Dialog Box

Arts | History | Indigenous | Social Justice
Rock & Roll Songline - The Life & Music of Carroll Karpany


$1,000 Raised of
Carroll Karpany’s traditional Narrindjerri culture was smashed by the British invasion in the 1840’s. His family was forced onto a Christian mission, and his language and culture were banned. In its place Carroll found rock’n’roll and formed Us Mob, Australia’s first black politics band. He played music around Australia and the world but his 'Narrindjerri song’, is gone and with it the secret knowledge that would connect him spiritually to his people and land. 

Then in 2013, while leading a documentary crew through the Western Australian bush, Carroll meets indigenous Elder, Dylan Andrews; and is offered what he once thought impossible. Their two Aboriginal nations, separated by half a continent; were once intimately linked by a highway of trade, marriage and law; a highway linked by the ‘oldest song on earth’, the Red Kangaroo Songline. The Narrindjerri part of this songline was not destroyed, but held in safe keeping, waiting for a Narrindjerri songman to come and sing it back to life.

Carroll is conflicted; he is ecstatic but fearful of the huge responsibility. ‘Why me, why now? Do I have the skills to pass on this cultural treasure?’ 

Carroll has raised his sons to be proud of their Narrindjerri culture, and they now join him to reclaim part of their inheritance. In his black, 1972 Charger, Carroll and sons, Ji (26yo) and Rivva (22yo); power out of Adelaide; to cross three deserts and 20 Aboriginal language nations. 

Together the Karpany men share the 3000 km road trip, unpacking Carroll’s incredible life story as they drive. Their father’s story is their story too and a window to a whole generation of Aboriginal Australians. Carroll was born in a Narrindjerri birthing nest, raised on a mission, forcibly taken by the government and inspired by the Maori. He loved and lost his ‘great loves’ to suicide and illness. He has danced with addiction and depression and fought racism and hate to raise his boys in the light of acceptance and universal love. 

Carroll’s whole life has led him to this moment. Dylan and the Banuba lawmen lead the Karpany’s into sacred caves to learn the ancient songs & dances of the Red Kangaroo Songline.  

Back in South Australia expectant elders of the Narrindjerri nation gather, no one can quite believe it is true; this Homeric poem is about to be performed for the first time in 150 years. By firelight Ji and Rivva twist and stamp and teach young Aboriginal dancers the moves, songs and philosophy of the Red Kangaroo Songline. As their voices sing out together a ‘great Australian silence’ is broken the ‘oldest song on earth’.


How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?

Rock’n’Roll Songline – The Life and Music of Carroll Karpany, aims to illuminate ideas of social justice and Australian history.

It's a Social justice film - we hope to educate the Australian public about the difficult and little known road many Aboriginal Australians have trodden in the face of cultural destruction. Carroll was born into a society where his traditional Narrindjerri culture had been smashed and debased and his Narrindjerri language banned from use. The film follows Carroll’s journey from grief, through embracing aspects of western culture and finally to reconnecting with and re-energising his ancient Narrindjerri culture.

It's a History film - we're hoping to help set the record straight by detailing the story of a generation, as seen through one man's life journey. Carroll is part of the generation who were the last of the mission people, the last of the interned generations. It's the history of the last 60 years, the journey from the mission to the city, the return to country and the empowerment of a disempowered people. Carroll and ‘Us Mob’s' story reflects the rise of Aboriginal rock & roll, black activism and indigenous cultural industries.

This is an important film as it takes up the fight to the on going deniers of our true Aboriginal history.

What is your education and outreach strategy?

We hope to put the film into Australian and international film festivals, into a limited, domestic cinema release and onto television, VOD and DVD.

In 2016, Carroll Karpany started an ongoing cultural education event series called 'Enquiring Minds', which aims to connect non-indigenous Australians with Aboriginal people and culture; through a casual forum of performance, Q+A, film and music. These events have taken place in urban Melbourne and Sydney, and allows people who may have interest, but not access to indigenous culture, an opportunity to meet and engage with Aboriginal people. In 2016/17, this event was used to screen 'Motorkite Dreaming', the last feature film by director Charlie Hill-Smith and we hope to pursue a similar roll out with Rock’n’Roll Songline.

We aim to tour the film back to the communities where we have filmed it; this will encompass communities from The Coorong in South Australia, through the Northern Territory, to The Kimberly in Western Australia.

Carroll has performed his music and dance in a number of primary and secondary schools over the last few years & hopes to extend this to universities and community groups in 2017. Carroll hopes to integrate this new story, as well as the new songs and dances into his school and community performances.

We will be producing a study guide and hope to put the film into schools and universities around Australia. We also hope to screen in conjunction with community groups, with music and Q&A sessions.

Carroll is recording an album with award winning producer David Bridie in 2017 and will tour extensively to Australian cities, regions and communities. We hope to release a soundtrack CD of Rock’nRoll Songline with David Bridie and Wontok Records.
Charlie Hill-Smith
Max Mackinnon / Charlie Hill-Smith / Carroll Karpany
Total budget
80 Minutes