Gypsy Nights bring back Jazz

Jeremy Hawker. CREDIT: Paul Freeman.

When most people hear the word ‘gypsy,’ they hold their children tight and their wallets tighter. But there’s a new breed of gypsy, bringing a genre of music to Townsville that hasn’t had its share of the local spotlight in a long time.

Local muso Jeremy Hawker is the first to admit he has his finger in a lot of musical pies around town.

“I work as a cover band guy regularly in Flynn’s, Molly’s, and Longboard a fair bit, and as part of a band called the Chit Chats which play my arrangements of things. I run the Gypsy Night as well which is at the Basement Bar every fortnight, and during the week work full-time as a guitar teacher,” said Jeremy.

“The Gypsy Night is on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, and it’s open to all abilities – all instruments. Entry is by donation. People can just rock up anytime, there’s no pressure or anything; it’s very casual. It’s really about participation and trying to get that sort of music going in the Ville.

“I think what got me into it was just getting more people exposed to that sort of music. Getting people interested in Jazz, interested in something else. In Townsville, there’s not that much in the way of education for Jazz, so I sort of thought I may as well start doing it myself – it’s not like Melbourne or Brisbane where there’s a thriving scene and lots of educational opportunities, we don’t have that up here. I thought about leaving but then thought I might as well make my own Jazz scene.”

The Gypsy Nights, held in arguably Townsville’s jazziest venue, invite people of all ages and abilities to join in and create music – whether they have an instrument or not.

“They can come along and tap a drum, tap a tabletop… Whatever they want to do! I had a singer come along before who just came along and improvised random notes. It’s not about being amazing, it’s about having a go and being exposed to something you wouldn’t be usually be exposed to. And then hopefully people run with it!

“Everybody’s a fan of a certain style of music, they just don’t know it yet. The trick is to let them know that this music exists, give them exposure to it and teach them how to do it.

“And for audiences locally supporting music … it’s a chicken or the egg scenario. For people to support things, there needs to be a good scene for people to go along and be interested – but for there to be a good scene, there needs to be enough people doing it and doing it well. The burden of support is sort of with both of us I think. It’s up to the artist to make the product as good as possible so the people come along, and it’s up to the people to give it a go and try something new – not just something they do every weekend.”

Jeremy Hawker can be found gracing the stages of all of Townsville’s best local music venues weekly, as well as hosting Gypsy Nights on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month at the Basement Bar, 7-9pm. Entry is by donation. For more information, check out his Facebook page.

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