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Seaman Dan

Henry Gibson "Seaman" Dan (born 25 August 1929[1]), known as Seaman Dan, an Indigenous Australian, is a Torres Strait Islander 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[2] and in 2009 won again with Sailing Home.[3] In 2014 at the age of 85 he released A Caribbean Songbook, his tribute to the music of the West Indies. In 2016 at the age of 87 he released An Old Man of the Sea, which was a finalist for an ARIA Award in the World Music category.

Seaman Dan
Seaman Dan
Background information
Birth name Henry Gibson Dan
Born (1929-08-25) 25 August 1929 (age 88)
Thursday Island, Torres Strait Islands, Queensland, Australia
Origin Torres Strait Islander
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Years active 1990s–present
  • Hot Records
  • Steady Steady Music


Early lifeEdit

Seaman Dan was born on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait Islands Region of far-north Queensland, Australia in 1929.[1] His great grandfather was a sailor from Jamaica in the West Indies and his great grandmother a chief's daughter from New Caledonia.[4] Another grandfather came from the island of Niue in Polynesia. In the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, 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.[1]


Dan's singing came from family, friends and associating with talented 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 decades.

In its citation on awarding Dan the Australia Council for the Arts Red Ochre Award in 2005 for his outstanding contribution to the development and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, the Council claimed he was a charismatic and consummate performer who blended traditional Torres Strait Islander and pearling songs with jazz, hula and blues.[5] In 2013, he received a Hall of Fame Award at the National Indigenous Music Awards in Darwin.

He has performed in Japan[6] and throughout Australia, most notably at the National Folk Festival, Port Fairy 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 Festival.

Dan semi-retired at the age of 85 years.[7][8]


  • Follow the Sun (2000)
  • Steady, Steady (2002) Hot Records
  • Perfect Pearl (2004) Hot Records (ARIA award winner for Best World Music Album in 2004)
  • Island Way (2005) Steady Steady Music (Nominated for an ARIA Award for Best World Music album)
  • Somewhere There's An Island-Best of 1999–2006 (2007) Steady Steady Music
  • Sailing Home (2009) Steady Steady Music (ARIA award winner for Best World Music Album in 2009)
  • Sunnyside (2012) Steady Steady Music (A Tribute to the Songs of Nat King Cole)
  • Still on Deck: Personal Favourites (2013) Steady Steady Music
  • A Caribbean Songbook (2014) Steady Steady Music
  • An Old Man of the Sea (2016) Steady Steady Music

Published worksEdit

  • Dan, Seaman; Neuenfeldt, Karl (2013). Steady, Steady: the Life and Music of Seaman Dan. Australia: Aboriginal Studies Press. 


  1. ^ a b c Maza, Rachael (28 October 2005). "Hula Time: the Seaman Dan Story" (transcript). Message Stick. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Albert, Jane (13 October 2004). "Old pearler surfaces with greatest prize". The Australian. 
  3. ^ The Cairns Post, 11 November 2009, "Seaman's success"
  4. ^ Canberra Times, 13 April 2006, "Island music escape"
  5. ^ "Seaman Dan honoured with Red Ochre Award" (Press release). Australia Council for the Arts. 1 January 1990. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  6. ^ Hillier, Tony (18 April 2009). "Seaman's coda". The Australian. 
  7. ^ Dan, Seaman (16 May 2010). "Sailing Away with Uncle Seaman Dan" (downloadable audio). Speaking Out (Interview). Interviewed by Rhianna Patrick. Australia: ABC Local Radio. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Dan, Seaman (10 July 2013). "Life and times of Seaman Dan" (streaming audio). Magazine program (Interview). Interviewed by Richard Dinnen and Isaac Egan. Cairns, Australia: ABC Local Radio. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 

External linksEdit