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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Chris/Darwin What is a bush band? (15) RE: What is a bush band? 08 Dec 99


I have played in a couple of bush bands, including 15 years in one based in Tamworth in country NSW.

We played mostly in village halls, church halls,etc., but occasionally in clubs and pubs. Away from the main centres our audience consisted of farming families. Most of these people knew little of "bush music" as an art form, but loved the experience of meeting their district neighbours in a social setting, and dancing the night away.

In the smaller towns we found sometimes that people had driven two hours or more from "out bush" to get to the dance. To these people it would not have made much difference if we were a C&W band, and so we tended to play some waltzy C&W songs - although not "Achy Breaky!"

We often drove for hours across flat farming country to get to a venue (dodging kangaroos), and were very glad to see the small glow on the horizon 15 minutes before we got there.

Most of the band members came from an urban environment, and it was easy to romanticise about life in the "bush". But the fact is that most rural families are barely surviving, and working harder as farms get bigger and margins decline.

We played the usual mixture of mainly Irish and Scottish tunes, and mostly Australian folk songs. Many of these were modern songs, and not always about the bush, but you quickly learn what works and what doesn't.

I come from an urban background, and fell in love with folk music at an early age. Learning music and playing melody instruments was part of a natural progression. I fell into a bush band by accident, but stayed because I enjoyed performing, and the discipline of having to learn to play things properly (I am pretty lazy!)

Having said all that I am not sure that there is a definition of what makes a bush band. I have been a judge at the annual Battle of the Bush Bands in Tamworth, and I have seen good and bad, traditional and modern, C&W and/or country rock influenced and not, and so on. Many bands that were not traditional folk bands I loved for their enthusiasm and entertainment value. At least one "traditional" band was so boring that no-one went to their concerts. I have seen city-based bands of all sorts that have been very good.

Consequently, I guess any band that plays a predominance of Australian "folk" material could be classified as "bush". We had the usual fiddles, mandolins, whistles, both tea-chest ("bush") and electric bass, percussion, keyboards, etc., even clawhammer and bluegrass banjo. Other bands use accordians and squeeze boxes of every description, and everything from hammered dulcimers to jaws harps. Deep down I remain a folkie, and since moving to Darwin have concentrated on learning new songs. I still think of myself as a bush musician, and I do live out of town in the bush!

Hope I didn't confuse things too much.


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