Making Noise for East Timor – The Dili Allstars
Discussion with Paulo Almeida 16/2/23 by David Pace
Lead singer and front man, Paulo Almeida reflects on the Dili Allstars performing at WOMAD:
“This is our first time at WOMAD! I have been as a punter but have not performed there.
The Dili Allstars approached WOMAD saying we would like to put together a new show, really showcasing the East Timorese cultural side of things to suit the festival. We would include a cultural group, The ‘Timoroan’s’, which translates to the Sons and daughters of Timor. The ‘Timoroan’s’ would add a drumming and dancing component. Thankfully it was accepted. We now hope to showcase a new side to the Dili Allstars to the youth”
“We have seven members in the band, plus the five members from the Timoroan’s. Our music has a Reggae feel. Reggae is the music we grew up with. Bob Marley was one of our favourites. I remember a time in 1999, standing next to late Doc Neeson, lead singer of The Angels at a rally for independence for East Timor. He pointed to a flag and said to me, “Look there is the East Timorese flag. I explained it wasn’t, it was the Rusta flag, the symbol of the oppressed with a music and message that uplifts. This is what the music of the Dili Allstars is all about.”
“We formed in late 1990’s and continued until 2007, deciding to take a break and pursue individual projects. The Dili’s re-formed to celebrate 20 years of East Timorese Independence @ Memo Music Hall, St Kilda in 2022. Paulie Stewart, East Timorese activist in the struggle for independence and the front man for the Melbourne based band, Painters and Dockers, is widely regarded as a legend in the East Timorese community. Paulie is, and always has been an integral part of the Dili Allstars. He performed with the Dili’s recently at the Memo Music Hall and Colac Art Centre shows, unfortunately missing a show in Port Fairy which clashed with a Painters and Dockers engagement. Paulie Stewart is the Heart and Soul of the Dili Allstars.”
“Highlights during my time in the Dili’s have been many, but performing in East Timor during the Independence Concert in 2002 was a personal highlight. Witnessing the East Timorese flag being raised was a great culminative moment. The Dili Allstars are band for a cause. We have always wanted to make noise for, and about, East Timor.”
The Dilli Allstars are appearing at WOMADelaide.
2022 marked the 20-year anniversary of Timor Leste’s Independence, and the formation of one of the country’s leading voices of activism, the Dili Allstars. With their spirit and art rooted in resistance, their music speaks of peaceful protest in the struggle for liberation. Founding members Paulie Stewart (Painters & Dockers) and Gil Santos, and all subsequent band members, have been involved with the East Timor struggle, losing family and friends, homes and security in the Indonesian invasion of 1975. These days, the band is keeping the music, culture and art of Timor Leste alive through storytelling, social engagements with the community and mentoring young people.