Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky

My full name is Frantisek Jan McMurray Wositzky. Yeah, quite a moniker, though hardly suited to show business. These days I go by Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky: to show people how to pronounce it and also because it’s what I do – spin a yarn.

Officially I call myself a Storyteller Musician – music being where my career began, forty-eight years ago, as a founder of The Bushwackers Band, playing the humble tea-chest bass (you will often notice today there’s a tea-chest with me lurking somewhere on the stage).

After a decade with the ‘Wackers I took off to travel, write one-man story shows, get together the occasional band, produce radio features, write books and audio tours and produce CDs and events – all the way walking the tightrope of earning a living from what you love. And I’m still here at 67, and dare I say, performing better than ever. Maturity trumps youth, perhaps.

The instruments I play are old-style 5-string banjo (not bluegrass), harmonica, bodhran, spoons, rhythm bones and a bit of ukelele (doesn’t everyone these days?).

The throughline in all of this has been my dedication to quality Australian stories – people stories, universal stories from this land. My parents, Clare McMurray, a regal Scot, and Frantisek Wositzky, a gregarious Czech, brought me to Australia when I was five. They were steeped in the culture of their homelands and when I think about what I do …  maybe I’m trying to find the same cultural identity in the homeland I was brought to – and to pass it on. Then again, maybe I’ve been avoiding ever having a real job.

My material ranges from history tales, folk songs, originals tales and songs about weird and wonderful happenings and people I meet. I’m part of a nation, I feel, that’s still trying to find itself. I do a lot of cross-cultural work, with Indigenous Australians, Turks and others, telling our mutual stories.

My home is Castlemaine – the most diverse mono-cultural town in Victoria – 120kms from Melbourne. It’s traditional Dja Dja Wurrung country, gold rush country, an arts town, an engineering town, with a mix of old country folk and ‘latte swilling blow-ins’.

Cheers, Jan.