Music and song has always been important to the people of Roebourne. Here, Yindjibarndi musician and workshop participant Rachel James Mason speaks about the importance of songwriting together, and the role of music in the community.

“The role of music in this community is so important, we need this community to have music. The songs that people are writing are about their families, about the countryside. Music is an expression of who that person is”, says Rachel James Mason in this first person interview in Roebourne.


The importance of music in Roebourne

“Music is very important, to have this music here, for these people. They need to express who they are, to know how to bring it out musically. They may not be able to talk these problems out, people can’t talk, they need to put it in a song. That’s how music is so important to us, that’s why it’s important to the community.

It’s not just the noise of the music, it’s the story of that person ‘Oh I didn’t know you felt that way in this song’. That’s how important it is. We would never have known if there was no such thing as music, we wouldn’t know about the problems that have been going on today.

Music brings out the fullness of that person inside, it brings out feelings, emotions, so important to us.

Glen Toby, Songs for Peace, Roebourne 2018. Photo Credit: Marg Bertling.


The role of music in this community is so important, we really need this, we need this community to have music. It’s right there for us, we’ve got it, let’s hold it and keep it as important for this community.


A focused time for music and songwriting

The workshops meant quite a lot as a matter of fact. The songs that people are writing are about their families, about the countryside. It’s important for us to have these rehearsals, so we can understand how they want the songs to sound.

We need to have a timeline for music, so everybody can get to know how that person wants to have their music, how that person wants to hear that music. They need other musicians around them.

Songwriting Workshop, Ngurin Cultural Centre, July 2019. Photo: Big hART


The potential of songwriting in Roebourne

It’s there. What’s missing is just the timing of how they want the song to be, we can fix that up as musicians. It’s interesting how people want to write their songs, it’s all in their head and the importance of it is right there. They really want the song to sound good, to have an effect on the community as well. Music is like a food, it feeds us.


Music teaches us about each other

I love doing the workshops. I love watching the way that we teach each other about our experiences with music, the way we talk about our music, our experiences, how we want to write our songs, the experiences that we have with our songs, the stories behind them.

Cyril Munda, Wendy Darby, Allery Sandy, Rachel James Mason and Tootsie Daniels perform their songs at NAIDOC, Roebourne 2019. Photo: Big hART

I’m enjoying the workshops so much now that the experience is teaching me. Music is an expression of who that person is. Music shows that person who they are and how they feel about themselves. This thing that comes out of a person, for people who are just beginning to know music, it’s unreal. That’s why I’ve been loving the workshops with people, I see their face light up.”

Rachel James Mason rehearsing songs with community members at the Ngurin Cultural Centre. Photo: Big hART


Interview with Rachel James Mason, edited by Bettina Richter


Songs for Peace will return to Roebourne on 21st September 2019. To keep up with the latest news and artist announcements, follow @yijalayalaproject on Facebook

For more information about Big hART’s work in Roebourne, go to