The man from Arnhem Land who’s cool as hell

Baker Boy says keeping language strong by mixing it with music means it will be there forever.

Danzel Baker, the talent behind Baker Boy, has been making his presence felt in the mainstream music scene.

With the 2019 Young Australia of the Year award under his belt, Baker has kicked off his Cool as Hell national tour with sold out Melbourne shows.

Baker released Cool as Hell earlier this year, a project he worked on with Australian Hip Hop legends the Thundamentals and writer and producer Carl Dimataga.

“I’m getting better and better at it each time and it helps me to make more music for people to listen to, jam to, vibe to and dance to … now we have the Cool as Hell tour happening so I’m looking forward to performing.”

The tour kicked off in Melbourne on the 5th of April, with a second show added to the tour due to the overwhelming response. The tour will travel to places such as Sydney, Newcastle, Alice Springs and includes a headline show at the Boomerang Festival in Byron Bay.

“I have heard about Boomerang Festival so many times when I was growing up—seeing the posters when I was a kid. I’m looking forward to performing there. It’s going to be my first time being there and I can’t wait.”

The 22-year-old Yolngu man now lives in Melbourne, a world away from his Arnhem Land home in the remote communities Milingimbi and Maningrida.

Growing up on Yolngu country was critical to the construction of Baker Boy and the presence of Yolngu Matha in his music.

“I think language brings me back home. I like listening to family talking the language and calling them, all that stuff makes me feel like home. For me, keeping language strong by mixing it with music means it will just be there forever.”

Baker has always been very vocal about the love and support he has found within his family and the importance of their role in his journey.

“I get homesick sometimes … if family call me and say, ‘We are cooking up seafood, we went and caught it the other day!’ I’ll think, I want to come home, I want to have some.”

“But I have family that are really supportive, and they’ll just help me out saying, ‘You’ll be right, home will always be home, it’s never going anywhere. You’re going everywhere. Whenever you have time, just come home and hang out for a bit’.”

Baker reminisces on the tough love and support from his cousins that pushed him to take on this career and share his talent.

“My cousins kicked my butt and said to get up, stop being lazy, do what you want to do and that they would support me one hundred percent. Whatever I needed, I had right there, and the support would be there until I achieved whatever I wanted to achieve … There were a lot of moments where I didn’t want to do it anymore and I wanted to stop. I just wanted go back home and go fishing everyday but then they would make me think about that bigger picture.”

One of the ways Baker Boy has become a role model for young First Nations kids has been by releasing dance tutorials to accompany his music.

“I love teaching fresh brains and teaching with a positive energy, a positive mind frame. I help them with the confidence to do what they want to do when they grow up … as if the whole world is theirs to conquer.”

“Having that and telling that message is amazing, because there’s a lot of people listening to music and our music, it’s so big. A lot of kids back in remote communities, they listen to music, and some of them learn English through listening to music.”

Despite being named the 2019 Young Australian of the Year, Baker remains very humble.

“I feel honoured and blessed, this overwhelming feeling that the hard work is starting to show … When you start making music and achieve these awards, it doesn’t mean now it’s easy. You have to keep working hard, keep walking forward [with] head up straight and you know, push yourself. If it gets hard, take a break and then start again. Don’t just stop and quit and do something else.”

Baker has released four singles. His first two were featured in the 2017 Triple J Hottest 100, with Cloud 9 coming in as 76th and Marryuna placing 17th in the countdown. Marryuna was the first single featuring Indigenous language to crack the top 20.

In the year ahead, Baker hopes to release an album.

“I’m working towards an album … Everyone has been bugging me for it, everyone has been asking when the will be released. At the moment, I have 4 singles out, and I just want to put an album out so everyone can listen to my music and listen to my story, through my music.”

Baker Boy’s Cool as Hell tour kicked off early April and will be travelling across the nation.

Tickets can be purchased online.

By Rachael Knowles

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