• ABC Music has just released a compilation of iconic songs reimagined by the rising stars of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
ABC Music asked some of our biggest and brightest musical stars to reimagine the song that speaks most strongly to them growing up as an Indigenous Australian.
Emily Nicol

6 Jul 2017 - 12:52 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2017 - 12:52 PM

The result is a compilation of iconic tracks released as the 'Deadly Hearts' album - out now in celebration of NAIDOC week.

With cover art by renowned artist Blak Douglas, the album features artists hailing from across the country who have brought their own unique touch to each song. From hip-hop to synths to stripped back versions, this is an eclectic album that showcases a new wave of Indigenous artists and reveals how their musical identity has been shaped. Each artist in their own words described the process of choosing their track and what it means to them.



Original by Warumpi Band

It was Christine Anu’s version of My Island Home which I grew up on. Sonically, both the original and Christine’s version are beautiful pieces of music. I get what it means to be dragged from country into the big city, feeling disconnected. This was something I grappled with coming from the bush to Adelaide when I was a kid. Now I know what it really means - that connection to the Land. The beauty of it; from the way it moves, speaks, hums, dances, bristles, sways, howls, sings, enriches and gives life to us all.Having the opportunity to re-imagine this song, I wanted to approach it from the angle of Australia as My Island Home.



Original by Yothu Yindi

Djapana (Sunset Dreaming) is my favourite Yothu Yindi song and such an iconic moment in music for me. For that reason, I really just wanted to do something completely different musically and not try and recreate the original, just put my own spin on it. I feel blessed to be able to share the moment with both Johnno and Gurrumul Yunupingu. The way it all came together was pretty surreal.



Original by Goanna

Growing up, there really wasn't just one song that I connected to or that spoke strongly to me about being an Indigenous person… It wasn't until my early 20's that I started to discover Indigenous artists whose music and storytelling resonated with me. At university, I had a few friends that were listening to artists like Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody but for me, my journey started with Archie Roach. I chose to record ‘Solid Rock’ because of the song’s reference to the land. Growing up, I always felt an affinity to the land around me and even now as an adult I feel a strong connection and sense of belonging whenever I’m in rural Australia.



Original by Yothu Yindi

Maralitja is a crocodile spirit. I am a Maralitja woman. I am a crocodile woman. Maralitja is an ancient ancestor of the Gumatj homeland, Birany Birany, to which I belong. My father, Dr Yunupingu, and my mother’s brother Witiyana Marika wrote the songline Maralitja, and performed it with their band Yothu Yindi. My earliest, treasured memories are of my father singing Maralitja to my sisters and I around the fire. The lyrics in this songline represent my father my sisters, my aunties, my uncles and my relationship to our country and our people. There is a section of the songline that sings of “the rainbow serpent”, my father’s mother’s dreaming. The rainbow serpent brings peace and harmony to our land and our people, teaching us of our heritage. My connection to this song runs deep and I am proud that I can now sing Maralitja and keep the fire burning.



Original by Midnight Oil

We grew up listening to many different styles of music. The people of, and the songs and lyrics by bands like Coloured Stone, Warumpi Band, Midnight Oil, Goanna, and Rodriguez have really spoken to us fellas over our lives. All these groups represent powerful messages about strengthening and valuing cultural identity, acting on issues of social justice, being people of revolution and beauty, connectedness of the human spirit with one another and the spiritual and natural worlds around us. 




Where Did You Sleep Last Night? is an old folk song famously covered by blues legend Lead Belly.

The first time I heard the song was Nirvana's version on their MTV Unplugged In New York album.

I was given a copy of that album on cassette by my Aunty Merryn and it was the first album I ever owned.

At that stage I must have been about 10 or 11. I hadn't been playing guitar long, but I could play a few open chords. So I sat in front of my little burgundy tape player with an old acoustic guitar and just kept listening until I was playing the same chords or guitar lines as Kurt Cobain.



Original by Joe Geia

I wanted to do my own version of Joe Geia’s Yil Lull because it's a song that really represents Indigenous people. It's a song that's full of pride. It reflects on our history before and after invasion, and focuses on what we have now. It's a timeless song, it's still relevant and on top of all that it's just a deadly track!



Original by Horrorshow

From the start of my career, I’ve tried to tell stories with my music. Being a part of this amazing project and being able to cover Own Backyard was incredibly special to me. The picture Solo paints in this song is so vivid and there is a lot I can relate to thinking back to the love the power of music as a voice, and Horrorshow are consistently vocal in raising awareness of incredibly important social issues. 



Original by Coloured Stone

I grew up listening to Coloured Stone’s Black Boy. Its lyrics connected with me especially. The simplicity of "Black Boy, Black Boy, the colour of your skin is your pride and joy" resonates with me and is a steady reminder to be strong, resilient, and proud of my culture. When I listen to this song I hear a mother speaking to her son; I hear an older sister speaking to her brother, sending him strength, love, and a constant reminder to be proud of the skin that you're born with. This I have felt many times. This song became an anthem that I still feel extremely connected with. It fills me with so much pride to be able to do my version of this historical and significant anthem.



Original by Warumpi Band

The song has a great, timeless message; that we all need to be good people and walk through this world with love and an open heart. This is what I believe, the message I try and share with my music. We’re all on this planet together at this moment in time, and the only way we’re going to move forward is if we join hands and work together to support those who need help. Neil Murray recorded some iconic songs in Warumpi Band with George R., who was a Yolngu man from Elcho Island, but has passed away. Neil has been a great mentor for me over the last couple of years and we’ve written a few songs together, which has been an incredible learning experience for me. Neil’s a great bloke and I call him ‘uncle’, and I was very proud to record his song, with him contributing electric guitar.



Original by Kev Carmody

I was at university studying audio engineering, experimenting with my sampler, researching the origins of recording platforms and learning about the birth of sub genres out of genres, the blending of styles to create other styles, the cultures at the roots of musical compositions when I resurfaced Kev Carmody’s The River Of Tears. I began to re-experience music to critically analyse what it was that drew me to certain songs. I had found a song that really kicked me straight in the chest. Flowing on from that feeling I created loops, dropped a beat under it then scribbled my poetry all over the production. The River Of Fearz



Original by Cold Chisel

I was a young boy still in school when I first heard John Farnham sing When The War Is Over. It was during my school lunch, and it changed my life. I said to myself, I wish to sing like this man one day… such a powerful singer. An amazing song with meaningful lyrics. I thought to myself, I want to sing like this man but in Yolngu style, in my language. I translated the lyrics in my Gupapuyngu language adding verses with a Yolngu story: “everyone needs love to connect to all the people in the world and to stop all war, everywhere in the world ... black, white, everyone needs more love for a peaceful life… when the wars are over”

You can stream the album on Spotify below and purchase through ABC Music here