• Desert Diva Bronwyn Stuart in the studio with Mentor Dallas Frasca (MusicNT Adelaide)Source: MusicNT Adelaide
In 2012, MusicNT launched Australia’s first Indigenous female compilation album Desert Divas Volume I. Five years later, they’re back at it again with a fresh crop of musical talent.
Danny Teece-Johnson

21 Mar 2016 - 5:50 PM  UPDATED 21 Mar 2016 - 5:50 PM

The Desert Divas songwriting and recording program, has been going strong since their first compilation album was released. Now a new group of eight Desert Divas, selected from the Desert, Saltwater and Barkly programs will participate in mentoring and music workshops. The sessions culminate in the release of Desert Divas Volume II, recorded by award-winning producer Anna Laverty and showcasing a kaleidoscope of genres, stories and language.

“Getting to hear different genres and learning from my mentor Leah Flanagan, on how to write our songs has been an amazing experience. It’s great for our confidence to be able to work with all these amazing people. It lifts you up to keep writing and to go further into my music,” says participant Jillian Moody from Tennant Creek in the Barkly region.

“And to the young sister girls thinking about singing, don’t be shame. Put that aside otherwise you will miss out on the experience.”

On working with Jillian, Leah Flanagan says “It’s great writing with someone like Jillian because she has life experiences and is starting her music career later in life. I feel really privileged to be able to work with her and give her support. It’s really rewarding helping other women get their voices out. The Indigenous voice is often suppressed; especially women’s. So to be able to be a part of this program and help tell their stories is very empowering.”

Bronwyn Stuart is an emerging musician and Hermannsburg resident, mentored by Dallas Frasca and Ursula Yovich. On being a part of Deadly Divas, she says “Having someone to support and encourage us has been really awesome. I’m a pretty shy person and Dallas & Ursula has really pushed us. I can’t thank them enough for pushing us towards our goals, I feel really comfortable. I’m feeling very confident in myself and I know I can do it.”

“There is no such thing as ‘could or would’. I just know I can do it.”

Meanwhile, Alice Springs’ Rita Tomlins was mentored by Grammy award-winning artist Nai Palm from Hiatus Kayote. “This experience has been mind blowing, seeing the other side of music, especially the tech side. It’s been so much fun. So much that I want to quit my 9 to 5 job and just do music,” she says.

“My mentor Nai Palm has been so down to earth, so real and I just feel lucky to have worked with her. I feel so privileged to be a part of the Desert Divas program. I just want to do music! I hope to release and album in the near future and I’m inspired to learn the flute,” she says.

Nai Palm says “I’ve never had a musical duckling before, I’ve only been in situations where it’s totally collaborative. But DD is the first time that I’ve been able to hone in on somebody else’s gift and help that flourish without my own ego or creative investment.”

“A lot of her skills are naturally intuitive and it really didn’t take a whole lot of pushing to inspire her to blossom into a receptive student and mega super star."

"This whole experience has been like finding another sector of my family.”

For producer Anna Laverty’s part, she believes the program is “important because most of these women have never recorded before and it can be very scary the first time. And being able to do that in a supportive environment will hopefully give them the confidence to keep going.”

Desert Divas Volume II will be released in September with live performances scheduled for later in the year.