Here’s a task for you.
1. Find someone who hasn’t heard Tiddas before (this will be difficult)
2. Sit them down in front of your music system
3. Play them in any Tiddas track – an ideal introduction would be ‘Inanay’, ‘Sing About Life’ or ‘Ignorance is Bliss’
4. Call them two days later and ask them to sing it back to you. Chances are it will have been haunting them ever since they first heard it and they’ll never forgive you for invading their brain space.
Tiddas are like that – their music strikes such a deep chord you just can’t get it out of your mind.
The three women who make up Tiddas – Lou Bennett, Sally Dastey and Amy Saunders – started out as backing vocalists in Amy’s brother Richard’s band Djaambi. (Richard provided the inspiration for the chant at the end of the track ‘You and Me Running’. Apparently he used to have his own never ending rendition that went ‘Ging gang gooly gooly gooly gooly …’ and so on).
Having been encouraged by various Aunties to break out on their own they agreed to do what theyh thought would be a one-off acoustic set, just the three of them in August 1990.
From that appearance they were booked for more gigs and the ball hasn’t stopped rolling since.
For a long while Tiddas tended to be thought of as being a great support act who could open any show with the minimum of fuss because of their easy set up (and their easy going personalities). But the release last year of Tiddas their second album saw them go on a two month tour of Australia which established them as a headline band in their own right.
For the first time since 1990 Lou, Sally and Amy are currently taking a bit of a break for Tiddas. But never fear they’ll be back together in October when fingers crossed they’ll be back on the road. In the meantime to keep our minds filled with their sweet voices, a remixed version of ‘Walk Alone’ is due to be released in the next couple of months.
“Being proud is about celebrating your differences not criticising them. We need to look at what we’ve got in Australia, all the different cultures and to recognise the beautiful parts of them.” Lou Bennett
Mindful of the fact that you couldn’t have possibly had a women’s issue without talking with Tiddas, Deadly Vibe spoke to Lou Bennett.
Deadly Vibe: Looking at the Aboriginal music scene there seem to be a far greater proportion of women involved than you’d find in the white music scene … why do you think that is?
Lou Bennett: Maybe it’s because there’s a different attitude with the Aboriginal women. There’s much more cultural unity and we know we’re singers and people have their duties
whether they’re dancers or story tellers they are responsibilities that we have in our community.
Deadly Vibe: Tell us about your influences. Who are your favourite women singers and why?
Lou Bennett: I’ve got so many – what I really look for in artists is uniqueness and strength. For example, Judith Durham is a brilliant musician and songwriter and Tracey Chapman has always been an idol. Then at the more community minded, grass roots level there are people like Toni Janke, Marlene Cummins and Brenda Gifford.
Deadly Vibe: As well as singing you play guitar, how did you get started?
Lou Bennett: I’ve always been trying my hand at music since I was a kid but I didn’t actually pick up the guitar until I was 19. I’m left handed and all my uncles are right handed but none of them would agree to change the strings around for me, the mongrels. They just said I should watch them. In the end it’s turned out to be good. It’s meant that not only have I got lots of other people’s bits and pieces in there.
Deadly Vibe: There are some really beautiful songs on ‘Tiddas’. One of my favourites is ‘Mission Song’. When I first heard it I couldn’t get it out of my head.
Lou Bennett: I wrote that out of a lot of frustration thinking about the journeys we take in our lives, what would have happened if Captain Cook had given us a more reconcilable treaty, how history would have taken a different course. We’ve has a journey that we shouldn’t have been through, what with the stolen children and the genocide.
Deadly Vibe: You’re taking a well-earned rest from Tiddas at the moment but what we want to know is when we’ll be able to hear you again.
Lou Bennett: We’ll be coming back together in October. There’s talk of playing in New Caledonia again which will be great. We’ve already played there three times. The indigenous people are really indigenous what they do with food like taro and yam. It’s a special place for me because I went there in my childhood, when I was 12 with my parents and sister. My parents were very generous taking us with them – it was actually their honeymoon!
Deadly Vibe: What advise have you got for young black women?
Lou Bennett: Be proud of what you are, it can be hard as a young woman; I wasn’t proud when I was young. A lot of that was the outside conditions with society saying ‘you’re overweight’ or ‘you’re half caste’ or ‘you’re a lezzo’. Now I look at all of those things and see the beauty in them – as a lesbian, a Djadjawurung or Yorta Yorta and as a woman.
The music helped me become proud of who I am and so did my family.