Students join Indigenous artists to work on new Warumpi Band theatre production

Students join Indigenous artists to work on new Warumpi Band theatre production

RMIT Vocational Education students have worked on the development of Ilbijeri Theatre’s upcoming project about the legendary Warumpi Band.

The sound production students worked closely with the Tjupi Band and Sammy Butcher -  Warumpi Band guitarist and father of three members of the Tjupi Band - to record demos for the upcoming production, titled ‘Big Name, No Blanket’. 

Sound Production and Live Production Program Coordinator John Phillips said it was a great opportunity.

“Students were able to implement their skills and knowledge with some of the nation’s premiere First Nations artists on the development of a very special project that documents the Warumpi Band’s place in history,” he said.

Hands-on experience 

Students James Finlayson-Smith, Sarah Occhino, Callum Tham and Dale Mamo gained valuable hands-on experience in the studio. 

Finlayson-Smith said he was able to draw on the skills he’d learned at RMIT when he took on the role of studio engineer alongside his classmates, responsible for studio setup, microphone placement, correct patching, signal flow, set up and other important technical jobs. 

I was able to utilise a lot of key skills that we had learnt in my studies that were all applicable to what we needed to properly record the band.
2 men sit a recording studio desk James Finlayson-Smith and Callum Tham working in the studio

“On top of this, we used our interpersonal skills to do our best to help create a friendly environment for them to work in alongside us," he said. 

“All of these are skills we have developed through our studies and that I’ve been able to use in real world situations because of the ease of finding work outside of RMIT.”

Occhino said her previous experience saw her quickly become Butcher’s right-hand-woman and main point of contact. 

“It was fun, and he was an absolute pleasure to work with,” she said.  

“As one of the more experienced techs in the room I became in charge of liaising with the band, delegating the patch, deciding what microphones we were using and getting the band set up for recording. 

“It was my first recording experience at RMIT, and it was such a joy to be able to look through the gear and experiment with the different microphones and outboard gear.”

A man and a woman sit at a recording studio desk Sarah Occino and James Finlayson-Smith gained valuable hands-on experience in the studio

A brush with fame 

The highlight of the day for both Occhino and Finlayson-Smith was the arrival of renowned Indigenous singer and songwriter, and Australian music icon, Kutcha Edwards, a proud Mutti Mutti man, who has toured and worked with some of Australia's best-known artists.

As Butcher’s point of contact, Occhino was trusted with his phone, organising who was coming and going from the studio.   

“At one point I was with Sammy, he picked up the phone and started talking casually to a friend who he suggested come down to the studio and hang out. He passed me the phone and asked if I could tell them where we were. I looked at the phone and turned to one of the engineers next to me and giddily said “Oh my god its Kutcha Edwards,” she said. 

7 men and 1 women stand together in a recording studio James Finlayson-Smith, Sammy Butcher, Gary Watling, Jason Butcher, Kutcha Edwards, David Bridie, Callum Tham and Sarah Occino

“The other musicians in Tjupi band behind me started laughing at how nervous and excited I had just become.” 

The students helped with the recording of unique renditions of “My Island Home” with Butcher on bass and Edwards on vocals.  

“It felt like such a special moment just to witness, let alone be involved in, knowing the history of both artists,” said Finlayson-Smith. 

Butcher said it was a great experience for him and the Tjupi band to record at RMIT.  

“The students were good to work with and we were all happy with how it went,” he said. 

“It was great to sing with Kutcha and work on some of the classic Warumpi Band songs." 

Edwards joked that he could finally die happy now that he’d got to sing a song with his legendary brother Sammy Butcher from the Waraumpi Band. 

“A big thankyou to all the RMIT staff and students and for Wantok Musik Foundation for allowing this to happen,” he said. 

Learn more about the upcoming Ilbijeri Theatre production, ‘Big Name, No Blanket’

Story by: Nick Adams


Related News

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.