Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

A funky world music mish-mosh with an Australian sound from Outback

I gave our old manchester and doona, a couple of old thongs, and my gray sunnies to the Salvos, mate.

It’s been a while since I served up some world music, so today I’m going to do just that. This one is a blend of many different national influences, though the sound is primarily Australian largely because of the use of didgeridoo throughout. Outback was founded in the late 80s after a chance meeting between Graham Wiggins (didgeridoo, keyboards, melodica, percussion) and Martin Cradick (Guitar, mandolin, darbuka, bendir, luthar, jengu, Shaker) in Oxford.

Wiggins and Cradick toured all over England and had enough success to release a cassette. The cassette did well enough that they could produce their debut release, “Baka.” This in turn did well enough that they could add several more musicians – two percussionists Sagar N’Gom (Senegal) and Ian Campbell and French fiddler Paddy Le Mercier – for their second and what was to be final release, “Dance the Devil Away” in 1992.

I got this album years ago, but it is still one of my favorites when it comes up on my World Music mix on my iPod. They mash together many different influences, including tribal Aborigine, West African, Celtic, and Middle Eastern gypsy music to create a unique sound. A variety of stringed instruments make their way onto the album, though they mostly feature guitar and fiddle. Another staple on the album is the didgeridoo, which, it turns out, is a versatile instrument. I had no idea. The low buzzing sound you’ve probably heard from a didgeridoo can be modified in several ways. The instrument can also be barked through, which produces an interesting sound that is used like percussion. It can even be tooted like a trumpet, which they do throughout the album as a repeating accent at certain points in the rhythm.

The melodies are often joyful, and occasionally mysterious, but the whole project is very pleasing. 6 of the album’s 8 songs live on my iPod, and 75% is a good ratio. Most of the songs below are unavailable anywhere. You can listen to samples of everything on Amazon, of course (though I can’t link to them individually because it’s a Java app), but only the first two of these are available on YouTube. Give a listen.

  • Aziz Aziz – As the title suggests, this has a Middle Eastern feel. The percussionists keep this one moving along as the fiddle trades licks with what may be a melodica, but sounds like a pungi (think snake charmer).
  • Desert Rain – Here is the first 1:11 of this song, just long enough for it to really get going. The whole song has a mysterious feel, probably because of the odd percussion.
  • Cuban Connections – This is the first track on the album. The energy is great and Paddy Le Mercier shreds on the fiddle.
  • What Can I Say – This 8-minute track features the entire range of sounds a didgeridoo can make. They establish the beat for 3 minutes before the melodic instruments kick in. This is possibly the best track on the album. It’s certainly the jazziest.
  • Medina – Le Mercier plays what sounds like a gypsy melody and everyone follows. It’s a pretty song.
  • Animal Life – This has an uplifting melody and Wiggins plays the daks off his didgeridoo.

Outback broke up in 1992. Craddick went on to found a group called Baka Beyond, which N’Gom and Le Mercier eventually joined. Wiggins founded a band called Dr Didg, which plays at festivals and on TV shows in the UK.


December 1, 2009 - Posted by | World Music

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