From B to M

Tiwi Island band, Bathurst to Melville (B2M) paid a visit to Upwey High School.

By Derek Schlennstedt

Upwey high School was rocking on 16 November when Tiwi Island band, Bathurst to Melville (B2M) paid a visit.

But the visit was about more than just music, and the band, which is named after the two Tiwi islands north of Darwin educate young people about alcohol, drugs and depression.

For B2M educating the kids of the future through their music and encouraging people to make a change in their lives is just as important if not more important than performing their songs and the band makes sure to stop in at local schools while on tour.

The band’s leader, Jeffrey ‘Yellow’ Simon said the founding goal of B2M was to make fun music and share positive stories.

“We started this group in 2004, and the reason for this band forming was that the Tiwi Islands at the time had the highest suicide rate in the nation,” he said.

“We’re still very strong in our culture and didn’t even have a word for suicide in our culture, so it was something new to us.

“We decided as a group to use music as a vehicle to pass on these positive messages and to break the cycle.”

B2M’s music fuses mainstream rhythm and blues with the traditional Tiwi language and the lyrics in their songs come from their life experiences growing up in an Aboriginal community and seeing first-hand the effects of drugs and alcohol on their own people

Over the years the group has played on stage with Gurrumul Yunupingu and Tina Arena, gained an ardent fan as a sixth band member, and been shortlisted for major industry awards.

“We’ve done it for 14-15 years now and right forms the get go it wasn’t about fame or money but engaging with the community through music and trying to create positive change wherever we went,” Jeffrey said.

The Dandenong Ranges Music Council (DRMC) invited the band to talk to the Upwey High School music students about music, the challenges they faced as a band and their background.

The band also treated teachers, staff and students to a workshop on traditional indigenous music and even played some of their well-known songs.

Bev McAllister, President of DRMC welcomed the band and speaking to the mail said it was great for the students to hear their stories and learn about the profound impact music can have to change lives.

Year 8 music student Lauren Brooks said the workshop was enlightening and she was amazed how each band member was self-taught and couldn’t read music.

“I found it quite interesting and really enjoyed the music mixed with their storytelling as you often don’t get to hear the musician’s stories,” Lauren said.

“It was also great to hear about the importance of music and its capacity to create change.”