Tiddas takes the stage once more

Returning to the spotlight to tour an album once thought lost to the sands of time, Tiddas member Lou Bennett explains how their lost 25-year-old album has stood the test of time.

Originally disbanding in 2000, Tiddas have reformed and are touring the nation with Archie Roach. In the halcyon days of the ‘90s, the group made a demo that never saw the light of day. Now, more than 20 years later, the record Dancing with my Spirit has seen the light, with the original songs otherwise untouched except for remastering.

“It didn’t get a guernsey back in ’95, for whatever reason why, we still don’t know,” says Bennett of the album. “Over the years, I’ve always wondered why that never made it to the pressing factory, because we knew it was a beautiful album and we know it still is and has stood the test of time.”

Bennett says that Roach kept a hold of the record after it was produced and pulled it out every now and then to reflect upon. A discussion with keyboardist Bruce Haymes, then producer Jen Anderson and Tiddas manager Jill Shelton brought about the album’s release.

“We’re extremely proud of it,” Bennett says. “Not just because of the musicality of it, but because we’re family, and no matter what happens in our private lives, when we get on the road and perform with each other, we swing into this familiar essence. We enjoy each other’s company and acknowledge each other as family members.”

That raw Tiddas emotion and closeness has always been present in the band of singers, particularly in their relationship with Archie Roach and his late wife Ruby Hunter, who coined the band’s iconic name.

“It was back in 1990, and we’d done a show celebrating women’s music in Melbourne, both black and white women’s music, and it was hosted by 3CR, which is some fabulous community radio over here that has always supported Tiddas and grass roots music… we didn’t have a name for ourselves, but Aunty Ruby came up with that. She said, ‘You know, you’re my tiddas’ and we went, ‘Of course! Why don’t we call ourselves Tiddas?’ Lots of people have tried to use it and claim the term, but I don’t know if it works in that respect for them. It’s definitely something unique to myself, Amy Saunders and Sally Dastey [the members of Tiddas].”

The return to the stage and tour circuit has been a pleasant sort of homecoming for the group. Bennett says audiences are “so warm and loving” and things aren’t as fast-paced as they once were. The breaks between shows are welcome, though Bennett laughs that her family aren’t as keen to head to their performances because of those breaks.

“Some of my family members have come to the shows and gone, ‘Oh look, we’re not standing in a line to come and see you. You’re superstars now. We’ll just wait and see you at home.’”

Bennett says the themes present in Dancing with my Spirit are still relevant a quarter-of-a-century later but occasionally for the wrong reasons.

“Being folks singers, we’re singing of the time and issues that are more universal than most,” she says. “Unfortunately, some of them stand the test of time whether it be about prejudice or discrimination or the trauma that we know as Aboriginal people, the Stolen Generations. There are still those messages there… It’s evident in this recording how relevant Arch’s words are today as they were 25 years ago.”

Could there be more music on the way from Tiddas, or is this a last hurrah?

“It’s a question that’s been bandied around a fair bit,” Bennett says. “We’ve had some discussions on how lovely it would be if this or that happened, but at this point in time we’re asking people to focus on the present moment and enjoy what we bring to Dancing with my Spirit with Arch.

“We’re staying here for a little bit longer, but keep your ear to the ground because you never know what’s going to happen. You never know.”

Archie Roach and Tiddas: Dancing with my Spirit
Friday, June 22 & Saturday, June 23
Dunstan Playhouse
adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au

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