Music is at its most powerful when it stands for something. When it fights, reveals, and provokes. When it influences thought, change, and action. For First Nations people, music has always been a tool to share tradition and stories, and now, more than ever, it’s used to shine a light on the issues, politics, prejudice, and resilience of their communities. “It’s the way that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mob wrote our history,” Emma Donovan tells Apple Music. “This is the only way we know how to rewrite history—through song.” The soul and R&B singer with Gumbaynggirr and Yamatji ancestry is among those featured on ALWAYS., a playlist documenting the First Nations songs that aren’t afraid to fight, expose, and educate. In 2017, together with her band The Putbacks, You Am I singer Tim Rogers, and rapper Joelistics, Donovan covered Warumpi Band’s 1985 reconciliation classic “Blackfella Whitefella.” “It’s an iconic song,” she says. “There are so many iconic First Nations anthems, and this song has become just one of many in our musical history. If more of the wider listeners took on board and shared our Aboriginal music, there would be more of these powerful songs. This is only one song of many, alongside a huge songbook of anthems in our recorded history.” You’ll find many of those anthems here, including Yothu Yindi’s “Tribal Voice” and “Treaty,” Archie Roach’s “Took the Children Away,” A.B. Original’s “January 26,” and Briggs’ “The Children Came Back.” “It’s a celebration of Blackfullas defying odds and accomplishing extraordinary triumphs,” says Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs of the track. “It’s born out of Archie Roach’s ‘Took the Children Away.’ I wanted to shine a light on our history and share with a new audience the genius of Archie Roach. It’s a song of celebration of our history and hope for our future leaders.” Elsewhere, songs by artists such as Ziggy Ramo, Miiesha, Thelma Plum, and Black Rock Band document 65,000 years of history—including decades of colonization, police brutality, and systemic oppression, and the struggle to survive in the face of it all. While listening to music alone isn’t enough, of course, consider these songs lessons in history, culture, and protest. “To listen deep to these songs of protest provides a bigger understanding of our history, our past,” Donovan says. “First Nations protest songs are as important as songs by Bob Marley—the power of these songs provides a proper understanding and knowledge of our people.” This playlist has been curated by Wiradjuri woman Jaja Dare and the artwork has been created in collaboration with Gadigal artist JESWRI. 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. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners are advised that the following playlist may contain voices and images of people who have passed away.
The Children Came Back (Briggs, Gurrumul & Dewayne Everettsmith)
Forever 15 (feat. Emma Donovan, Emily Wurramara, Fred Leone, Deline Briscoe, Flewnt, Bumpy, DRMNGNOW, BRYTE, Tani Walker, Jamahl Ryder, DOBBY, Kee'ahn, MissGenius, Optamus & Candice Lorrae)
Waliwaliyangu Li-Anthawirriyarra A-Kurija – Saltwater People Song
Heal Together (A Healing Foundation Project) [feat. Mindy Kwanten, Philly & Radical Son]