GANGgajang, the iconic Australian band, has etched its indelible mark on the country’s music landscape, captivating audiences for almost four decades with their unique blend of rock, pop, and nuanced storytelling. Formed in the mid 1980s, GANGgajang‘s distinctive sound and thought-provoking lyrics have made them a beloved and enduring presence in the Australian music scene.
GANGgajang announced their arrival with their eponymous debut album in 1985, featuring the legendary hit single “Sounds of Then (This is Australia).” This song, with its evocative lyrics and catchy melody, took on a life of its own as it resonated with the Australian people, encapsulating the essence of their homeland. It is a testament to the band’s ability to connect with their audience on a deeply emotional level and to convey a sense of national identity and nostalgia, that has seen the song reach anthem status and continue to connect with new generations of fans to this day.
The band’s roots trace back to the mid-1980s when The Riptides singer Mark “Cal” Callaghan teamed up with The Angels rhythm section of Chris Bailey and Graham ‘Buzz’ Bidstrup, alongside The Aliens’ Geoffrey Stapleton, percussionist and backing singer Kayellen Bee and guitarist Robbie James. Their eclectic mix of talents and backgrounds contributed to the creation of a sound that transcended traditional genres.
GANGgajang reflected a new attitude: that music was all about ‘the song’ and that a good song could be played solely on an acoustic guitar. Thus, they became the ‘GANG’ that made the ‘gajang’: the sound of a guitar being strummed.
Their debut album contained the singles, Gimme Some Lovin’, Giver of Life and House of Cards, and quickly climbed the charts to become part of the music revolution reinventing the Australian sound.
The albums that followed: gangAGAIN, Lingo and Oceans and Deserts, showcased their musical versatility and further defined GANGgajang’s unique output. They won global audiences, most notably in Brazil, where the huge surfing community went crazy for the GANG. The band toured Brazil three times playing to packed venues, with one of the highlights being an outdoor concert to 20,000 fans on Rio’s Copacabana Beach. Add to this GANGgajang’s soundtrack to Quiksilver’s 1986 cult surf movie Mad Wax and it’s no wonder the group was crowned ‘The World’s Best Band’ for two years in a row by the Professional Surfers Association of America.
The band’s enduring appeal is a testament to their commitment to storytelling through music. Their lyrics often explore themes of Australian identity, love, and the human experience, resonating with a broad and diverse audience. GANGgajang’s songwriting is characterized by its sincerity and a deep sense of nostalgia, capturing moments of life that are both personal and universal.
True to their ‘GANG’ philosophy, this ‘informal body of friends’ has continued to work together for over 30 years, while also pursuing their myriad of separate interests: touring and recording with other artists including the reformed original Angels line-up, a resurfaced Riptides, Yothu Yindi, Jimmy Little, Jimmy Barnes, The Stetsons, Absent Friends, The Dukes and Wendy Matthews, to name but a few. The branches of the GANGgajang family tree do indeed span far and wide.
2024 will mark the 40th anniversary of the band with more touring and recording – and plenty of stories still to be told.