Tony Hillier

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Issue #11 October 2010: Folk festival celebrates its 30th anniversary


While locals will doubtless still refer to it as the Yungaburra folk festival, the Far North’s premier acoustic music event, coming up on the weekend of October 22-24, is now officially known as the Tablelands Folk Festival.

But, as Will Shakespeare rightly queried via one of his blockbusters, what’s in a name? More pertinent, perhaps, is the fact that the festival is celebrating its 30th renewal this year, which is no mean feat. By your columnist’s estimation that puts it close behind the National Folk Festival and the Port Fairy Folk Festival in terms of longevity, and makes it the longest-running event of its kind in Queensland.

While the festival also has a new director and program director this year, traditionalists fearing change need not fret. Jason Donnelly and Summer Bland have stayed pretty true to the tried and tested format of balancing old and new, which means that there’ll be something for everyone — from tiny tots to grandmas and granddads — with gigs ranging from intimate affairs and workshops to wild dance sessions.

Have your tastebuds tickled at the festival’s official website, where all the acts performing are listed in alphabetical order:

To download the full program, proceed to:

Admission cost and other information can be accessed via the home page at:

MoantribeThe McMenamins

Some nationally known local singer-songwriters making return appearances at the 2010 festival include Carinda Christie, Raymond James (Molloy), and Andy “Sugarcane” Collins. The last-named’s association with Yungaburra extends right back to the festival’s infancy.

Mena Creek-born and raised Roz Pappalardo, who cut her teeth at the festival with the Women in Docs duo, will be re-united with her Wayward Gentlemen band from south east Queensland this time. Roz is currently co-starring in the musical The Impossible Dream, which is scheduled to run at Cairns’ Shangri-La Hotel until January.

ARIA Award nominees Kamerunga — a band casting glances at the thriving European festival scene — will be returning to the event where it all started for them. The Aussie folk revisionists will have the honour of leading into the closing ceremony at The Pavilion on the Sunday.

Also back again by popular demand is the gravel-voiced, piano-playing bluesman Pugsley Buzzard, whose funky New Orleans grooves and barrelhouse blues have been such a hit these past two years.

Those looking for a Latin flavour can look forward to Chilean diva Carmen Salvador, who mixes native and folkloric South American music with modern sounds and instrumentation. I Viaggiatori, led by the redoubtable Kavisha Mazzella, put the emphasis on old-time Italian folk music. Their film show in the Community Hall on the Friday night will be a highlight. Kavisha will also be performing a solo show.

Guitar buffs are well catered for, as always. Brisbane’s Alesa Lajana will be drawing on traditional music from all over the world. Bob Elliston will be performing on 6 string, 12 string and resonator guitars in an old-time finger picking style. Brisbane guitar whiz Gerard Mapstone will be playing a mixture of Spanish flamenco, gypsy jazz and classical music, with the dexterous Shenzo Gregorio, one of the country’s finest multi-instrumentalists. The McMenamins, a local brother-sister duo who are giving Angus & Julia Stone a run for their money on the national front, features Simon McMenamin’s exemplary mandolin and fiddle playing and vocal harmonies in support of his sister Fleur’s pristine vocals.

Any preview of the Yungaburra — oops, Tablelands — folk festival would be incomplete without mention of the annual bush dance. With the irrepressible Hillbilly Goats providing the calls and tunes this year, dancers will be stripping the willow and no doubt everything else within cooee!

The festival will also be hosting a characteristically wide range of skills workshops, covering areas such as songwriting, choir singing, Chilean folk music, fingerstyle guitar, flamenco guitar, drumming & percussion, comedy, theatre, fire-twirling and the music industry. Special tickets are available to attend single workshops if you don’t wish to attend the whole festival. More info at:

Tony Hillier