“I was taken away from my family when I was three years-old. I got bone marrow disease when I was six.”
“I was in plaster for two-and-a-half years after that ... but survived all this chaos and became a musician.”
It’s hard to believe that one of the "loudest drummers in the world" was once restricted by plaster.
But nothing would stand in the way of a young Bart Willoughby, who at the age of 16, set out to achieve his musical dream.
“I’m a drummer. And I’m the loudest drummer in Australia.”
“I mastered it before anyone else,” he said.
In 1976, Bart left the Koonibba Mission near Ceduna in South Australia, and two years later formed Australia’s first Indigenous rock band No Fixed Address.
“I grew up listening to country and western, rock and roll and heavy metal. So when Bob Marley popped up I just totally loved him.”
“I’ve been playing all types of music ever since,” said Mr Willoughby.
Bart is internationally recognised for his distinct sound, a unique blend of Jamaican reggae with traditional Indigenous influences.
The Pitjantjatjara man says his music is his voice.
“I’m a politician who knows how to swing. I’m not a boring politician who thinks he knows how to play music.”
In 1983, No Fixed Address became the first Aboriginal band to travel overseas. When quizzed about his career highlight Bart doesn't hesitate, "performing at Madison Square Garden - twice."
After stints playing drums with Coloured Stone and Yothu Yindi, Bart founded a new band in 1989 known as Mixed Relations.
In 2007 he formed the Bart Willoughby Band and in 2013 became the first Indigenous artist to play the pipe organ.
At age 56, Bart says his flourishing career is just getting started.
“I feel 25 years-old. I have another 50 years to go,” he said.
The ‘Godfather of Reggae’ will headline Tuesday's Yabun Festival in Sydney and he says ‘it’s good to be home.’
Bart Willoughby plays at the Yabun Festival 2016, a free event from 10am to 6pm, Victoria Park, Camperdown, Sydney. Click here for more details.