Updated: Mar 20, 2021
Music is a sacred part of many cultures globally, and this is especially true for Australia’s First Nations people. The tie between music and identity is clearly evident, and when the identities of First Nations Australians is constantly under scrutiny it might be more important now than ever to celebrate it.
"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 song writing etc." Brenda Croft Boomalli
Queensland collective The Ancient Bloods are sharing incredible culture with us through musical storytelling. Music is one of the oldest froms of storytelling in the world, and with Kabi Kabi, Bundjalung, Wiradjuri, Jabirr Jabirr, Garrwa, Butchulla and Darug members, the rich cultures of each kinship are shown through their music. Nadia and Cormac from the band had a chat to us about the importance of storytelling in Indigenous culture.
“Culture and music come hand in hand. We (First Nations People) are story tellers. We tell stories through our corroboree’s and songs, we have forever- this is how we have passed on knowledge, we use song and dance for many different things. The music I make is heavily influenced by experiences I’ve had growing up as well as shared stories of my family’s experiences. I take lessons and knowledge and turn them into something I can share with others. I try my best to articulate myself with emotion and intention. Being proud culturally and speaking up, I have really learnt first-hand how important it is to do everything with intention.” Says Nadia
“The story’s, experiences and cultural knowledge from my ancestors influence and insight my song writing. Which are then incorporated into contemporary and western song structures to be able to share and document this culture knowledge into a western space, reclaiming it and focusing the light onto First Nations musicians in a familiar way so that the average modern listener can understand and interpret.” Says Cormac
There are so many compelling aspects of Indigenous music that accompany the storytelling. From strengthening one’s connection to culture, seeing in language and inspiring future generations of First Nation people; the music that is currently being created has huge importance.
You may have heard of King Stingray from their connection to Yothu Yindi – with Yirrŋa Yunupingu (nephew of the late Dr M Yunupingu - Yothu Yindi frontman) and Roy Kellaway (son of Stu Kellaway - Yothu Yindi founding member and bass player), however the band is making waves entirely in their own right. From North East Arnhem land, King Stingray blend indigenous influences and funky surf rock to create an entirely unique sound.
Yirrnga Yunupingu sings in Yolngu Matha (language of Yolngu people) and he comments on the power of singing in language, saying “This is my language. This is who I am. Language is culture and it gives us strength”. Yirrnga also notes that opportunies for Indigenous musicians are minimal compared to most others, and in order to showcase music from remote areas he suggests “Cheaper flights for remote areas. There is so much talent in the bush, and the airlines charge too much money. It’s often not possible to tour and showcase our music”.
Tia Gostelow first came onto our radios in 2016 when she won Triple J’s Indigenous Initaive and placed top 5 in Unearthed High – and she’s been killing it ever since. In 2018 she released her debut album Thick Skin and became the youngest person to ever win the Queensland Music Awards Album of the Year. Yet winning the Indigenous Initiative affected Tia’s perception of herself and what it meant to be Indigenous to her.
“It definitely did have an effect on my identity. I never really thought about my indigenous heritage until that moment to be honest and it was actually really overwhelming. All of a sudden I was doing all of these interviews about my indigenous heritage and I was seeing articles written about me and it was really confronting for me to answer these questions as I really hadn’t explored my identity yet. I was only 16 when Unearthed High happened and I didn’t have that much knowledge about where I am from and who I am as an indigenous woman so I definitely shied away from it for a little bit. But now, I am so glad that Unearthed High happened, at first it was uncomfortable for me but now I am so proud of who I am and where I come from and I’m so comfortable talking about being an indigenous woman in the music industry” says Tia.
Although every artists' story is different, they are all connected by powerful storytelling and connection to culture. Every Australian should feel grateful to bear witness to all the enduring Indigenous cultures of the land.
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.