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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Fred Smith ANZAC Weekend Concert at Batemans Bay Soldiers Club

Fred Smith and band will be presenting this extraordinary song cycle on Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club on Saturday 23 April.

The concert will begin with songs from Fred’s acclaimed Dust of Uruzgan album which draw on his experiences working alongside Australian soldiers in southern Afghanistan. It will culminate with material he wrote after working on the dramatic evacuation from Kabul in August 2021.

Fred Smith was the first Australian diplomat to be sent to work alongside Australian soldiers in Uruzgan Province in 2009 and a last to leave in 2013. While there he wrote songs about his experience and put on regular concerts on the base with band is made up of Aussie, US and Dutch soldiers as well as Afghan staff.

Returning to Australia, he recorded these songs on an album Dust of Uruzgan. The CD was described in the Weekend Australian as continuing “a tradition of profoundly affecting Australians-at-war ballads that includes Eric Bogle’s And the band played Waltzing Matilda, Don Walker’s Khe Sanh and John Schumann’s I was only 19.

The title track was covered by Lee Kernaghan on his top selling Spirit of the Anzacs album.

Smith also wrote a book called The Dust of Uruzgan about his experiences, published by Allen and Unwin in 2016, and is subject of an ABC Australian Story documentary.

In 2020, Smith went back to Afghanistan to work in the Australian Embassy in Kabul. As Kabul fell under Taliban control, he found himself working from Kabul International Airport (KIA) on Australia’s mission to evacuate passport and visa holders.

His experiences at the horrendous human logjams at the gates of the airport are expressed in this new single, “Gates of KIA”. “Seeing such human desperation of my own eyes changed me” said Smith.

Since returning, he built a final version of the Dust of Uruzgan stage show that toured to 80 theatres around Australia. Does a remarkable job of explaining Australia’s 20 year involvement in Afghanistan, culminating the evacuation.

“The perception is that the evacuation was a failure, but in fact the Australian team managed to get 4100 people out most of them are now living in Australia. Their girls and boys are going to school and having swimming lessons. We’ve changed people’s lives” said Smith. “This is a story worth telling”

Fred is seen by many as the unofficial historian of Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan.

His book The Dust of Uruzgan was described by Channel 10 Political Editor Hugh Riminton as “as convincing a picture as we will ever have of the tragedy, hope, oddness and courage of Australia’s Uruzgan enterprise…an astonishingly vibrant piece of reportage from the heart of our longest war.”

The lyrics to his song Sapper’s Lullaby are engraved in marble at the Australian plot the centuries old British War Cemetery in Kabul.

Performers: Fred Smith, Dave O’Neill, Mitch Preston, Matt Nightingale

About Fred Smith

“Fred Smith is simply the best folk/country musician working in this country…beyond writing some of the finest songs about Australians at war, he has created a repertoire that is wry, literate, witty, powerfully emotional and insightful.” (Bruce Elder, SMH). He blends tunes you can whistle with stories you will remember. His songs are subtle, wry and perceptive. His remarkable hybrid career is the subject of an Australian Story documentary. His memoir, the Dust of Uruzgan, was published by Allen and Unwin. Fred’s performances will have you laughing, thinking and feeling.

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