Latest Posts


Darwin Entertainment Centre,  October 10 2015 | By Steve ‘Habibi’ Kelk


Local Darwin Indigenous roots legend Reggae Dave performed an emotional show at the Darwin Entertainment Centre on Saturday to a vibrant crowd of loyal followers. Emotional because the crowd soon learned, if they didn’t have an inkling already, that ‘Uncle’ is very ill.

In a very personal address to his audience before he ramped up the beats, Reggae Dave informed us all that the cancer he thought he had beaten had returned, spread and was now inoperable. He had in the recent past beaten so much, especially having lost a leg to diabetes two years ago. He punctuated his set from time to time with this heartfelt dialogue and said he was telling us all this because he wanted to feel the energy in the room from Darwin people, his people for over thirty years:

“To me, (this is) a healing process…(I could go anywhere, tour anywhere) but my back yard is better than going anywhere else, you can’t miss anything here, it’s all here in Darwin. This is the energy and the fun is here – it’s all here in Darwin. Right now I feel really blessed with a lot of energy from you guys.  I actually don’t have any pain any more.”

And he was in pain to start with. I saw him wince when he walked up the short flight of stairs to take the stage. I immediately recalled when I saw him perform for the first time since he lost his leg, back at the Happy Yess about six or so months after the amputation, that I had expected him to arrive wheelchair-bound but I was wrong – he made his own way into the venue, on his one good leg and a prosthetic one, carrying his guitar case and completely unaided. That filled me with joy and I will always remember it. It showed dignity, toughness and of course a perfect example of ‘the show must go on’.  The local music community had earlier lovingly undertaken a series of benefit concerts for Reggae Dave while he was in hospital and, while I have never spoken to him about it, I can’t help but feel that this was one of his ways of saying ‘thank you – you mob worked so hard for me and I am not going to disappoint you’.

He told us during the show that he had a ‘car-full’ of pain killers but he decided not to take any before the show as he wanted to have a clear head and did not want to nod off – again, his audience came first on this special night and, in turn, their energy and warmth lifted him and took away his pain.  Maybe he was speaking metaphorically, maybe not (and no one will ever know that but him).

His set was vivid and had a curious energy to it – his backing band, The Iries, knew of his situation and it was clear they were giving him their best on this night. Two standouts were ‘Hide and Seek’ and his last song of the evening, ‘Falling Down’, a song he wrote when he was in hospital for the amputation.

David Spry and The Moral High Ground performed with full band after Reggae Dave’s set as he sat down to a well-earned rest amongst the crowd to enjoy his protégé’s captivating show. It is no secret that a lot of local musicians look up to ‘Uncle’ as a leader and mentor. I don’t think I would be wrong to say that the combined members of both the Iries and The Moral High Ground would have been having a bittersweet time of it this night. Their collective musical journeys have been enhanced by this powerful and fatherly figure, strong also in Indigenous culture and community and a beacon for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Darwin musicians alike. Reggae Dave has truly united this multicultural community with his music and with his quiet charisma. 

I am both saddened and heartened to be writing this article. Saddened because Uncle is ill but heartened because of the good music he gives us, the sense of community he fosters and the knowledge that he thoroughly enjoyed this big performance amongst his musician family and his faithful fans.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.