How Big Sing in the Desert began

I have always loved music, my mum and my nan loved to sing, as did all my nans cousins who would sing funny songs at our family parties.

I didn’t know any Aboriginal people growing up in Sydney. Then, when I was 28 years old, singing with the acapella group Arramaieda, I had the honour of sitting on a tour bus, listening and learning from Uncle Kev Carmody about what is was like for Aboriginal people living in Australia, as we travelled to give concerts in NSW country towns. I wanted to learn more.

I first went to the NPY lands in the Western Desert in 1995 as a volunteer with Thisbe Purich. Thisbe was working for NPY Womens Council in the Ngaanyatjarra communities of Western Australia. I went back there many times to teach young women and girls music skills – guitar, piano, songwriting, drums, and performance. I learned to sing Ngaanyatjarra language from singing hymns together. I went out bush camping and collecting bush food and tjanpi grass with the women and learned many things. I heard the older women singing hymns and fell in love with the beauty of their sound.

In 2008 I was asked to be Musical Director of Many Roads One Voice concert in Alice Springs, organised by Caama. This is where I met Morris Stuart. White and black voices were singing together on stage in Alice Springs.

It felt like a healing thing, an important thing. I wanted to make a regular meeting place where we could have time to sit down – black and white together – learn from each other and make music.

After this concert, I was invited by Margaret Campbell to come to Titjikala and support their choir development. I met Inkaarta Rob Borgas at Titjikala who was really happy to help my idea of a singing camp for everybody come to life.

The first Big Sing in the Desert began in 2010. Inkaarta Rob helped Anangu people understand what Big Sing was all about and supported everyone to get there. Morris and I taught together for the first time.

Now we are having our 10th year! I am so happy to be supported by so many people who continue to help this idea grow into such a wonderful place of connection and community.

‘When I travel, I take my voice with me. I meet people who don’t speak my language, but we can learn to sing a song together. I might say, can you teach me that? Or they might hear me singing and want me to teach them. We feel connected because we share a common language – music.

Rachel Hore

Big Sing in the Desert

Our history in pictures