Friday, February 24, 2012

An Alternative History of Aboriginal Australia: Black Country Music

In the United States, February is Black History Month.  Here in Australia the history of black people is still very contentious. Nerves remain raw. Ignorance about Aboriginal history is the norm. Or it is told from the European perspective. Four years ago the Prime Minister made a public apology to the Aboriginal people of Australia and the 26th of May is now marked as National Sorry Day. That was a Big Event in our recent history but a sort of cultural apartheid still exists. 

As a small corrective tonight’s post proclaims the glory of the Aboriginal contribution to popular music.  About 10 years ago a film called Buried Country told the rarely heard story of Australian country music from the Aboriginal perspective.  I’ve not been able to locate the film yet (even an Aboriginal website doesn’t stock the DVD!) but have been really enjoying the soundtrack.

Most of the artists on this collection are virtually unknown to all but a few handfuls of country music fanatics.  Jimmy Little and Lionel Rose (a former world champion boxer) are well known names but the rest would draw blanks from even avid music buffs. 

Even though the film had a short life here in Australia (it won some awards on the international film festival circuit) this collection of music is absolutely essential listening.  To label all this music country is a bit of a stretch.  For sure there is some excellent string band music, as well as hard core honky tonk and slick Tamworth (the Aussie Nashville) produced cuts.  But there is also gospel, jazz and blues. And even some acappela songs that sound almost Appalachian. 

Some songs are sung in local indigenous languages and many many of them share the pain of the American blues.  There are punches pulled here. Listen to Stranger in My Country or Get Back Into the Shadows or Cut a Rug and you’ll get a sense of what black indigenous people of Australia still contend with.  Other songs are full of the wonder and joy of the wide Australian landscape. In that way these are indeed all songs of country.

            Track Listing:
            Disc One
            1-01 Royal Telephone
1-02 Old Rugged Hills
1-03 Take Me Back
1-04 Black & White Cat Beeton & Brown
1-05 Downunder Blues
1-06 Just A Closer Walk With Thee
1-07 Shadow Of The Boomerang
1-08 Cut A Rug
1-09 Blue Jean Rock
1-10 Oh Lonesome Me
1-11 That's How I Go For You
1-12 Jackson's Track
1-13 Truck Driving Woman
1-14 Black Tracker
1-15 I Thank You
1-16 Stranger In My Country
1-17 Get Back Into The Shadows
1-18 Streets Of Old Fitzroy
1-19 Jackie-Jackie
1-20 My Home In The Valley
1-21 Blue Gums Calling Me Home
1-22 Wayward Dreams
1-23 Run, Dingo, Run
1-24 The Resurrection
Listen here.

            Track Listing:
            Disc Two
            2-01 Ghan To The Alice
2-02 Gurindji Blues
2-03 Arnhem Land Lullaby
2-04 Brown Skin Baby
2-05 Old Aboriginal Stockman
2-06 Helicopter Ringer
2-07 Ticket To Nowhere
2-08 Streets Of Tamworth
2-09 Koorie Rose
2-10 Homemade Didgeridoo
2-11 Coulburn Jail
2-12 Malabar Mansion
2-13 Brisbane Blacks
2-14 The Night Owl
2-15 Jailunguru Pukarnu
2-16 Arufura Pearl
2-17 Down By Banjo Bore
2-18 Took The Children Away
2-19 In My Kitchen
2-20 Proud Young Man
2-21 Yorta Yorta Man
Listen here.


Holly said...

Very much looking forward to exploring this music, thank you!

ajnabi said...

Enjoy. Lots of great cuts.

Anonymous said...

any chance reup?

ajnabi said...

Anonymous, will work on it but very preoccupied with other matters at the moment. but will do my best.