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Port Fairy, Victoria, Australia | Established. Jan 01, 1978 | INDIE

Port Fairy, Victoria, Australia | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1978
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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"Angry Song became Solid Rock battle cry"

SINGER Shane Howard had an epiphany when he went camping out near Uluru in 1981. That's when the idea for his song Solid Rock came into his head.
Now, 30 years after Howard's band Goanna had a hit with the song, he's going back to Uluru to perform it, with the help of a handful of artists who, like him, have championed indigenous rights through their work.
Solid Rock was Howard's response to the injustices he saw in some of Australia's indigenous communities in 1981. The song has remained one of the most famous and powerful anthems of Aboriginal rights and equality in Australia. "It's my enduring legacy to culture in this country," Howard said yesterday.
The singer has recorded three new versions of the song to mark the 30th anniversary, one of them featuring children from the Mutitjulu Community, in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where Howard will be joined by indigenous artists including Archie Roach, Dan Sultan, Warren H. Williams and Stephen Pigram for a two-day concert on October 6 and 7.

Howard has spent two years negotiating with the Mutitjulu people to have the concert, which will feature as part of the community's annual sport and culture carnival. "It's about taking the song back to the country it came from and celebrating," he said.
The singer said he was disappointed the federal government had this week decided not to pursue a referendum on recognising indigenous people in the Constitution. He believes, however, that within the music industry there has been an increase in recognition for indigenous artists in Australia since the time when Solid Rock came out.
"If I go back to 1982, I don't think an Aboriginal band would have got airplay with that song," he said. "It was hard for Aboriginal bands to get airplay at all."
Also joining him for the weekend at Uluru will be singers Neil Murray, John Butler, Emma Donovan, Bart Willoughby, Amy Saunders and Natalie Pa'apa'a, from the Melbourne band Blue King Brown.
Sultan and Pa'apa'a weren't born at the time Solid Rock was released.
"It's an amazing rock song," said Sultan. "Unfortunately it's still relevant and it will be a while before it's not."
Melbourne-based Sultan, who has a series of concerts in November called Rock For Recognition in support of the referendum, said that while he writes love songs rather than political ones, "other artists who have talked about the struggle have made it possible for indigenous artists like me to be able to go and do what I want to do in the pop world. Being a successful young indigenous man is a bit of a political statement in itself."
Howard said he wrote Solid Rock after returning to Alice Springs from his camping trip and seeing the inequality that existed between the indigenous community and the mainstream population.
"I saw all the decimation colonisation had brought -- the grog, the chaos, the racism -- and what started out as a really beautiful song became an angry song.
For all that, it just tells a simple story," Howard said.
- The Australian

"In the tracks of Goanna, a dream takes shape"

FEW people try to hold a world in the palm of their hand. Shane
Howard holds a world made of two worlds where the wash of two
cultures flows and ebbs. It takes time for this pool of experience
to form; and then it takes more time to really acknowledge what
you have and how it has shaped the way your life has run.
The singer-songwriter has been looking into the mirror a lot
recently, searching for the young man - ''naive'' young man he
says now - who in 1981 went to Ayers Rock, as it was then
known, looking for another country within his own.
Those reflections have been distilled into Goanna Dreaming, his
recent album. The title echoes his band Goanna with whom he
recorded the landmark album Spirit of Place in 1982. It was from
his 1981 visit to the red centre that the song Solid Rock
coalesced, becoming a hit worldwide.
Next week a book titled Solid Rock, using the lyrics from the
song and illustrations from Aboriginal children from Mutitjulu,
Kaltukatjara and Imanpa and paintings by Queensland artist
Peter Hudson, will be published. Ian Thorpe's Fountain for
Youth, a charitable organisation for indigenous children, was a
major sponsor of the publication. The lyrics are also printed in
Pitjantjatjara. For example:
Standin' on solid rock
Standin' on sacred ground.
Ngaranyi katu pulingka
Ngaranyi katu manta miil-miilta.
Howard and Hudson went to Uluru last year for workshops with
the children of those communities. Money from the book will be
fed back into the communities for art and musical equipment.
It's a gesture of gratitude from Howard for what indigenous
culture and philosophy have given him these past 30 years, but
it's also one of a hundred little things that he has been involved
with across Australia, from the Kimberley to Tasmania, that he
hopes will grow, and thus ensure the survival of indigenous
culture. But this week he said he feared for that survival.
It's a brutal irony: non-indigenous people probably know more
about indigenous life than ever before, yet that life is under
''There's much greater awareness of indigenous culture,'' he
said, ''but it seems incredibly frail, possibly hanging on by a
fingernail. In my travels of the past three or four years, the sense
of anxiety is growing stronger inside me that we are potentially
on the edge of losing something incredibly precious - the
continuous living cultural memory of 40,000 to 50,000 years.
''Part of me wants to scream from the rooftops, 'Don't let this
disappear before our very eyes.' My fear is that by the time we
appreciate it in our non-indigenous society, it'll be gone.''
Life's fragility, and its beauty, marks Howard's work, and is
particularly acute in Goanna Dreaming. He opens with Earth is
Singing, taking him back to 1981 at Uluru, watching the sun set
and a full moon rise as Aborigines danced. He felt a
connectedness; it was a dawning within as well.
''In the time out there was an overwhelming feeling of
insignificance,'' he said, ''lying out at night the desert floor, on a
platform to space.'' In the following days he drove west from
Alice Springs - a town where he saw how colonisation had
created an ugly malaise of disease and despair - until there was
no sign of civilisation. He drove off the road, stopped the car and
walked into the horizon. He remembers thinking, ''You could die
out here and what would it mean? You'd fertilise a tree and that's
about as much as you're worth.''
In the preface to Solid Rock, the book, Howard writes: ''The
history I was taught at school didn't make sense with what I saw
around me in my home town (in south-west Victoria).'' He went
looking for answers, but he also found within himself a deep
anger at Aboriginal conditions.
But non-indigenous society had not wanted to look.
Forgetfulness was the easy option. Howard said society could no
longer claim ignorance, and while there had been steps, such as
the government apology, it required white society seriously
engaging with Aboriginal society, listening to a philosophy and
understanding a cosmology that was thousands of years old.
Flick this coin as a question to Howard: what gives you most
despair? He answers: self-interest and greed. He wonders
whether Australia nowadays has a national ethos beyond ''the
frenzied ballet of the quick-quid boys'', to quote his one-time
mentor Manning Clark.
On the other side of coin, what gives him hope? He replies: The
kids. - The Age, Warwick McFadyen, August 28, 2010

"Sweet and Dangerous Music: Soundtrack For A Secret Country"

Music has moved many of us to act, and inspires us in our work for justice and liberation. Close friends and comrades tell of how music has helped form, frame and inflame their political consciousness and hunger for justice. While much of the world is being colonised and doped up with formularized vacuous corporate pop/pap, music and the other arts still communicate with our hearts, minds and spirits, to sustain, nourish and move people in ways that articles, books and speeches perhaps don¹t.

The words and music of Australian singer-songwriter Shane Howard ( have occupied an important space in my life during the past twenty years. In 1982 I scoured London¹s record stores for a pricey imported copy of Goanna¹s "Spirit of Place" LP, after hearing Howard¹s "Solid Rock (Sacred Ground)", an indictment of the colonisation and dispossession of Indigenous Peoples in Australia. Howard has written many other equally fine and powerful songs, but few pieces of music have ever resonated as strongly with me. It was the first time I recall hearing the word "genocide" in a song.

"They were standing on the shore one day Saw the white sails in the sun Wasn¹t long before they felt the sting White man white law white gun Don ¹t tell me that it¹s justified ŒCause somewhere Someone lied Someone died Genocide"

In an interview with Goldmine (May 2002) Howard described his feelings about a visit to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Alice Springs in central Australia which led him to write the song. "I realised that this country that I grew up in, that I thought was my country, it wasn¹t. I had to reassess my whole relationship with the land and the landscape, and understand that we had come from somewhere else, and we had disempowered a whole race of people when we arrived."

In 1986 I lived and worked in Australia, saw Goanna in concert in Melbourne and found that the words and music of Goanna, Shane Howard, and his sometimes co-writer and bandmate, Aboriginal musician and poet Bart Willoughby, greatly helped me to understand what John Pilger has aptly dubbed "A Secret Country". While there, I hitchhiked along the Great Ocean Road through Gunditjmarra country, in South West Victoria, where Howard¹s musical family and Goanna hail from, still home to a vibrant and politically engaged music scene of black and white musicians, many of them recording in the same folk/rock idiom.

Since then, from London to Lahore, Melbourne to Montreal, Howard¹s songs have never been far away from me. They have been havens of refuge and relief in my personal and political life as I have battled to make sense of what one of his songs calls "a world all cut up with barbed wire fences" ("Free As Stone").

Living in Aotearoa (New Zealand), another white colonial settler state, working for social and economic justice, and in support of struggles for Indigenous Peoples¹ self-determination, they have been touchstones for much of my activism. Goanna recorded two other albums, "Oceania" and "Spirit Returns", combining Howard¹s songwriting, singing and playing with those of his sister Marcia and Rose Bygrave, both fine writers and singers in their own right (see my review of Bygrave¹s impressive 2001 CD, "Walking Home", at In 1983, Goanna recorded Howard¹s "Let The Franklin Flow" as a single and released it under the pseudonym Gordon Franklin and the Wilderness Ensemble. The song, written after Howard had joined the major protest actions against the proposed damming of Tasmania¹s pristine Franklin River, hit the Australian top 20 and became an anthem for the movement which ultimately won the fight to stop the dam and an ecological disaster. Just as his music reflects the landscapes of Australia, a passion for environmental justice has remained a major theme in his work.

Shane Howard has released six solo CDs, the latest of which, last year¹s self-financed and produced "Beyond Hope¹s Bridge", is a masterpiece of Irish influenced Australian folk music.

Musically and lyrically Howard has increasingly reflected on the history of his forebears that fled to Australia from Ireland during the Famine in the 1850s: "What I saw when in time we reached that fatal shore Men whose crime was to defend their native land and lore Dark skinned men with noble heads bound in iron chains Native people at the mercy of my same oppressor¹s reign" ("Silvermines", from "Clan", 1996)

Building on his folk music roots, his journeys to Ireland and connections with many Irish musicians have deeply enriched his recordings musically and thematically as he looked at his own history and drew parallels between the Irish experience of dispossession and emigration, and the colonisation of Australia. At the same time he has continued to co-write and play with Aboriginal artists like Willoughby, Kev Carmody, the poet Lionel Fogarty and Andy Alberts. He has also produced releases by Alberts, Jimmy Chi and the Pigram Brothers, among others.

As he put it in the liner notes to 1996¹s "Clan": "Here we are, as Australians, descended of migrants of many cultures, now living on Aboriginal country under a British colonial political system. How do any of us non-aboriginal people make sense of ourselves and who we are and what we are doing here? How do we reconcile the past with the present and future? How do we deal with living in a nation whose legacy to us is one of conquest. How do we face up to the immoral dispossession of the indigenous inhabitants?"

Howard¹s songs continue to explore these questions. About myth and reality. But he is as equally adept at singing about relationships, love, loss and hope. About life in big cities, and the remote Outback. Rivers, mountains, deserts and oceans sweep through his songs. His music draws links and connection between people, places and struggles for a better world, but also reminds us not to lose sight of the simple things in life.

Howard is a consummate weaver and teller of stories. The Melbourne Age¹s Warwick McFadyen calls him a "sculptor of song, chipping away at the rock of ages." The characters and situations he sings about seem alive and real. Like the Aboriginal war veteran in "One Eyed Johnny" from his debut solo CD, "Back To The Track": "I was a soldier in the Army, an educated man, a medal for bravery, a letter from the king, then I come back here, back to my home land, Œsorry about the job you¹re just the wrong colour man¹".

While they are deeply evocative of Australia, a "spirit of place", Howard¹s songs have a global reach. Music is an important part of my life, and there are few contemporary musicians who have made such an enduring impact.

In our struggles for a better world we need to take strong positions against imperialism and all forms of injustice. We need theory, we need to assert our values, we need to organise, to build strong communities of resistance and find courage to carry on. But to stay sane and balanced, we also need the music of people like Shane Howard to feed our souls and keep our hopes alive for a better future.
- By Aziz Choudry ZNET Commentary November 07, 2002

"Still searching for the spirit of place"

Singer-songwriter Shane Howard looks back over his career and to the future, writes Warwick McFadyen.

Shane Howard is back on the road in September with a new album and retrospective collection.

'They're all little rooms in a house."

The speaker and builder of this house is Shane Howard. The rooms are his songs. Open a door and you enter a part of his life.

Howard is speaking about his recently released double-CD Retrospect 1982-2002 . After two decades in the music business, Howard feels the compilation serves as a "marker" to his career, both for himself and the audience.

For someone who rarely looks back on his work, selecting the songs has been an "interesting and strange process". In the self-examination, some songs came back as a "little painful and some joyful". In the looking back, Howard says, two aspects came to the fore: musically among the good moments, there was also "plenty to cringe at"; and second, the framing of a man's spiritual world.

"From a lyrical point of view," Howard says, "you can see your moral universe that you've built and you can hope there's some sort of consistency there."

It speaks to the songwriter's analytical nature that he offers up this reflection. It isn't only emotion that goes into the songs, but history and experience, both his and that of other people's.

Retrospect includes Let the Franklin Flow , from 1983, which was written in protest at the proposed damming of the Franklin River. The song was only ever released as a single, but here it has a time and a place. A belonging. It follows Solid Rock and Razor's Edge , when Goanna were in the mainstream in the early '80s. In a remastered CD of Spirit of Place, Let the Franklin Flow is a bonus track. After the boom came the bust. The band broke up, Howard went bush, literally and metaphorically. He and corporate music parted company.

Two decades later, a new Howard album, Another Country , is due for release. It is self-financed and is distributed by independent company Metropolitan Groove Merchants. After the past few albums exploring his Irish ancestry, Another Country returns to the wider landscape of his country. The trouble is, he doesn't like what he sees. "We're living in anAustralia I don't recognise any more," he says. "The country I grew up in, the country I love, never invaded countries pre-emptively. I thought it was a nation egalitarian in nature - it's not any more. So many values have been squandered by this country.

"I remember Paul Keating saying years ago that the prime minister is responsible for the moral health of the country . . . and I think we're seeing the truth of that. John Howard is squandering the moral health of the nation incrementally.

"But, in a funny way in the midst of everything, I'm more optimistic than ever before. The Africans have a saying about life,that the cycle leads from innocence to experience to chosen innocence. I feel like I'm entering the era of chosen innocence."

The album also explores the inner landscape; of what it means to be human. The opening track, Coopers Creek , sets the scene when Howard sings "let's go deeper into the soul".

"Dad had a major stroke a year ago - he's 88 this year - and still going," Howard says. "There's been time to prepare forthe finality of a life, as prepared as you think you are, but when something major happens, you realise how unprepared you are.

"It made me think about mortality, love, family and values."

The cold shadow of death floated into his dreams about four months ago while he was sleeping. It woke him with a start, and gave an insight into what lies ahead. "I remember waking up about four months ago in the middle of the night and realising, 'It comes to an end'. I mean, we know that, but it was like a moment of revelation.

"But in many ways it's a joyful thing to get to this age (He's 50 in January). There's a lot of friends who didn't."

Howard looks to his father as a light by which to lead his life. "My father gave me a strong view of a good life fulfilled," he says. "He's a very simple and honest man."
The relationship between father and son, man and God and humanity is examined in the song Abraham on Another Country . Howard was fascinated with the story of a father, the love of God and son and which loyalty would win out and why. To Howard, love of a son would triumph over obedience to God. "There's a humanism that goes beyond religion," he says.

Another Country takes Howard back into a band setting and pairs him up again with longtime collaborator, guitarist Phil

"When I listen back to Retrospect , I've been struck by the fact that all the beautiful guitar lines are Phil's and how connected he was to what I've done."

With a new batch of songs coming into being, Howard persuaded Butson to abandon the recording console for a while and bring his guitar down to the "Killarney shed", Howard's name for his home recording studio near Port Fairy. "Thealbum just grew from there," he says.

That he has been able to keep nurturing a career in music, he puts down, in part, to good fortune. The Irish singer Mary Black has recorded many of his songs and taken him on tour through Europe, Ireland and the US. "I owe my creative existence to Mary Black and other artists, just through the flow of royalties through the leaner years," he says. "If you're an obscure artist in America, you can still make a living, whereas if you're an obscure artist in this country, you better get another job."
Still, would Howard live in another country when the life of this one flows through his art? It's impossible to think of him moving his house of song.
- Warwick McFadyen, The Age


1988 - Back to the Track
1990 - River
1993 - Time Will Tell
1994 - Live in Ireland, Australia & New Zealand
1996 - Clan
2001 - Beyond Hope’s Bridge
2004 - Retrospect: collected songs 1982-2003
2004 - Another Country
2006 - Songs Of Love & Resistance
2010 - Driftwood ( Rare and Unreleased)
2010 - Goanna Dreaming
2012 - Other Side of the Rock

. 1982 - Spirit of Place
. 1985 - Oceania (LP)
. 1992 - Oceania (CD)
. 1998 - Spirit Returns

singles & ep's
. 1979 - Living on the Razor's Edge (EP)
. 1982 - Solid Rock
. 1983 - Razor's Edge
. 1983 - Let the Franklin Flow
. 1983 - That Day... is comin' sooner
. 1984 - Common Ground
. 1985 - Dangerous Dancing
. 1985 - Song for Africa
. 1998 - Sorry
. 1998 - What Else Is A Life

2010 - Lyrics
2010 - Solid Rock - 'Puli Kunpungka' (Childrens Book)



Born in 1955 in South West Victoria, Shane Howard combines a deep understanding of poetic and musical folk traditions and captures something essential of the spirit of Australia in words and music, nevertheless, his songs have a global reach and explore universal themes.

Shane was the founding member of the legendary Australian band Goanna. Goanna's 'Spirit Of Place' album (1982) was the first Australian album to go to the top of the Australian charts in its first week of release. The album was released in 35 territories worldwide, with its greatest commercial success was in Australia. The first single from the album, ‘Solid Rock’, topped the charts back in 1982, displacing ‘Rock The Casbah’ by The Clash. ‘Solid Rock’ is now an Australian iconic son, heard regularly on Australian radio. The song was the first commercial song to use a didjeridu. Its powerful lyrics and music denounced the injustice that Aboriginal Australia had lived with, since the colonisation of Australia in 1788.

His solo albums have been well received critically and are consistent sellers. The 1993 single Flesh and Blood went on to be recorded by Mary Black who had a top 5 Irish single with her version of the song. He has produced albums for many other artists. Predominantly, these have been Aboriginal artists: Archie Roach, The Pigram Brothers, Joe Geia, Jimmy Chi, Patricia Clarke, Andy Alberts, Robbie Bundle, Rocky Carbine & Keith Williams.He has also produced tracks for Irish songstress Mary Black as well as Mossie Scanlon, Oriel Glennen and Colin Buchanan. His songs have been recorded by many artists including Mary Black, Troy CassarDaley, John Farnham and Lene Siel (Denmark).

He has toured Ireland, Australia, Holland and the US with Mary Black. A special guest of the Guinness Tour of Irish Music 1997. He performed with Joe Geia for Nelson Mandela's Australian visit to Melbourne in 2000. He was a guest performer for the Australian reception to welcome Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchu and a special guest for Senator Bob Brown's 25th Anniversary of the saving of the Franklin River in July 2008.

In announcing Shane as the Artist of the Year for the 2005 Port Fairy Folk Festival award, Festival Director, Jamie McKew said, "Shane Howard bridges the land between poet and song-writer; between prophet and singer; even between white fellas and indigenous artists".

Howard performed ‘Solid Rock’ at the 2006 Australian Football League Grand Final to an audience of 90,000 people, and at the 2007 and 2012 AFL, 'Dreamtime at the 'G'' matches.

He was awarded a Fellowship by the Australia Council for the Arts in 2000, in recognition of his contribution to Australian musical life.Howard was also an Australian representative at the 2000 North American Folk Alliance convention and is a life member of the Australian Folk Alliance.

As a founding member of ‘The Black Arm Band’, in 2008 and 2009 Howard traveled with the ensemble performances at WOMADUK, The Sydney International Festival, WOMADelaide, The Melbourne International Arts Festival and the London International Festival of Theatre. He has performed as
special guest on many of the Black Arm Band concerts.

In 2012 he released a book of his lyrics and a childrens book of the song, ‘Solid Rock’, illustrated with images by the young people from the communities of Mutitjulu, Imanpa & Kaltakatjara,
that all have strong connections to Uluru.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of his iconic song ‘Solid Rock’. To celebrate the anniversary of this iconic and historical song, a community concert was held at Uluru, in the shadow of the mighty iconic monolith where Howard was joined on stage by Archie Roach, Warren Williams,Neil Murray, John Butler, Dan Sultan, Amy Saunders and Natalie Pa’apa’a.

Howard continues to work as a writer, singer, producer and mentor traveling nationally & internationally.

‘While they are deeply evocative of Australia, a "spirit of place", Howard¹s songs have a global reach. … there are few contemporary musicians who have made such an enduring impact…. we need the music of people like Shane Howard to feed our souls and keep our hopes alive for a better future.
Aziz Choudry, Montreal

"He sounds as though he has drunk deeply from the same fountain that gave the world Henry Lawson, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan".
Bruce Elder - Sydney Morning Herald

For more information visit his website and his MySpace page to hear samples of his music.

Band Members