First Nations Australia


Australia’s First Nations people have the longest-living culture on the planet, dating back more than 60,000 years. Just as ancient is its music, as song and dance are key to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (collectively known as First Nations) storytelling and ceremony: Traditional instruments such as didgeridoos and clap sticks create hypnotic rhythms and distinct melodies, over which rituals are conducted and tales of old legends and everyday lives are shared. Contemporary artists like Yothu Yindi became the first to reach a wider audience by bringing the sounds and depictions of their land to modern rock. The band’s political 1991 track “Treaty” became the first song by a predominantly Aboriginal group, sung mostly in an Aboriginal language (Gumatj, a Yolngu Matha dialect), to chart in the country. And 17 years later, the late Yolngu folk artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu released his groundbreaking solo album Gurrumul—on which he sang about spirit, Aboriginal identity, and his innate connection to the land—still the most successful album by a First Nations artist in Australian music history. From there, the music of First Nations artists has flourished and expanded to a point where it’s defined less by its customary uses and sounds and more by the artists themselves. Singers, songwriters, rappers, and producers are bringing their traditional cultures, histories, and even languages to every corner of Australian music, sharing their stories and lives through song—much like their ancestors. Some, like hip-hop duo A.B. Original, are heavily political, highlighting the systemic oppression and disadvantages faced by First Nations people today, while artists such as Thelma Plum and The Kid LAROI are among the many enriching and diversifying pop, indie, acoustic, and rap with their hooks, melodies, and innate creativity. As for First Nations artists today—and tomorrow—their importance and influence among the country’s wider music scenes continues to grow. They are not only inspiring more exciting young artists to emerge every day, but are paving the way for more voices to be heard, for greater opportunities within their own communities, and for a wider understanding and awareness of their stories and people. Apple acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture, and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.

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