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Indigenous Australian music

Music Sound

Indigenous Australian music

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Music of Australia
Indigenous Australian English, Irish and Scottish
Pub Other immigrants
Timeline and samples
Genres Classical - Hip hop - Jazz - Country- Rock (Indie Hardcore punk)
Organisations ARIA
Awards Australian Music Centre ARIA Music Awards The Deadlys
Charts ARIA Charts, JJJ Hottest 100
Festivals List: Big Day Out Livid Homebake Falls Stompem Ground
Tamworth (Country) Womadelaide
Media CAAMA, Countdown, Rage, Triple J, ABC
National anthem "Advance Australia Fair"

Indigenous Australian music includes the music of Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, who are collectively called Indigenous Australians, it incorporates a wide variety of distinctive traditional music styles practised by Indigenous Australian peoples, as well as a range of contemporary musical styles both derivative of and fusion with European traditions as interpreted and performed by indigenous Australian artists. Music has formed an integral part of the social, cultural and ceremonial observances of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, down through the millennia of their individual and collective histories to the present day. The traditional forms include many aspects of performance and musical instrumentation which are unique to particular regions or Indigenous Australian groups; there are equally elements of musical tradition which are common or widespread through much of the Australian continent, and even beyond. The culture of the Torres Strait Islanders is related to that of adjacent parts of New Guinea and so their music is also related.

In addition to these indigenous traditions and musical heritage, ever since the 18th century European colonisation of Australia began indigenous Australian musicians and performers have adopted and interpreted many of the imported Western musical styles, often informed by and in combination with traditional instruments and sensibilities. Similarly, non-indigenous artists and performers have adapted, used and sampled indigenous Australian styles and instruments in their works. Contemporary musical styles such as rock and roll, country, hip hop and reggae have all featured a variety of notable indigenous Australian performers.


Traditional forms and instruments


Bunggul is a style of music that arose around the Mann River and is known for its intense lyrics, which are often stories of epic journeys and continue, or repeat, unaccompanied after the music has stopped.

Clan songs

A particular clan in Aboriginal culture may share songs, known as emeba (Groote Eylandt), fjatpangarri (Yirrkala), manikay (Arnhem Land) or other native terms. Songs are about clan or family history and are frequently updated to take into account popular films and music, controversies and social relationships.

Death Wail

A mourning lament recorded in a number of locations in central and northern Australia and among the Torres Strait Islanders.


Karma is a type of oral literature that tells a religious or historical story.


A didgeridoo is a type of musical instrument, a woodwind aerophone, traditionally made out of eucalyptus or bamboo. Aborigines used the didgeridoo to communicate over long distances, as well as to accompany songs, and the instrument is commonly considered the national instrument of Australian Aborigines. Famous players include Mark Atkins and Joe Geia, as well as white virtuoso Charlie McMahon.

Krill Krill

The Krill Krill song cycle is a modern musical innovation from east Kimberley. A man named Rover Thomas claims to have discovered the ceremony in 1974 (see 1974 in music) after a woman to whom he was spiritually related was killed after a car accident near Warmun. Thomas claimed to have been visited by her spirit and received the ceremony from her. In addition to the music, Thomas and others, including Hector Jandany and Queenie McKenzie, developed a critically acclaimed style of painting in sync with the development of the ceremony.


Kun-borrk arose around the Adelaide, Mann and Rose Rivers, distinguished by a didgeridoo introduction followed by the percussion and vocals, which often conclude words (in contrast to many other syllabic styles of Aboriginal singing).


Wanga arose near the South Alligator River and is distinguished by an extremely high note to commence the song, accompanied by rhythmic percussion and followed by a sudden shift to a low tone.

Contemporary trends

A number of Indigenous Australians have achieved mainstream prominence, such as Jimmy Little (popular), Yothu Yindi (rock), Troy Cassar-Daley (country) andNoKTuRNL (rap metal), the Warumpi Band (alternative or world music) Aboriginal music has also had broad exposure through the world music movement and in particular WOMADelaide.

Torres Strait Islander musicians include Christine Anu (popular) and Seaman Dan.

Contemporary Australian Aboriginal music continues the earlier traditions and also represents a fusion with contemporary mainstream styles of music, such as rock and country music. The Deadlys provide an illustration of this with rock, country, pop being found among the styles played. Common traditional instrumentation used are the didjeridu and clap-sticks being used to give a different feel to the music.

The movie Wrong Side of the Road and soundtrack (1981) gave broad exposure to the bands Us Mob and No Fixed Address and highlighted Indigenous disadvantage in urban Australia.

External links

  • Traditional music of the Torres Strait - audio and video highlights from the archives of the celebrated Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) . Released by Skinnyfish music - recorded in 1960 and 1961, with the support of the Department of Anthropology, Australian National University. (Commercial link).

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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