music

Always Was, Always Will Be Aboriginal Land: A playlist to celebrate First Nations music

November 22, 2020

Isabella Ross

Music is an incredible medium for social change because we each have a unique taste and will respond to messages from different artists. Although at the moment we are bound to our bedrooms and cannot jump around in sweaty mosh pits, music remains a medium for change. We are brought together by a common love of good tunes and respond to the messages. For someone that wants to support Indigenous artists but doesn’t know how, listening to music is a really accessible place to begin. 

Always was, always will be; Aboriginal land

Perhaps you have heard this slogan at a protest. This chant along with music that more white Australians need to learn to celebrate has helped foster the fight against colonialism through creativity. This playlist includes some of the talented First Nations musicians that have aided me as I question what it means to live on stolen land, and this article features four of my top recommendations. 

In the University of Melbourne subject AIND20011, we focus on Indigenous art as a medium for change, especially through protest and resistance. A task encouraged us to imagine our role in a hypothetical protest for Indigenous rights. As a non-Indigenous student living on Boon Wurrung Country majoring in Indigenous studies and Linguistics, I am perpetually drawn to new music and reflecting on how we can collectively make change in the world—and decided to curated a playlist. 

In my playlist, I include songs that resonate with my own experiences, but also flag the talent of First Nations artists. This is part of my learning that allyship requires me to reflect and improve upon myself every day and be open to understanding where I may have fallen short. My writing for ‘Temporary Dreamer’, an online music publication, reminds me further that in order to find change, we must make it accessible. Sharing music is one way of doing this, and my hope is that this playlist continues to also amplify Aboriginal voices and add to the audience of students listening and learning. 

Listen Now on Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4pdcNMzYW1xsAQWA7l3drz
The Playlist Artwork

One part of amplifying voices is to acknowledge the artist and give credit to them. The cover art for this playlist is by Charlotte Allingham, a Wiradjari and Ngiyampaa artist. Her illustrations are out of this world and full of life. If anyone can make a 2D drawing feel alive, Charlotte can.

The Playlist

Whilst this task began with protest songs like Miiesha’s ‘Black Privilege’, it’s important to recognise that First Nations artists can and do speak beyond their fight. Songs about growing up and falling in love highlight talent from polished pop artists and celebrate the full and multi-faceted lives that these women live. They tell stories that we as listeners can find a piece of ourselves in. 

Homecoming Queen” // Thelma Plum 

This song has held a special place in my heart since it was released. The story Thelma tells is one that can be related to from so many different angles. For anyone that has felt as if they weren’t quite the definition of ‘beautiful’ in high school, this song is a reminder that we are all on a journey to loving ourselves. 

“Nicotine” // Sycco 

Sycco has only popped up on my radar this year. Nicotine has such a fun, bouncy pop sound. Her lyrics are light-hearted and easy to relate to and this track is a great one to get lost in while we can’t go out and make the memories for ourselves. 

Strangers” // Tia Gostelow 

In ‘Strangers’, Tia’s deep vocals, lifted up by dreamy harmonies, create a tangible atmosphere. Her musings on love explore adolescent lust, something I think us students can all relate to. While this song is from her dreamy-pop debut album Thick Skin (2018), Tia’s sophomore album CHRYSALIS has just released with a confident and groovy sound. 

2560” // Becca Hatch 

This track is groovy as hell. It’s impossible to keep still when it comes on. ‘2560’ is an ode to Becca’s hometown, and the song bursts with an emotional reflection on what it means to be a Samoan and Kamilaroi woman. 

This playlist is not meant to be an index of Indigenous songs. It is however here to help you find some new music as a launching pad for more diverse listening. I have curated it to represent a sample of music from First Nation’s Australian artists who use their music to exercise self-determination. I believe this selection includes just a small portion of major talent breaking through into the Australian music scene. The Australian Indigenous music scene is growing rapidly, with more and more artists proudly embracing their heritage. From acoustic jams to silky smooth pop, hip-hop and all the avenues between, First Nations musicians have got you covered. This playlist is one that will hang around for my life. Any time I find a groovy new song by an Indigenous artist it will be added. 

If you are looking for more information about the Indigenous Australian music scene in general and being an ally, here are some resources to consult. I encourage you to do your own research to learn more about Indigenous artists across Australia and the vibrant cultures they each represent. 

Further Research

guidetoallyship.com

https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/here-are-10-positive-ways-to-engage-with-ind i genous-issues/10885222 

https://www.triplejunearthed.com/indigenous?field_unearthed_campaign_tid=16 https://blog.collarts.edu.au/10-indigenous-artists-you-should-be-listening-to https://www.creativespirits.info/resources/music/ 

I acknowledge the Boon Wurrung people as the Traditional Custodians of the Land on which I am a guest. I am grateful for my opportunity to learn, work, create and play on this Country. I would like to pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging for maintaining this land for tens of thousands of years, sovereignty was never ceded. This always was and always will be Aboriginal Land.