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Gondwanaland, originally billed as Gondwanaland Project, were an ARIA Award winning Australian musical ensemble which combined indigenous Australian instruments such as didgeridoo and bullroarer with western instruments such as synthesizer and guitar.

Biography

Gondwana refers to the hypothetical continental landmass of the prehistoric Mesozoic era that included Antartica, South America, Africa, India and Australia.

Sydney musician Charlie McMahon formed Gondwanaland Project in order to combine his love for the Australian outback and his didgeridoo playing and was amongst the first musicians to unite western and traditional indigenous music into the nascent genre of world music.

McMahon took up the didgeridoo as a teenager and perfected his technique over the years he spent working in Central Australia. Much of McMahon's music was inspired by landscapes, in particular the endless horizons of the desert. To achieve the unique sound McMahon required for his desert tunes, he joined up with synthesiser player Peter Carolan in 1981.

Gondwanaland issued a self-financed cassette, Didgeridu-Synth, in 1983. In 1984 McMahon and Carolan assembled a small studio band of musician friends (including Rob Hirst (Midnight Oil) and Andrew DeTeliga) and recorded the first Gondwanaland album under the title Terra Incognita, which was released on the small independent Hot label, together with the single "Danger"/"Drought" in May, 1984.

In April 1985 McMahon was flown to London to perform with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on the recording of Maurice Jarre's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome soundtrack. When he returned a month later an advertisement was placed in a music paper 'Gondwana Wana Drummer'. They received only one response from an energetic multi-format percussionist called Eddy Duquemin. He joined the live Gondwanaland band at which time McMahon decided to make the group his full time occupation.

In November 1985, Midnight Oil commenced a 26-date local tour starting in Dubbo with Gondwanaland supporting, this gave the newly constituted three piece some 'tour of duty' exposure [if not exactly the type of audience they were hoping to attract].

The Powderworks label in 1986 issued Gondwanaland's second album, Let the Dog Out. It contained a bracket of aggressive, up-tempo numbers followed by two extended compositions, the first of which, "Ephemeral Lakes", later became a regular choice for meditative ambient music compilations.

In 1987, after a year of extensive live work in Sydney and an Arts Council sponsored four week tour of the Northern Territory, the band signed with WEA, releasing their third album, self titled Gondwanaland in 1988. It had taken many months to record and while the prolonged touring helped tighten the arrangements some of the groups intense live energy was diluted by the usual studio technique of making a separate recording of each member's instrumental part before a final mix. Gondwanaland however went on to win an ARIA Award in 1998 for 'Best Indigenous Release'. One track from this collection, "Landmark", is notable as it features the first use of McMahon's invention, the multi-tone, slide didgeridoo called 'didjeribone'.

In November 1988 Gondwanaland performed during the 'Tomita Sound Cloud In Sydney - Hymn To Mankind', a $3 million (AUS), Japanese government sponsored, light and sound, opera spectacular held on Sydney Harbourmarker as part of the Australian Bicentennial celebrations. The concert attracted an audience of over 120,000 an Australian record for a live music event.

Their fourth album Wildlife (which was released in 1989) was a live recording of their favourite tracks in a Sydney nightclub (appropriately called Kakadu). The group achieved its strongest combination of ambient and avant-garde experimentation on this album, with tracks like "Highway" and "Deja Vu" evoking the vastness and loneliness of Central Australia.

Gondwanaland's next album, Wide Skies (1992) came after touring the top end of Australia and includes guest performances by Bobby Bunungurr, Cleis Pierce, Maroochy Barambah, Andrew de Teliga, Blair Greenberg, Pee Wee Ferris and Carl Zhang. It was produced by Martin Armiger and was released by WEA in 1992. Gone were the earthy good time romps and quiet moments of reflection, now complex panoramic chord clusters enveloped the arrangements in an almost overwhelming evocation of the sky and all that happens in and under it. This album's multi-layered textures and moods earned the band even greater critical respect.

McMahon went onto to form a second band, Gondwana, with an emphasis on rhythm and increasingly dominant bass and experimental didge sounds. The band released three albums: Travelling (1994), Xenophon (1998), and Bone Man (2003), with the last two featuring another McMahon innovation: the mouth-held use of a geologist's seismic microphone to amplify the growling subsonic didge dynamics. This approach to music gave McMahon a new audience: the trance/dance crowd. A success evidenced by the placing of a Gondwana tune in the all important opening track position on each of the two volumes of highly successful Australian trance/dance compilation series.

A compilation, Over Gondwanaland, was released in 2005 on the Latisphere World Music label.

Members

  • Charlie McMahon - didgeridoo, vocals (1981-1992)
  • Peter Carolan - synthesiser (1981-1992)
  • Eddie Duquemin - drums, percussion (1986-1992)


Discography

Gondwanaland/Gondwanaland Project

  • Didgeridu-Synth - Independent (1983)
  • Terra Incognita - Hot (1984 - as Gondwanaland Project)
  • Let the Dog Out - Powderworks (1986)
  • Gondwanaland - WEA (1988)
  • Wildlife - WEA (1990)
  • Wide Skies - WEA (1992)
  • Big Land - WEA (1994)
  • Over Gondwanaland - Latisphere World Music (2005)


Gondwana

  • Traveling (1994)
  • Xenophon - Log/Shock (1998)
  • Spirit of Gondwana - Latisphere World Music (2000)
  • Bone Man - Log/Shock (2003)


References

External links




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