Crossing Roper Bar

Garma Music Festival, Gulkula NT, August 2006

Musical Director, piano
Paul Grabowsky

Bilma, vocals
Daniel Wilfred

Yidakki (didjeridu)
David Wilfred

Tony Hicks

Stephen Magnusson

Niko Schauble

Peter Knight


- Australian Jazz Bell Awards: Best Jazz Ensemble – Australian Art Orchestra/Young Wagilak Group

- Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award – Group Award
- H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship – Australia National University: recognition of groundbreaking work

- Classical Music Awards: Outstanding Contribution to Australian Music in a Regional Area

- Crossing Roper Bar Volume 2 - The Ghost Dances, released 27 May, 2014

- Crossing Roper Bar Volume 1, cited as best release for 2011 by the New York City Jazz Record

Conversing tradition thesis by Samuel Curkpatrick. Download


Crossing Roper Bar is a visionary exploration of the musical traditions of Australia’s first people by the Australian Art Orchestra in collaboration with the Young Wagilak Group. The Wagilak speaking songmen of South East Arnhem Land are custodians of one of the oldest continuously practised cultures on Earth. Their songs are performed regularly in Ngukurr, Numbulwar, Groote Eylandt and surrounding areas where the Wagilak are admired for their strong culture.

The Australian Art Orchestra began collaborating with the Young Wagilak Group in 2005. Based on an equal exchange of knowledge that began as a dialogue centred on music, Crossing Roper Bar developed into a process of collaborative composition that retains the beauty and dynamism of both traditions. The Young Wagilak Group have worked closely with the AAO to create a contemporary interpretation of ‘Wild Blackfella’, a song cycle which traces the journey of the ancestor through his country as he calls up and names things.

An electrifying marriage of the very old with the very new, Crossing Roper Bar is a celebration of country, of ceremony, and of the power of music to build enduring bridges across cultures, time and space.

You can watch the Crossing Roper Bar showreel, featuring performances from MONA FOMA, Musée du Quai Branly and the National Museum of Australia, HERE.




MONA FOMA, Hobart Tasmania
- Jazzahead Showcase, Bremen, Germany

Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts Symposium, Hong Kong
- National Museum of Australia, Canberra; Bennetts Lane, Melbourne CD launch
- Garma Festival

- Tour from Darwin to Perth produced by TURA New Music October 2014. Darwin, Kunnunurra, Broome, Karratha, Exmouth, Perth

- European tour: Musée du Quai Branly, Paris; Southbank Centre, London Jazz Festival; Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Homerton College, Cambridge, UK
- Workshops and performances at Monash School of Music, Victoria
- Signal Point Art Gallery, Goolwa, South Australia

- Australian Performing Arts Market, Adelaide
- Opening of ‘Colour Country: Art From the Roper River’ Exhibition, Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Darwin Entertainment Centre
- Ngukurr, South East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
- Llewelyn Hall, Australian National University, Canberra

- Apollo Bay Music Festival, Apollo Bay, Victoria
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
- Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre

- Top End Tour, Tura New Music: Darwin, Katherine, Timber Creek, Kununurra, Warmun, Fitzroy Crossing, Broome, Lombadina, One Arm Point, Beagle Bay, Perth

- Birrarung Marr, Melbourne
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

- Garma Music Festival, Gulkula, Northern Territory

"The western instruments often use hypnotic modal figures while the indigenous singing is awash with throaty overtones and fluttering harmonics that are like electronica freed from the rigidity of fixed keys and pre-set loops. Furthermore the bilma – clapstick – has a percussive sharpness that progressive dance music producers would die for"

- Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise Magazine