Wongawilli – After the Tradition


Wongawilli and the Wongawilli Colonial Dancers have been ambassadors of the tradition of social music and dances of Australia’s settlers for the past 10 years. They have been passionate in preserving this tradition and heritage through lively, colourful and entertaining performances. The songs and music performed by the band relate the struggles, achievements and experiences of Australia’s many diversified settlers. The unique musical style includes acoustic instruments and authentic material from older performers.

“Here you are mate, you’d better have a copy of this” were the words of Dave De Santi as he handed me a copy of the Wonga’s re-release of After the Tradition. Of course I had a copy or two of the original cassette but these days it is a bit of a bind to play it after the convenience of CD. I suppose listening to the material again could be likened to an uncle opening up a photo album and looking (listening) to images of his favourite nephews and nieces and all the great memories that this can bring. Being present at the birth and watching them grow was a wonderful experience and this recording was their first words and especially exciting as I had a small influence in the words they were speaking. Memories of people like Bill Cooper, Paddy Godden and Bert Jamieson whose tunes are these days well known in the folk repertoire, but then were unknown, flooded back. Thoughts of the many happy occasions we had spent with these older players who are now long gone. The Celtic influence was still strong in the 1980’s and formative bush bands (mine included) still used the tunes and songs of the second generation (1970’s) Bushwackers. By this stage I had been travelling and collecting with John Meredith and we were playing some traditional tunes in our band `Blackridge’ which was based in Forbes so we did not have much influence. Besides this we put the band to bed in 1990 to concentrate on my collecting. This left the ‘Bush Bands’ of the day still playing the Waves of Tory and singing the Ryebuck Shearer, both at the speed of light. Merro and I just waited and started making these very rough demo tapes of tunes we had collected and handing them out to our mates. The salvation came in the form of one of these people a young bloke by the name of De Santi and his friends who had formed a musical group in the Illawarra and who had a passion for the traditional material. John Harpley had knowledge of the old bush songs, being raised in the bush at Eugowra and the others who had formed the core of the band Wongawilli shared this interest. The Murrays, Graeme with his great singing voice and the knowledgeable and talented Reg bought an aspect of traditional country music and musical experience. Neil McCann a brilliant songwriter and instrumentalist in his own right and of course (to me) the sound of Wongawilli was the subtle piano playing of Tania De Santi (or was it Brownlee then’?). Tania you are always in the background but I do know and appreciate the amount of effort you have put in over the years. And of course the incredible drive and musical talent of Dave De Santi –what a combination, they could not miss. To me this CD, or tape as it was when first released in the mid 1980’s, changed the course of Australia’s concept of traditional music and song just as the original Bushwhackers had in the 1950’s. It bought to a wide audience the collected tunes and songs played in a manner that was representative of the era. This was complimented by the musicianship and vocal talents of these early Wongas. More strength to you Wongawilli in whatever guise you may be, you have done so much to preserve and disseminate the traditions of Australia.” Review by Rob Willis.

About the artist: “This ensemble is highly regarded in the field of interpreting authentic Australian traditional music, song and dance as a performance art. The group is recognised in Australia as a leading force in the revitalisation of our folk traditions” – Warren Fahey AM.

2 in stock (can be backordered)

SKU: TN208-41 Category:

Additional information

Weight .200 kg
Dimensions 22 × 16 × .50 cm


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