Australia Arts and Culture: Music

Australia's participation in the flurry of popular music since the 1950s has been a frustrating mix of good, indifferent, lousy, parochial and excellent. However, even the offerings of the most popular acts have done nothing to remove the cultural cringe: the highest praise remains 'it's good enough to have come from the UK/USA'. And it's true that little of the popular music created here has been noticeably different from that overseas.

Which is why the recent success of Aboriginal music, aiyi its merging with rock, is so refreshing. This music really is different. The most obvious name that springs to mind is Yothu Yindi. Their song about the dishonored White-man's agreement, Treaty, perhaps did more than anything else to popularize Aboriginal land rights claims. The band's lead singer, Mandawuy Yunupingu, was named Australian of the Year in 1993.

White country music owes much to Irish heritage and American country influences, often with a liberal sprinkling of dry outback humor.

Folk Music Australian folk music is derived from English, Irish and Scottish roots. Bush bands, playing fast-paced and high-spirited folk music for dancing, can be anything from performers trotting out standards such as CZicfc Go The Shears to serious musicians who happen to like a rollicking time.

Fiddles, banjos and tin whistles feature prominently, plus there's the indigenous 'lagerphone', a percussion instrument made from a great many beer bottle caps nailed to a stick, which is then shaken or banged on the ground.