Heritage runs deep in Broome

Bart Pigram takes a group on his My Heritage Tour through Broome.
Photo of Angie Tomlinson

Discover a backyard studio in Broome where music magic happens.

Lauded as Broome’s best export, the Pigram Brothers are Broome royalty. The band has won myriad awards, is deeply admired within the music industry and counts Paul Kelly and Jimmy Barnes as fans and friends.

Music runs deep through the large Pigram-Puertollano family, extending back generations, through to Narlijia Cultural Tours owner Bart Pigram, whose father Steve and Uncle Alan were the first indigenous artists to be inducted into the West Australian Music Hall of Fame.

When I tell locals Bart will be taking me to Pearlshell Studios where the band had recorded, they can barely contain their excitement. Or envy.

The backyard studio is basic but lining its walls are signed oyster shells. “To Alan, Josie and the family. Thanks for your hospitality. Paul Kelly,” reads one, sitting alongside others signed by Troy Cassar-Daley, Missy Higgins, Bill Chambers and Archie Roach.

The new My Heritage Tour by Bart’s company Narlijia Cultural Tours Broome is personal, a combination of Bart’s musical heritage, his Yawuru ancestors explaining their traditional saltwater lives, language and cultural connection to the land, and the early story of Broome, his home town.

Bart has clearly inherited musical talent but it’s his gift for oratory that he uses to tell the story of country. “My family tell the Yawuru story through songwriting but I do it through cultural tours,” he says.

Through his tour Bart gives the landscape cultural value, explains the pre-colonisation values that are still instilled in him today, as well as his modern culture of music, guitars and cuisine.

Bart leads us up Kennedy Hill, a red sand dune covered in cockleshells — the result of thousands of years of consumption as a staple diet of Bart’s ancestors. On the dune Bart happens upon a modern Kimberley point (spear point). The glass shows evidence of knapping, the edges chipped away to form a point. Traditionally the points were made with quartzite stone or bone.

In town Bart and sister Naomi perform beautiful renditions of well-known Pigram Brothers songs while we eat the famous fish soup and rice sung about in Feel Like Going Back Home. Bart’s dad wrote the song while missing home on the road when Bart’s mother was pregnant with him.

I’m lucky enough to catch a now relatively rare set by the Pigram Brothers on luxury adventure-cruise vessel True North — another Broome icon. We cruise Roebuck Bay in a welcome back for the small ship which is about to begin plying Kimberley waters celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary.

The band’s famous songs, a chance to view True North’s luxury cabins, champagne and morsels such as soft-shell crab and Esperance sardines make for a great party on Roebuck Bay.

Fact File


Angie Tomlinson was a guest of Australia's North West tourism.


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