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TIDDAS

“Three women, two guitars, one spirit.” This is the phrase that truly encapsulates the Tiddas’ stories, songs and sound.

In 1990, Sally Dastey, Lou Bennett and Amy Saunders were asked to step out from their roles as backing vocalists for Melbourne based band Djaambi (an Aboriginal language word meaning brother) and perform in their own right. The performance was a call for female artists, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to celebrate each other’s musicality and voice, in an event spanning two nights called Hot Jam Cooking. This invitation came from the hosts of Community Radio 3CR’s Not Another Koori Show, Janina Harding, Destiny Deacon and Lisa Bellear, along with Ruby Hunter and her manager, Julie Hickson. In fact, it was Ruby Hunter that gave Tiddas their name. At the time Ruby stated, “No, I can’t call you ‘women from brothers’, it doesn’t make sense. You’re my tiddas!” (Based on the Koori English word tidda, meaning sister.)

Towards the end of 1990, and on the suggestion of friend and mentor Jacqui Geia, Tiddas drove to Queensland to the Maleny Folk Festival (now known as Woodford). “When you get here,” she said, “just tell them you’re singing with Joe Geia, they’ll let you in.” So we piled into Lou’s old Kingswood station wagon and off we went. After that fortuitous journey, Tiddas were quickly booked for the Port Fairy Folk Festival, and that’s where ABC’s Music Deli presenters Paul Petran and Steven Snelleman invited Tiddas to perform ‘live to air’ on their nationally broadcast program. Tiddas first EP ‘Inside my Kitchen’ produced by Paul Petran, was soon to follow.

Sing About Life

It wasn’t long before there were regular sightings of Tiddas around Melbourne and on festival circuits throughout the country. Tiddas were often seen performing for Survival Day in La Perouse, the Big Day Out concerts, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Woodford, Homebake, WOMAD and many more. Tiddas have shared the bill with Australian luminaries Roger Knox, Warumpi Band, Midnight Oil, Powderfinger, Weddings Parties Anything and Mental as Anything. Their international forays saw Tiddas cross paths with Arlo Guthrie, Robyn Hitchcock and Billy Bragg, to name a few.

For a time, Tiddas, their long-time manager and friend Jill Shelton, and talented sound engineer Janine Temme, were the only all-female touring outfit. Yet in the midst of the 90’s grunge era, coupled with the resurgence of Australian rock music, the Tiddas crew stood out in the majority male industry, onstage, behind the scenes and front of house. Nonetheless, along with their irrepressible spirit, the unique harmonies they created had the ability to elicit goose bumps from the toughest audiences.

Tiddas harmonies can also be heard on a smattering of albums from varying artists, including Christine Anu’s Stylin' Up, Powderfinger’s Internationalist and Odyssey Number Five, Shane Howard’s Time Will Tell, and the incomparable Mills Sisters’ Frangipani Land, to name but a few.

Tiddas released five studio recordings in their decade together:

1992, their debut EP, ‘Inside My Kitchen’, produced by Paul Petran;
1993, Tiddas recorded their first full length album, Sing About Life, produced by Tony Cohen;
1996, Tiddas, self-titled release, produced by Joe Camilleri;
1998, Lethal By The Kilo, live with a studio audience at ABC radio Melbourne, produced by Paul Petran;
1999, Show Us Ya Tiddas, recorded live at The Continental Café, Prahran, once again produced with Paul Petran.

Tiddas wrote about their lives. They wrote songs about mothers, sisters, country and belonging. They spoke about fathers, brothers, memories and love. “We never set out to be political, we just sing about life.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

AMY SAUNDERS

Amy Saunders was a member of Tiddas from 1990-2000.

 

The Australian Music Vault is proud to honour the achievements of this year’s National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMA) Hall of Fame inductees, Wilma Reading and Tiddas. Now in their 16th year, the NIMAs are recognised as Australia’s most prominent showcase of Indigenous Australian music from across the country. The Awards celebrate the achievements of both emerging and established artists, and have recognised the lifetime achievements of many artists including Kutcha Edwards, Vic Simms, Henry “Seaman” Dan, Archie Roach, Auriel Andrew, Jimmy Little, Coloured Stone, No Fixed Address and Warumpi Band among many others.

Both artists will feature in the Australian Music Vault from August – November 2019

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