A new album is helping empower indigenous women from the Northern Territory.
Desert Divas Volume II is the second compilation from a MusicNT music development program that pairs indigenous female musicians with professional musicians to work on shaping their songwriting skills.
The album comes out of the six-year-old Sista Sounds program which brings music workshops to remote communities across the NT including Darwin, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
Eleanor Dixon, one of the eight participants, made a massive effort to take part in the program which she says has helped her return to music after becoming a mum.
“I had to drive 200 kilometres to do the first divas workshop in Tennant Creek,” Dixon told AAP.
“Before that I had kids and I didn’t know how to approach it at the time. I was living out bush and I had to find my way around to putting myself out there.”
Dixon has been writing songs since she was a teenager, but didn’t know how to showcase them. She learnt how to develop them through the workshop’s songwriting sessions.
“These mentors are musicians, they’re artists and they helped me to realise that this is actually a thing that women can do,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how far you are away from it, it just helped me to really understand music. This program helps younger girls to develop and it gives them opportunities to look forward.”
The songs on the album are as individual as the women who created them, ranging from pop, to country to R ‘n B with slick production thanks to producer Anna Laverty (Florence and the Machine, Courtney Barnett, Cut Copy, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) and musical director Steph Harrison (Bat Hazzard).
Dixon sings her song, My Spirit Is Free, in both English and her indigenous language Mudburra, and says it reminds her that it’s OK to dream.
“All languages are one – they’re just being spoken differently. And that song just tells a story about myself. It’s about me dreaming,” she said.
“Everybody dreams and I find dreaming helps me see a lot of music and a lot about myself and it helps me to escape the hard part of life, I guess. This project has allowed me to dream.”
The project has opened up new possibilities in music for Dixon and the other women on the album.
“It has been very important, especially for indigenous women because we don’t have that in our community, culturally because there are restrictions for women,” she said.
“Through this program it empowers us and gives us the opportunity to express ourselves as women.”
* Desert Divas Volume II is out now. The proceeds from sales will go towards a variety of MusicNT Aboriginal women’s music programs.
Originally published as Music empowers indigenous women in the NT