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Robbie James : Associate Artist

For me, music is that special place where we can share our lives, remember our lives, discover new life.

Photo of Robbie James

James' musical background is unusual for a classical composer - he is self-taught and largely recognised through his work with the iconic Australian band GANGgajang that has achieved both national and international success. Since 1985 to present day he has been the band's lead guitarist and the writer of many of their songs. He produced their latest album Oceans and Deserts. GANGgajang's song, Sounds of Then (This is Australia), has become part of Australian music folklore and is often referred to as Australia's alternative national anthem. James also toured the world for five years with Yothu Yindi, the band that put First Nations culture on the world stage. He was also a principal songwriter for Wendy Matthews' first three albums, two of which reached platinum sales. Since 2012, James has been a member of Scattered People, a group of musicians who rose out of the Brisbane Asylum Seeker Centre in 1998. He produced, recorded and co-wrote their latest album Sugarmill Road which is the subject of the documentary film, Scattered People, currently streaming on 10Play and Paramount+.

James' solo albums include the orchestral song-cycle Suzannah Suite (2000), the pop album Secrets In The Sand (2019), the jazz guitar & voice album 24 Hours A Night (2022), and the classical album The Marree Sisters released through ABC Classic in 2022. The melodic artistry of his pop and jazz recordings is ever-present in his emotive classical compositions.

James' commissions and concerts include the soundtracks for the 2001 and 2002 Perth Australia Day Skyshows, an orchestral arrangement of GANGgajang's Sounds Of Then (This Is Australia) for the 2004 Premier's Luncheon performed by the SYO, a string quartet arrangement of Sounds Of Then performed at the London Paralympics in 2012, and the string quintet Dreaming In the Sand (part one) performed by Bentley String Quintet at the 2021 Restrung Festival in Brisbane.

It was the release of his String Quintet No.4 The Marree Sisters through ABC Classic in 2022 that brought his classical music to a wider audience, confirming his place amongst notable Australian composers.

Robbie James — current to March 2023

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
String Quintet No. 3 : The Dreamt World : string quintet (2016) String Quintet No. 3 The Dreamt World is part of a larger work called Dreaming In The Sand which was commissioned by Restrung Festival Brisbane
String Quintet No. 2 : Kangaroo : string quintet (2003) Commissioned by Restrung Festival
String Quintet No. 1 : Suzannah : string quintet (1999) String Quintet No. 1 Suzannah is part of a larger work called Dreaming In The Sand which was commissioned by Restrung Festival Brisbane