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Sounds of Australia: Aboriginal Popular Music, Identity, and Place

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During the late twentieth century, Australia started to recognize the rights of the Aboriginal people. Indigenous claims for self-determination revolved around struggles to maintain a distinct cultural identity in strategies to own and govern traditional lands within the wider political system. While these fundamental challenges pervaded indigenous affairs, contemporary popular music by Aboriginal artists became increasingly important as a means of mediating viewpoints and agendas of the Australian national consciousness. It provided an artistic platform for indigenous performers to express a concerted resistance to colonial influences and sovereignty. As such, this study aims to examine the meaning and significance of musical recordings that reflect Aboriginal identity and place in a popular culture. It adopts an ethnomusicological approach in which music is explored not only in terms of its content, but also in terms of its social, economic, and political contexts. This paper is organized into three case studies of different Aboriginal rock groups: Bleckbala Mujik, Warumpi Band, and Yothu Yindi. Through these studies, the prevalent use of Aboriginal popular music is discerned as an accessible and compelling mechanism to elicit public awareness about the contemporary indigenous struggles through negotiations of power and representations of place.


Aboriginal Popular Music, Bleckbala Majik, Warumpi Band, Yothu Yindi, Australia

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