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Kee’ahn’s Guide to the Perfect NT Road Trip

Kee’ahn talks to Rolling Stone Australia for our #UpInIt series, where Australian musicians reveal their unique perspectives on the NT.

Kee’ahn is a Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal and Torres Strait Islander musician from North Queensland. Kee’ahn is now based in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city by population and the country’s most densely populated region. Kee’ahn, who uses they/them pronouns, is used to feeling like a little fish in a big pond. But visiting the NT outback for the first time, Kee’ahn was awed by the sheer expanse.

“It did make me feel small and really present,” Kee’ahn says. “[I was] seeing the world in a way that’s so different to what I’d experienced.”

In a new video produced by Rolling Stone Australia and Tourism NT, Kee’ahn offers some choice tips for road-tripping around the NT. 

Kee’ahn grew up in Townsville/Gurrumbilbarra, on Wulgurukaba and Bindal country. They’re something of an authority on navigating the tropical weather and long stretches of road found in the NT.

“The top essentials for a road trip in the NT are good clothing that caters for all weather. Have your sunscreen,” Kee’ahn says. “[Bring] good music, good books … relax, and have a good vibe and make sure you’re respectful and that you enjoy it.”

Kee’ahn relocated to Melbourne in 2019 to pursue music. Kee’ahn’s debut single, the guitar-oriented soul number, “Better Things”, came out in May 2020. “Better Things” received multiple nominations at the 2020 National Indigenous Music Awards. Kee’ahn took home the Archie Roach Foundation Award for emerging talent and was invited to perform at the 2021 NIMAs.

The 2022 NIMAs will take place at the Darwin Amphitheatre on Saturday August 6th, during the first weekend of the Darwin Festival. Darwin was the final stop on Kee’ahn’s Northern Territory road-trip. To get there, they travelled across 2000 kilometres of road, beginning in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Central Australian Desert.

Kee’ahn flew into Ayers Rock/Connellan Airport, hired a car and drove 20 minutes to Uluru-Kata Tjuta. Uluru is on Pitjantjatjara country, and the monolith, which rises 348 metres above the earth, holds major significance for the local Aṉangu. Likewise, Kata Tjuta, a series of domed rock formations that covers 20 square kilometres.

Kee’ahn’s next stop was Alice Springs, also known as the Capital of the Outback. Alice is the NT’s second largest city by population and sits snugly between the East and West MacDonnell Ranges. Alice is surrounded by desert landscapes and steeped in Indigenous history and culture. While there, Kee’ahn visited Mbantua Gallery, home to a world-class collection of Aboriginal contemporary art.

Five hours north of Alice Springs is Tennant Creek, a multicultural town of three-thousand people. “We camped [in Tennant Creek],” says Kee’ahn. “It was really lovely, all the little camp spots that we found along the way—in the townships, but also just on the side of the road of the main highway.”

On the way to Tennant Creek, Kee’ahn visited Karlu Karlu, the ancient, gravity-defying boulders commonly known by their European name, Devils Marbles. “It’s these beautiful big rocks,” Kee’ahn says. 

Before reaching Darwin, Kee’ahn explored Litchfield National Park, a region of monsoon rainforest, green picnic areas, waterfalls and plunge pools. “There was beautiful swimming holes and lush greenery, but also red rock still,” says Kee’ahn. “So that was so different to what I’d experienced in North Queensland.”

After 2000 kilometres on the road, Kee’ahn made it to Darwin, a relaxed city of beaches, international cuisine, arts, culture and ancient Indigenous history. “We stayed at the backpackers [on Mitchell Street] and partied on our last night,” says Kee’ahn.