Indigenous Music for NAIDOC Week 2021

July 6, 2021


NAIDOC Week is held annually in July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and includes Australians from all walks of life. 

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself.

This year’s 2021 theme is Heal Country its inspiration from Care for Country an art piece that explores how Country has cared for and healed First Nations people spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially and culturally.

When asked about what NAIDOC week means to me I instantly reflected on my favourite musicians whose contemporary indigenous music I listen to regularly. I find it comforting and healing.  It’s the indigenous influenced music and stories that seems to unconsciously attract my attention. Many of the arrangements touch my soul which is not surprising given their culture, history and voices. 

Music to the aboriginal culture is vital, it is part of their everyday life to mark special occasions. The song lines tell stories of the Creation and Dreamtime as Aboriginals made their journey across the desert with other sacred music being used in sacred and non-sacred ceremonies known as corroborees. 

During sacred ceremonies understandably people from outside of the community are not allowed to attend. They usually perform their ancient songs in front of the men, women and children of the tribe. 


Each Tribe can have leaders in both song and dance. The Songman composes songs to describe day-to-day events as well as singing ancient songs passed down through generations. Dancers are also very important, the best dancers held in high regard.  

Recently I was invited to attend the Queensland Symphony Orchestra to see and hear William Barton perform the music he wrote. Playing the digeridoo, a wind instrument traditionally made from the Eucalyptus trees a craft believed to be over 1500 years old, William overwhelmed me when he began to sing. OMG!!

And how proud are we of our extremely talented and warm Jessica Mauboy. Singer, songwriter, actress whose many awards include two ARIA Music Awards. I remember the time she launched her singing career in 2006 when she reached the finals on television in Australian Idol. I have been a fan of hers ever since her performance.    

My most played albums are by Busby & Marou. Thomas Busby and Jeremy Marou (of Torres Strait Island heritage) are knock about boys from Rockhampton, Qld and gosh they are good with their rhythm and storytelling. I can’t pinpoint what it is but I always feel good when I play their music and their lyrics tell stories. I wrote an article in 2017 using their song titles as reference to healthy living for women can you believe, it was after Jeremy Marou suffered two heart attacks in one night. 

But above all, my quintessential indigenous musician is ARIA Award winning Dr. G Yunupingu (Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu), known as Gurrumul. His spiritual music penetrates my soul. Born blind Gurrumul grew up as a member of the Gumatj clan on Elcho Island of the coast of North East Arnhem land in the Northern Territory. His songs speak of identity, spirit, connection with the land, the elements and the ancestral beings to whom he is related. His voice is high tenor and it is true what they say his aura-like persona elicit feelings of peace and longing in listeners, as he does with me. Sadly, Gurrumul passed away in 2017 at the age of 46. It was his music I sought after my older brother passed away late November 2020.  

Added to my list of favourite songs and albums by indigenous peoples Australia: Yothu Yindi, Christine Anu, Emily Wurramara, BIRDZ, Jimmy Little, Warumpi Band, Archie Roach, Kev Carmody Baker Boy, Thelma Plum, Ngabaju (Grandmothers Song), No Fixed Address.  

Let’s celebrate NAIDOC Week by listening to story-telling indigenous music written by our wonderful Australian artists.

Acknowledgments & References: , Note: The 2021 National NAIDOC Poster, ‘Care for Country’ was designed by Gubbi Gubbi artist Maggie-Jean Douglas. The artwork includes communities, people, animals and bush medicines spread over different landscapes of red dirt, green grass, bush land and coastal areas to tell the story of the many ways Country can and has healed us throughout our lives and journeys.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.