July is a very special time in Australia. Each year, during this month, our country celebrates National NAIDOC Week, honouring the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year, NAIDOC Week celebrations are held from 4-11 July.
Art and culture come hand in hand, and it's no secret that music is a sacred part of First Nations culture, connecting communities and generations from past, present and emerging through storytelling.
"In [Indigenous Australian] languages, there is no one definition for the term art. Indigenous art is our expression, our culture, our living. An extension of our identity. Not just an item for a wall or living room. Indigenous art is painting, sculpture, dance film making, photography songwriting etc." - Brenda Croft Boomalli
This irrefutable connection with music is abundantly clear, particularly as we are constantly treated to a myriad of releases from talented Indigenous artists. With access to so many exceptional tracks from First Nations artists, we wanted to share with you some of our favourites from 2021 so far, with help from Tia Gostelow, who told us some of her favourite Indigenous releases and the significance of NAIDOC Week.
Tia, What are your favourite Indigenous releases from this year?
"I have a few haha. 'Daily Meditation' by Aodhan, 'Get Me Out' by King Stingray and 'My Ways' by Sycco! So much crazy talent coming out of Australia at the moment."
*We don't disagree!*
How can music lovers support the Indigenous music scene?
"I think by obviously streaming their music as much as you can but also buying physical copies of singles/albums if you can, buying merchandise is a great way to support any artist. I know it can be pretty hard at the moment considering lockdowns etc. but keeping an eye out for live shows and attending them is the best thing you can do."
What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?
"NAIDOC Week for me is about celebrating all of the amazing and positive things in Indigenous culture and the First Nations people that are a part of that."
And with that, let's get to it! These are six of our favourite Indigenous releases from 2021 (so far).
King Stingray - 'Get Me Out'
Kicking us off is 2021 track 'Get Me Out' from beloved Yolŋu surf-rock outfit King Stingray. Upholding an indigenous musical legacy, King Stingray was formed by Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu (nephew of the late Dr M Yunupiŋu - Yothu Yindi frontman) and Roy Kellaway (son of Stu Kellaway - Yothu Yindi founding member and bass player). Impressing listeners with their distinctive sound, blending ancient indigenous melodies with surf, indie-rock and funk influences, King Stingray's latest single 'Get Me Out' contains warming guitar layers, bringing an uplifting surf/indie rock energy. Featuring the compelling vocals of frontman Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu, the track seamsessly intertwines contemporary and culture, with lyrics sung in the native Yolŋu Matha language, as well as forceful didgeredoo riffs found within the song's peaks.
A heartfelt song that speaks to the importance of home, 'Get Me Out' contains tinges of homesickness, but mostly radiates with the heat of the Australian sun and the love of our home country.
Very quickly making a name for themselves, King Stingray performed 'Get Me Out' on Triple J's Like A Version and are set to release a new single next month, with an accompanying music video that they shot in their hometown of Yirrkala NT.
We sat down with King Stingray's Roy Kellaway to hear what NAIDOC Week means to him and the band.
What are some of your favourite Indigenous releases?
"Huge love to these legends who are smashin' it and got big things coming; Yirrmal Marika, Emily Wurarrmara, Alice Skye, Briggs, Emma Donovan, Deline Briscoe, Miiesha, Dallas Woods, Garrangali. Yo!"
How can music lovers support the Indigenous music scene?
"Just the way you'd support any other artist! Buy our merch, buy our records, see us live, say nice things about us. Could even say things like 'oh my goodness that was the best band ever!!!' things like that ya know ;') or latju manikay, ngaraka!! dhaparrik djama!"
What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?
"It's when Australia can all celebrate together and learn about the oldest living culture in the world! Mala Wangany, one blood, let's walk together for a brighter future. CULTURAL INTEGRITY!"
For Fans Of: Yothu Yindi , Bombay Bicycle Club , The War On Drugs
Beddy Rays - ‘Wait A While’
Beddy Rays are the loveable Brisbane larrakins bringing us tune after tune since their debut in 2017. From humble beginnings forming at Redland Bay Primary School, the Beddy Rays have evolved from playing at local house parties to selling out Australian venues. Scoring a spot at #57 for ‘Sobercoaster’ in triple j’s Hottest 100 2020, the Beddy Rays kicked off 2021 with their explosive track ‘Wait A While’. Inspired by a toxic relationship, ‘Wait A While’ is infectiously catchy, relatable and hard-hitting. The band shared:
"Often people hang around and wait for something to get better, or for someone to grow and change but that might not happen.”
Like good mates, the Beddy Rays are there to help you navigate the ups and downs of life and provide some world-class tunes along the way.
Find some peace of mind/
From that exit line/
As there's no point rushing/
When that’s good for nothing
For Fans Of: Hockey Dad, Bugs, Dear Seattle
Sycco - 'My Ways'
Sasha McLeod (aka Sycco) is a rising star in the Australian indie-pop scene, with her clear, buoyant vocals, cleverly compelling songwriting and undeniably addictive melodies. The Brisbane artist has released two winners so far this year, however we chose 'My Ways' for this list as we just can't go past a pop-bop when it hits like this one! Dripping with succulent synths, irresistible percussion and full to the brim with lyrical hooks that will be with you always, 'My Ways' will force you to whip out your best bop&drop dance moves.
Sycco's raw talent and ability to capture audiences with endearing sonic and lyrical prowess has not gone unnoticed, with last year's hit 'Dribble' scoring #29 in the Hottest 100. If she's not on your radar by now, she definitely should be!
For Fans Of: mallrat, Alice Ivy, MAY-A
Miiesha - ‘Damaged’
Hailing from Woorabinda in Central Queensland, Miiesha draws upon r&b, soul and gospel influences to share personal and powerful stories. A proud Pitjantjatjara/Torres Strait Islander woman, Miiesha represents the causes and communities close to her heart through her poetry. Her latest release ‘Damaged’ pairs warm r&b production with dreamy guitar and silky vocals. Written about a broken relationship between mother and daughter, ‘Damaged’ gives us an insight into Miiesha’s unwavering strength, vulnerability and honesty. Miiesha’s next single ‘Made For Silence’, due out on July 16, can't come soon enough!
Make your mistakes/
Just don't let your mistakes make you/
With nothing left to lose/
You're down on the ground before you realise/
No one's gonna fight your fight like/
The way that I used to
For Fans Of: Ella Mai, H.E.R, Summer Walker
ELEEA - 'I'd Beg'
Gold Coast indie-pop songstress ELEEA weaves vulnerable tales of travel, love and loss into mesmerising morsels of sonic eloquence and new single ‘I’d Beg’ is no exception. Known for her extensive releases under the umbrella of ‘The Travel Collection’, which contains a treasure-trove of songs inspired by her independent backpacking trips to 35+ countries, ‘I’d Beg’ sees ELEEA begin a new journey, coming into her own as a singer-songwriter with a heartfelt indie-pop ballad about navigating the complexities of relationships.
“I've come to realise that situations are never black and white, and more importantly, you can never truly change another person. This song captures that harsh moment of realisation.”
Flourishing with her distinctive silky vocals, delicate fingerpicked electric guitar and shimmering production brought to life by Brad Hosking (Amy Shark), ‘I’d Beg’ is the perfect accompaniment for your next bout of dramatic yearning, whether you’re taking a long drive or standing solitary by the window, watching droplets of rain slide down the glass in time with your tears.
ELEEA is a proud Kulin Nation woman and released 'I'd Beg' to coincide with National NAIDOC Week. Experience the raw power of ELEEA live at her upcoming performance at Brisbane’s Junk Bar on Friday, 30 July - tickets here.
For Fans Of: Amy Shark, Meg Mac, Gretta Ray
Aodhan - ‘Daily Meditation’
Dharawal singer songwriter Aodhan kick-started his journey by uploading a few self-produced tracks to triple j Unearthed at only 15 years old. Winning over listeners with his indie folk charm, Aodhan won the 2019 Unearthed High Indigenous Initiative. More recently, Aodhan has been hand-picked for Apple Music’s Up Next Local series — shining a spotlight on emerging Australian and New Zealand artists. His latest release ‘Daily Meditation’ is a gorgeous stripped back track “based on imaginary love and daydreaming about being in a special relationship with a special someone when in reality, things haven’t been anywhere near that”.
‘Daily Meditation’ perfectly showcases Aodhan’s heartfelt songwriting abilities, extending far beyond his years. Keep an eye out for Aodhan’s upcoming EP Flies In My Room, due out July 16.
I know that there is more to life than love/
But I don’t care because I'd rather be here with you/
Than with my friends/
And I know that might sound a little strange/
But don’t you know your love is taking me away
For Fans Of: Angus & Julia Stone, Hein Cooper, EGOISM
Thank you to Roy Kellaway and Tia Gostelow for their contributions to this article. Don't miss out on Tia Gostelow's CHRYSALIS ALBUM TOUR 2021.
CHRYSALIS ALBUM TOUR 2021
THU 29TH JULY
SOLBAR, SUNSHINE COAST
FRI 30TH JULY
MIAMI MARKETTA, GOLD COAST
SAT 31ST JULY
THE TRIFFID, BRISBANE
This is a collaborative article, written by Philippa Arrowsmith & Hannah Cournane.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay deep respects to the First Nations Peoples and their Elders past, present and future.