recalls seeing La Bottine Souriante’s show at Port Fairy a few years ago as a major inspiration. He says that the final product of Kamerunga, though, was “quite different” to the original vision of applying a dancehall feel to bush folk. By the time Nigel Pegrum finally found time to get them into his Cairns studio, Peter says that, “there wasn’t too much prepared”. “Yeah, I’d worked on a few ideas with the Aussie songs and I’d borrowed a friend’s keyboard and put some horn parts,” Peter recalls, “and there was an instrumental of mine ‘Fanfare For A Common Mandolin’ that I’d come up with and I thought ‘oh I’ll put some horns on this and see what it sounds like.’ So when we went into the studio we didn’t have too much worked out. At the time it was basically only me and Tony, and I went into the studio a bit ‘what am I going to do?’”

Both Tony and Peter credit Pegrum as invaluable in shaping and motivating the band. “We played around with a few of the songs in rehearsal,” says Tony, “but it basically came together in the studio, where Nigel Pegrum’s expertise and guidance was paramount. Even though he was the drummer of Steeleye Span for many years, Nigel’s more into rock. He kept steering us away from folk pastures, reminding us of our brief to create a fresh, new sound.” Keyboard player Tom See Poy and saxophonist Ruedi Homberger were enlisted for early sessions, injecting some leftfield jazz tones to the music.

A band was quickly gathered around the concept – David Martin on vocals, fiddle and digeridoo, Will Kepa on bass, Ben Hakalitz (Yothu Yindi) on drums, and Andree Baudet on sax – and with the help of Pegrum, their efforts blossomed into The Push in all its colourful, diverse glory. With that original inspiration of the likes of La Bottine Souriante in mind, Tony attests that “Kamerunga was specifically designed as a big festival band” and with their Woodford triumph under their belts, their focus is set on the imminent Port Fairy and Dreaming festival shows. After that? World domination of course. If anyone is to take bush folk to international stages, it’s Kamerunga.

- Rhythms magazine, February 2009

"Oztrax profile"

Kamerunga from the album The Push

Australian Bush music is never likely to dominate the Pop charts but that is hardly the concern of eclectic North Queensland band, Kamerunga. To call Kamerunga a Folk group or Bush band, however, would be to miss the point. Kamerunga may start from traditional roots but when these are interwoven with hints of Classical, Jazz, Reggae, Rock and World music influences, we are talking about a very different musical beast. Kamerunga are a musical mirror for the exotic and tropical environment of their hometown of Cairns. Their debut album, ‘The Push’ contains the very clever interplay of both instruments and ideas, as you will discover on “Congress Reel”. Festival attendees may already be familiar with Kamerunga but for others it may be just another reason to visit the nation’s tropical north. Also worthy of note about ‘The Push’ is in it’s glossy production, achieved by Nigel Pegrum, ARIA award winner, and former member of English Folk band, Steeleye Span. (Not for those specific reasons, of course, we just think he did a great job.) In late breaking news, Kamerunga's 'The Push' is also a strong contender in the World Music category of the upcoming 2009 ARIA Awards. - Oztrax

"Cairns Post article"

Musical fusion
Denise Carter
Thursday, May 28, 2009
© The Cairns Post

New band Kamerunga plans to bring The Push, its debut album, and a new spin on folk to the festivals of the world. Denise Carter talks to the band about their groundbreaking work
Kamerunga - it is a small suburb of Cairns near Freshwater but it is also a band with unique blend of folk, jazz, funk, reggae and so much more.

The brainchild of Peter Ella and his Snake Gully band mate, Tony Hillier, it’s been storming the festival circuit and it’s just seven months since the band’s launch at The Tanks.

Peter composes most of the arrangements, which mix Celtic, reggae, funk, jazz and a dash of classical.

"Kamerunga is an evolving thing," Peter says.
"It was basically an experiment to see what we could come up with and to see if what we came up with could translate and be able to be played live."

Tony Hillier says he’s always been interested in the fusion of folk and other world music.
Some British outfits like Steeleye Span, ARIA award winner Nigel Pegrum’s old band, which mixes rock and folk, have been inspirations, as more recently has been the likes of Canadian-French band La Botine Souriante (the name means "the smiling boot").

"These bands are taking their heritage to folk music," Tony says. "They’ve really taken that music and are giving it new currency by mixing it with other styles, but not in a way that’s injurious to the core music."

The Bushwackers were a favourite of Tony’s in the ’70s. He says they "single-handedly revived Australian bush music by mixing it with rock".

But that was a long time ago, so Peter and Tony felt it was about time a band came to fill the abyss and inject new life into folk.
Enter Kamerunga.

The band takes old bush melodies that celebrate the Australia of shearers and drovers, and gives them a dynamic twist.

From reels to reggae to the rap of Tony Hillier’s original song, Mulligan, about the man who discovered the Palmer River, and Dave Martin’s bluesy Stringybark Creek, the album never fails to entertain.

Revitalising and infusing Australian bush music with other genres is no easy task. But they had the help of Nigel Pegrum, who produced the band’s album in his studio in Whitfield, and suggested they ask Ben Hakalitz from the Tribe of Jubal and former Yothu Yindi drummer as well as bass guitarist Will Kepa to join.
Guest stars Tom Sepoy and Ruedi Homberger brought their own blend of jazz to proceedings.

Nigel also introduced Andree Baudet, the frontline female saxophonist and keyboardist, with a sultry voice to boot.

"She’s quite brilliant and brings a different complexion to Celtic music," Tony Hillier says.

"I love it," says Andree, who has recently released her solo album, Back on Track. "It’s a real focus for me."

Much of Kamerunga’s The Push came naturally, with the new sound taking off like magic when the eclectic musicians convened in the recording studio.

With so many layers and intricacies to the music, the band worried they might not be able to re-create their sound live.

They did, though, and more.
"We went to Woodford and halfway through one number we go from a reel and we build it right up to a tumultuous climax and then take it down to guitar and mandolin," Tony Hillier says. "Everyone erupted and I have to say I’ve been playing in bands for 20 years and it’s the first time I’ve experienced anything like it."
Such responses have continued at festivals from Woodford to Port Fairy.

Tony Hillier has a dream and it looks like Kamerunga will have no trouble fulfilling it: "I just want to play the very best festivals, not only in Europe but in North America and around the world."

Kamerunga is booked for the Bellingen Global Carnival in New South Wales, the Maldon Folk Festival in Victoria and the Cygnet Folk Festival in Tasmania, as well as the Wallaby Creek and Yungaburra festivals cloer to home, they’ve already had overseas interest.

This week The Tanks, then The Dreaming at Woodford, next stop the world.
- Cairns Post 28/05/09


Still working on that hot first release.



Kamerunga, from tropical northeast Queensland, has redefined and reinvigorated Australian folk, blending original composition with tradition and elements of world music, jazz, classical, rock and reggae to create a vivid new fusion.

Since its inception in 2008, the band has performed at every major Australian roots music festival, including the National Folk Festival (three times in five years), Port Fairy Folk Festival (three times in six years), WOMADelaide, Fairbridge Festival (twice in three years), Australasian World Music Festival (twice in five years), Byron Bay Bluesfest, Woodford Folk Festival and Bellingen Carnival. Kamerunga inaugurated its international career as Australia's sole representative at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo, an event that featured bands from more than 20 countries. 

The band's ARIA-nominated 2008 debut album 'The Push' and the 2013 follow-up 'Worlds Kaleid' were enthusiastically received by reviewers in Australia and the UK (see comments below). The band's third album, 'Terra Australis', released worldwide on premier UK label Arc Music in late September 2014, has received rave reviews and airplay in several countries, including the BBC. The band's new single 'The Hour Before Dawn' is getting similar plaudits and airplay.

Kamerunga originals have adorned a Putumayo world music compilation, figured prominently in a soccer World Cup on-line promotion commissioned by Visa and been play-listed on Qantas and Virgin domestic and international flights.

The band's frontline comprises the creme de la creme of Queensland-based multi-instrumentalists in Peter Ella (acoustic & electric guitars, tenor guitar, mandolin, banjo, violin), Andree Baudet (saxophones, keyboards, cello) and lead singer David Martin (violin, mandolin, didgeridoo), supported by a dynamic rhythm section Torres Strait Islander Will Kepa (bass) and Nigel Pegrum (drums) with national music writer and reviewer Tony Hillier on rhythm guitar, backing vocals and percussion. Pegrum, also the band's producer, was the original drummer in legendary English bands the Small Faces and Steeleye Span. He performed with the latter for the best part of 20 years.


This is what 'Inside World Music' said about Kamerunga: "While Yothu Yindi may be one of the most popular groups to come out of Australia, Kamerunga produces a more engaging and varied listening result that is mostly non-rock oriented. At any rate, the mix of jazzy, folk, roots, and globally-inspired tunes will set anyone's feet ablaze with musical fire … "

The Weekend Australian gave 'Worlds Kaleid'  4 stars and said: "The term world music is often misused as a catch-all for anything that sounds vaguely exotic or unfamiliar to Western ears, but it's a tempting label for the organic product of well structured dalliances between boisterous Australian folk and the infectious rhythms of a veritable multicultural melange."

In another 4-star review, the Sydney Morning Herald commented: "Part of the albums appeal, apart from its very obvious exuberance, is its sensitive and intelligent use of virtuoso musicians ... Worlds Kaleid is a fine example of innovative musical cross-fertilisation."

Top UK magazine Songlines also gave the CD 4 stars: "What makes their arrangements unusual is that their sprightly jigs are interwoven with creative time changes, Latin-jazz touches and Middle-Eastern instrumentation." Another prestigious UK mag, fRoots, waxed lyrically about what they described as Kamerunga’s “clever and tasteful concoctions, devoid of overkill and kitchen sink tendencies”.

Shane Howard, one of the Australia's most respected musicians, commented: "Worlds Kaleid is inventive, bold, and shines with brave and dazzling musicianship. The album surprises ... at times its jazz, at times jigs and reels. It rocks, it folks, it jazzes and gypsies it's way into your head and I can't get it out. It's a great record.

Leading Australian jazz musician and composer, Paul Grabowsky commented: "Kamerunga breathe new life into Australian folk music".


2008 The Push (Kamerunga Records / Planet Co.)

2012 Worlds Kaleid (Kamerunga Records / Planet Co.)

2014 Terra Australis (Arc Music, UK)

2015 The Hour Before Dawn single (iTunes etc)

Band Members