CAAMA Shop Closes

I first remember the CAAMA shop, when I used to get the Music Tapes of Central Australian Aboriginal bands. I was presenting an Aboriginal radio program, in the early days of community radio. The station used to get the tapes from CAAMA. I would always look in the pigeon hole at the station for new CAAMA music.

The music would sometimes come via the Aboriginal Tape Exchange in Melbourne and be posted out to Aboriginal broadcasters across the country. They used to be sent to the land councils in those days as well.

A lot of us mob used to wait for the tapes to come in because that was the only Aboriginal music available. The first time I ever heard Aboriginal music and songs was on the CAAMA Tapes. When I first heard the songs in language it was like “wow”. I felt so proud to hear our own mob, and the audience couldn’t get enough of it. There were many Aboriginal communities who had their own bands and they were well supported by their communities.

Artists like Troy Cassar-Daly were inspired by what came out of CAAMA. He recalled what an inspiration it was to know that out in the Centre, there was an Aboriginal owned and operated recording label, giving Aboriginal artists the chance to record and others could hear that music.

The iconic CAAMA Tapes Man spoke up for thousands, encouraging the distribution to blackfellas across the country. There was a poster of the CAAMA Tape Man on the wall of the community radio station where I presented my program. Over the years you could call CAAMA and they would send you a list of over 90 CD’s and Tapes of all the favourite bands.

The community bands used to be able to record music at CAAMA, sell it in the shop and receive a royalty.  No more, the shop is closed.

What a sad day for Australia, and Australian music content. The losers are Aboriginal community radio stations, the broadcasters on community radio and the public who buy the music. There is th the push for more local content, and more Australian Aboriginal content continues to be in demand. But the major Aboriginal organisation and outlet in Alice Springs, the CAAMA Shop has now closed its doors.

I mean “What happened”?   Why do our businesses fail?  Genuine Aboriginal music is a rare commodity these days; there is competition from everywhere now. Whitefella organisations now take up the lead role in recording, mentoring, promoting and selling Aboriginal content.

Why is this so?  We can’t seem to get it right. And why is there always a whitefella involved in Aboriginal business? Why are we so passive , that we let white people appropriate our culture and our businesses, while we sit back and let it happen, sometimes with our hand out complaining. The tourism business in the Northern Territory relies on Aboriginal people and culture for their massive profits.

How is it that a business like CAAMA shop is not profitable? It has a niche market. Is it because of factors in the corporate plan? Is it the technology? Is it their own company bureaucracy? Is it the management, the vision the knowledge? What is it?

What is it with Aboriginal businesses and corporations in general?  Should we even be in business is a question to ask. There are so many white fellas running corporations and businesses these days one even wonders if it is only a gravy train and sheltered workshop for whitefellas, struggling to get a job in the real world.

Most business plans for example, are done by white fellas. The mantra for ‘more Aboriginal businesses’ and that ‘Aboriginal business will increase employment’, is a failure and will continue to fail as long as the managers and corporations are locked into a welfare mindset. We have to learn that social welfare programs projects are just that.  And business is business.  Business is ruthless. We have to learn to separate the business from the family business.

Our mob are too kind, we don’t speak up, we have been held back for so long, that we don’t know how to communicate on how to run a business.  So we take the easy way out and hire a whiefella.    I think it is better to fail in business than to hire a white fella.  We have to manage our own businesses ourselves, and be ruthless at it.

Are we so slack that we let this happen? Or is it because of the government bureaucracy, making it difficult to do anything. Mainstream businesses are always getting some kind of tax break, or are offered cheap finance, in the form of loans. Middle class welfare is rife in Australia, and all governments want to keep the small business on side, as they become a voting power bloc.

But blackfella business or corporations have to go through a process of grants, with guidelines that dismay well-seasoned lawyers and accountants. If the same process was applied to the roof batts scandal, the contractors would be still filling in the grant applications and waiting for the form to be returned. They would then have to account for every cent, in a house-by-house grant acquittal.  The consequence of not filling in the returns properly is to receive an unbelievable response from a bureaucrat. They would find them if they left out a packet of screws; they would be accused of rorting and their future grant suspended.  While you write a letter explaining what happened to the screws.

Well anyway, I am not going to buy any music from Independent white fella labels, exploiting Aboriginal artists. I will buy from the ABC Label where I can support artists like Warren H Williams Troy Cassar-Daly. I also support those bands that make their own CDs. I hope you do the same. Before you buy look at the label, buyer beware.

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2 responses

  1. Jason Castledine

    Very sad that the store has closed. Some of them CDs you cant buy anywhere else. What are the bands going to do? Only other Indigenous owned labels I’ve found are paybackrecords, impossible odds records, and skinnyfish up in Darwin.

    Be nice if someone out there could start the CAAMA shop back up.

    November 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

  2. veronica

    I reckon it’s because it moved to the Todd mall, they should re-open it back at the caama building.

    August 12, 2012 at 3:05 am

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