TO paraphrase a Billy Connolly story; if it’s only Scots singers that get over-emotional about longing for their homeland despite having never left – how must it feel for those singing about their native land who are several thousand miles away from home?
Those like Aboriginal singer-songwriter Frank Yamma: a man who probably has more in common with Outer Space than anything in-and-around West Register Street. Prior to going onstage, Yamma paced the pavement outside the Voodoo Rooms. He looked a bit lonely, perhaps even a little nervous that anyone turning up to last night’s gig wouldn’t “get” what he was all about.
After all, Yamma sings a large portion of his set in his native tongue. Would people feel left out if they didn’t understand it? And would world music fans be dismayed when they realised his musical style is more in keeping with contemporary Western music than the Aboriginal folk tradition? If they did, then it didn’t show, as the predominately ex-pat Aussie crowd hung on his every word. Even if the dialect was impossible to understand, so soulful and impassioned is Yamma’s singing you couldn’t fail to be moved.
The man from Down Under has lived after all. Poor, he once had to wash himself in the ocean for six months and spent time in jail for drink-driving. Such experiences produced many of the best songs on show, as well as providing much of the humour.
Yet, Yamma has no self-consciousness at all. He talks, and plays, as though the world can wait: calm, candid, at ease in front of strangers.
He’s also a curious guitar player. His style is ragged – far from perfect, but intriguingly unique. Nevertheless, with David Bridie’s piano backing, and an ethereal-sounding guitarist on-hand, managed to paint some vividly evocative pictures of small-town life in nowhere-Australia via pop, rock, blues and everything in between.
Yamma may come from the other side of the world, but by the end of the night he seemed right at home.