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Seaman Dan

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Biography Wikipedia


Henry Gibson "Seaman" Dan (born 1929), known universally as Seaman Dan, is a Torres Strait Islander (Australian) singer-songwriter with a national and international reputation whose first recording was released in 2000. His album Perfect Pearl won him an ARIA award for Best World Music Album in 2004 and in 2009 won again with Sailing Home.

^ The Australian, 13 October 2004, "Old pearler surfaces with greatest prize" by Jane Albert^ The Cairns Post, 11 November 2009, "Seaman's success"

Early life[edit]

Seaman Dan was born on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait region of far-north Queensland, Australia in 1929. His great grandfather was a sailor from Jamaica in the West Indies and his great grandmother a chief's daughter from New Caledonia. Another grandfather came from the island of Niue in Polynesia. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Seaman Dan worked as a boat captain and pearl diver - gathering pearl and trochus shells across the north of Australia. He also did jobs such as mineral prospecting and taxi driving.

^ ABC, 28 October 2005, "Hula Time!" with Seaman Dan^ Canberra Times, 13 April 2006, "Island music escape"^ ABC, 4 July 2006, Message Stick Online


Seaman Dan's singing came from family, friends and associating with natural musicians in his multi-cultural maritime working life, creating a fusion of music from Australia, Melanesia, North America, Africa and Polynesia, notably the Thursday Island 'hula' style. He has been a regular performer at Thursday Island's local hotels and a community musician for many years.

He is "A charismatic and consummate performer, Seaman Dan blends traditional Torres Strait Islander and pearling songs with jazz, hula and blues," (from the Australia Council for the Arts' 2005 Red Ochre Award Media Release for the 2005 Red Ochre Award). The Red Ochre Award recognizes and pays tribute to an Indigenous Australian artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the development and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, both nationally and internationally. In 2013, he received a Hall of Fame Award at the National Indigenous Music Awards in Darwin.

He has performed in Japan and throughout Australia, most notably at the National Folk Festival, Darwin Festival, Adelaide and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, Laura Dance and Music Festival, Tasmania's 10 Days on the Island Festival, NAIDOC Ball, and at the National Museum of Australia's Tracking Kultja: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Festival.

Now semi-retired at the age of 84 years, in 2009 he performed for the Pacific Leaders Forum in Cairns and the inaugural Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair. He also still performs weekly in Torres Strait at local hotels.

In 2013 his biography, "Steady, Steady: the Life and Music of Seaman Dan", was published by Aboriginal Studies Press in Australia. It includes a free copy of the "Still on Deck: Personal Favourites' CD.

^ The Australian, 18 April 2009, "Seaman's coda" by Tony Hillier