Geia is a renowned singer/songwriter, guitarist, didgeridoo player and influential figure in the development of contemporary Indigenous music. He writes music of bravery and beauty, telling of Aboriginal life in Australia, of the quest for justice and belonging, of history, family and love.
“I want to promote change and understanding, melodically and harmoniously,” he says, “while still sharing the little known aspects of Aboriginal history.”
Geia is perhaps best known for his song and album of the same name “Yil Lull”, regularly described as Australia’s unofficial Indigenous national anthem. “Yill Lull” has been covered by many of Australia’s best-known recording artists. His much loved song “Uncle Willie” is about one of seven leaders (alongside Geia’s father, Albert) instrumental in the historic 1957 Palm Island strike that won Indigenous people the right to work for wages rather than rations. A monument dedicated to these men stands proudly in the centre of Palm Island. This sense of social justice resonates through Geia’s songs.
Yil Lull, was released in 1988 (the year of Australia’s bicentennial), on the Only Gammin’ label, and achieved an unprecedented level of critical and commercial success for an Aboriginal performer. He toured nationally in support of the album on the “Uncle Willie” tour of 1988 and reached a wide audience. The album was considered vitally important among Aboriginal people, and was well-timed to express a growing sense of pride in culture and identity, and hope for the political fight for land rights.
He is widely regarded as a pioneer of contemporary Aboriginal music, first coming to prominence as a member of the influential Aboriginal band, No Fixed Address.
Geia was also a key part and founding member of The Black Arm Band, touring with them in Australia and London at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. You can view this performance on Youtube/ Joe Geia Yil Lull /Black Arm Band performance in London June 08.
Joe released a second album, “Tribal Journey”, in 1996, through Larrikin/Festival records. He has also contributed songs to other projects and worked as a session musician for other bands. His third album “Nunga, Koori and a Murri Love” was released by Across The Borders, Melbourne, in December 2005. Produced by Shane Howard, the album was made with a cast of well-known Australian support musicians. These include Kerryn Tolhurst (The Dingoes), Ross Hannaford (Daddy Cool) and jazz musician, Bob Sedergreen.
Stylistically Geia’s songs fit the category of roots music and range from simple Pacific songs to reggae, jazz and funk. The songs are written in Aboriginal language and English, and touch on universal themes as well as issues and history of Aboriginal Australia. There is also plenty of irony and black humour in some of the more recent songs like “Gimme a Mercedes and “Good to see ya”.
Geia has performed with renowned American saxophonist Pharaoh Saunders and shared Indigenous culture with jazz luminaries such as Branford Marsalis and Australia’s Bob Sedergreen (Art Attack). He played support for Ray Charles, BB King and Jimi Cliff.
One of his personal highlights was performing (and welcoming) Nelson Mandela on his visit to Melbourne in 1990 at the Melbourne Entertainment Centre.
Joe Geia tours nationally and internationally, including Ireland, Italy, Germany and the UK taking with him, a message of education and reconciliation through music – the universal language.
Geia continues to perform, travelling to Italy for the Festival of Traditions in May 2014 and in Melbourne at the Malthouse Theatre and Victorian regional centres with Blak Cabaret.
Geia has released a new CD North South East & West (November 2016) as well as pursuing his passion to see Yil Lull joined with the second verse of Advance Australia Fair (the verse that welcomes people from across the seas) as a combined anthem that recognises the First People in our national song just as South Africa and New Zealand have done. There are now several schools in Victoria singing this combined anthem each week at assembly.