Hailing from the tiny outstation of Manmoyi in Western Arnhem land, Nabarlek – ‘the garage band that never had a garage’, have been leading the musical charge from the bush for two decades.
Across a career spanning more than twenty years, charismatic front man Terrah Guymala together with his brother Ross (vocals) have led the eight-piece group to produce rock, reggae, country, and gospel inspired music. Moving from traditional song and dance through acoustic contemporary songs to full on rock, Nabarlek’s music reflects the ancient stories and customs of the ‘rock country’ people from their homelands and are usually performed in a modern arrangement, sung in their language: Kunwinj’ku
It all began in 1985 when Nabarlek consisted of two busted acoustic guitars and a set of upturned flour tins for drums. Working as a traditional dance troupe across the Top End enabled them to purchase new instruments and focus on their long held dream of becoming a serious band from Arnhem Land.
Their first album produced ‘Munwurrk’ (meaning bushfire – an essential part of hunting and bush renewal) was a developmental album which paved the way for a considerable understanding of the music industry and the recording process. The follow up, ‘Bininj Manborlh’ achieved a broader national audience with Triple J spinning the album which went onto received a coveted ARIA nomination in 2002 – confirming Nabarlek as the breakthrough indigenous artists the nation had their eyes on.
The third studio release, Manmoyi Radio was to become a signature album for the boys from Manmoyi featuring theirinfamous cover of the Men at Work classic ‘Down Under’ sung in Kunwinj’ku. The album starts and ends with a 2-way radio dialogue in local language and goes onto showcase a diverse range of songs that prove Nabarlek are a rock band who are capable of beautiful, gentle ballads.
In 2007 Nabarlek scooped up the major accolades at the NT Indigenous Music Awards, winning Album & Artwork of the Year for Manmoyi Radio. The band’s main songwriter Terrah Guymala was awarded Song of the Year for‘Little Journey to Manmoyi’, and ‘Brown Bird’ clip won them Film Clip of the Year.
Over the course of their career, Nabarlek have performed with the Darwin Symphony Orchestra and Yothu Yindi, supported Midnight Oil and played with Silverchair and Powderfinger. They have played at national festivals in the NT, SA & VIC and have been invited to a number of international performances including Germany, Paris, Mexico & Venezuela.
In 2004, 2008 and 2011 the band were selected to participate in Country Arts WA touring programs, which saw Nabarlek deliver workshops, performances and mentoring of up and coming musicians in remote desert communities, spending 4-8 weeks on the road each tour. Since the touring program began, a rock documentary ‘Nabarlek on Tour’ has continuously aired on National Indigenous TV.
With 4 albums in hand, a music industry case study (in DVD) ‘From Outstation to Out there’, an ARIA nomination and swag of awards, the ability to draw huge audiences from Port Headland to Elcho Island and all across Australia’s top end, to represent Australia on the international stage – it is little wonder Nabarlek have earned the title of ‘the Rolling Stones of Aboriginal Australia’.