Crossing Roper Bar is a project I began in 2004 when I first visited the community of Ngukurr on the Roper River in S.E. Arnhem Land. Ngukurr is a fascinating and beautiful place, on a bluff overlooking the river valley, and was a traditional meeting place for the local nations. Many languages are spoken there, and the men I work with are Wägiluk speakers, part of the Yolngu language group. The Young Wagiluk Group has had a varied membership over the years; on the new CD Benjamin Wilfred leads, with Daniel Wilfred (a major talent) on supporting vocals and David Wilfred on yirrdaki (more commonly known as didjeridu). These men sing up an area called Nyilipidgi, a special place to the north of Ngukkur, and its creator, the spirit Djuwulparra, who has various incarnations, including the plover.
CRB is a dialogue based around the form and content of the traditional material; over the years the two cultures have formed a miraculous blend based on the two principles of improvisation: listening and trust. To have been allowed to embark on this journey has been a highlight, maybe the highlight of my musical career, and the AAO players who have given this concept so much substance are a uniquely talented crew. Niko Schäuble co-produced the CD and played drums, Phil Rex mastered it and played bass, Tony Hicks brought his countless skills on various woodwinds, and master musicians Erkki Veltheim and Stephen Magnusson remind us of why the are two of the most valued members of our musical community.