Indigenous music has played a role in highlighting social and political issues in Australia and the world. Although music has changed since the 1970's to 1980's the social and political messages remain strong and continue to highlight social and political issues that are relevant in Australia today.
"Well I heard it on the radio / and I saw it on the television" sang Yothu Yindi frontman, Dr Yunupingu in response to the 1988 Mabo ruling on Native Title in the hit song Treaty. Just as films play a role changing the perceptions and stereotypes of Indigenous peoples in Australia so does music. This list of amazing musicians and their songs are just a portion of Indigenous talent within Australia.
This is just a small example of the continuation of Indigenous culture and identity through contemporary music, but an important reminder that music has always been apart of our progress as Indigenous Australians.
#5 Tribal Voice - Yothu Yindi
Tribal Voice is a calling song; a calling to listen to your tribal voice – a voice that unites us all. By the end of the 90’s Yothu Yindi became a house hold name globally and his message of Treaty and unity was felt all across the globe by this song Tribal Voice. everyone heard his message because the voice has called us all back to his homelands to sit down talk Makarata at this year's Garma festival.
#4 Freedom - Pat Mau
Freedom is a protest song that hits at the heart strings and for many Indigenous people. Freedom like Treaty is a reminder that words without practice are just words, they require action and delivery. This song is a reminder that if we are going to have a discussion about treaty, Makarata and constitutional reform we should remember that we are like slaves in a country that was once ours.
#3 We have survived - Bart Willoughby
In the 1980's an Indigenous rock/reggae group came onto the Australian music scene and released an album titled Wrong Side of the Road which featured the song We Have Survived which resonated with how Indigenous people felt living in Australia. This song would be a song used in Indigenous Rights protests all over the country and even to this day is heard at protest marches. Bart Willoughby was considered by Bob Marley as one Australian’s answer to rock/reggae and even today his style influences many popular Australian bands.
#2 January 26 - A/B Original (Briggs & Trials)
Just like Treaty the track 26 January became anthem that would open a much needed discussion about Australia Day in 2017. The song is certainly having an impact as we are now hearing in Parliament talks about the date changing with the state of Victoria taking steps already. The song was featured at number number 16 in Triple J's Hottest 100 showing a strong support for the change.
#1 Treaty - Yothu Yindi
You guessed it and making a second showing in our list, it's Yothu Yindi with Treaty. Released in 1991 Treaty was number one on the Australian music charts elevating the song and the band to become a voice for treaty and protest in the country. At Garma this year treaty, Makarata and constitutional reform amongst other things will be discussed and debated and it is just astounding that some 30 years later we now doing a 360 cycle on these issues.