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Indigenous Music of Australia Essay

Australia is a society of many cultures from all over the world. The music of Australia’s indigenous people represents a wide variety of music styles created by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The music styles range from contemporary to styles that are fused with European sounds. The music of these people has become an important part of the society and culture of the people even though the ceremonies may have changed.

“The traditional forms include many aspects of performance and musical instrumentation which are unique to particular regions or Indigenous Australian groups; there are equally elements of musical tradition which are common or widespread through much of the Australian continent, and even beyond. ” (“Indigenous Australian Music. ” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 13 May 2007. 17 May 2007. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Indigenous_Australian_music) The Indigenous populations of Australia have learned from other travelers that have visited Australia for trade or other reasons.

The colonization of Australia brought many changes to the way Aboriginal society functioned. It changed the land and how the people went about their daily lives. Before 1788 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders inhabited Australia. In 1788 the Aboriginal people lived on mainland Australia and the Torres Strait Islanders lived on the islands between Australia and Papua New Guinea, in what is now called the Torres Strait (Dreamtime. net. au. Australian Museum. 17 May 2007. http://www. dreamtime. net. au/indigenous/index. cfm).

Many of the Europeans that came to Australia misunderstood the Aboriginal culture and created policies that did not benefit the people. They worked against the people by creating policies that benefited the farmers who moved across the continent using up natural resources and exploiting the Aboriginal people for labor. The European colonists did not understand the way the native people used the land for food and spiritual balance, thus causing many problems. The Indigenous cultures of Australia are one of the oldest in the entire world.

“We’ve been here a long, long time” ( Koori Mail. October 1996). Their ability to adapt over time has allowed them to last. The Aborigines talked of “Dreamtime” or “the Dreaming”, which was their version of a creation story. The Rainbow Serpent created the Australian world. As she moved back and forth along the land she created great rivers and from her body the tribes, birds, and animals of Australia emerged. The Aborigines took great pride in the land because they believe that they emerged from it.

They believed the Great Ancestral spirits put the plants, animals, and people in their places according to the land forms and spirits surrounding them (FrogandToad’s Indigenous Australia. The Travel Around Company. 19 May 2007 http://indigenousaustralia. frogandtoad. com. au/cultural. html). By the time Europeans arrived to colonize Australia there were more than 700 Aboriginal tribes. Each tribe had their own unique traditions, language, and customs. Traditional music of Australians indigenous people gives great meaning to their lives. There were three distinct types of Aboriginal music.

The first was used for sacred ceremonies. The second type of music is semi-scared and is sung by men, with the women dancing. This music was used for initiation. The third type of music was not sacred and was used for entertainment. This is the only kind of music that can be performed by any person at any time. Music was used throughout the Aboriginals lives to teach what must be known about their culture, about their place in it, and about its place in the world of nature and super nature. Aboriginals encouraged their children at a very young age to dance and sing about everyday tasks.

(Telford, Hans W. “Australian Aboriginal Music. ” Santa Clara University. 20 May, 2007. http://www. scu. edu. au/schools/sass/music/musicarchive/AusGeneral. html). When the girl or boy reaches puberty he or she learns about totemic plants and animals of the clan and the mythology of their group, also known as karma songs. Karma is the Aboriginal type of oral literature that tells a historical story of the people ( Indigenous Australian Music). These songs have specific melodic formulas that distinguish them from other tribe’s songs..

Because the stories come from oral tradition the music is learned my imitating elders and is passed without writing everything down. Before a man marries he learns more lively and fun songs that are entertainment for the tribe. When he marries and becomes a responsible tribe member he is to depend on the karma songs to keep him strong. The man matures by the knowledge he acquires through song and when he is older his on her is based partly on his mastery of the secret sacred songs of the tribe (Telford, Hans W. ). Some clans in Aboriginal Culture may share songs known as emeba, fjatpangarri, and manikay.

These songs are directly tied to the story telling of Dreamtime, when the features of the land were created and named. When they sing the songs in the correct order the tribe could navigate vast distances. They relate the person who keeps the song with the land itself (Indigenous Australian Music). A traditional for of music is Bunggul. This style of music is known for its intense lyrics, and is usually stories about epic journeys. These stories continue or repeat after the music stops (Indigenous Australian Music). A death wail is also a very traditional music style in Aboriginal culture.

It is a mourning lament performed in ritual fashion after the death of a family or tribe member. Roy Baker, a descendent of the Murawari tribe describes the death wail, “You hear the crying and the death wail at night,” he recalled, “it’s a real eerie, frightening sound to hear. Sad sound… to hear them all crying. And then after the funeral, everything would go back to normal. And they’d smoke the houses out, you know, the old Aboriginal way. ” Aboriginal Australians used the resources around them to make their instruments. Most of their instruments fall into the idiophone class.

An idiophone instrument is made from resonating material that does not have to be tuned (Encarta World English Dictionary). Their instruments consisted of two separate parts, which are stuck together to make a percussive sound. There are no string instruments in their culture, but they did use a skinned drum type instrument and wind instrument. Idiophones were the most common types of instrument and the most basic. The first example is sticks. Each singer would hold a pair of wooden sticks and clap them together. They could also be shaken to make a rattling sound.

Boomerang clapsticks also were used in the same way. Aboriginal Boomerang Clapsticks[pic] If there were no sticks, hand clapping or slapping various parts of the body were substitutes for a pair of sticks or clapsticks. A rattle usually accompanied songs. These rattles were made by holding bunches of seed ponds in ones hand. [pic] Seed rattle. The most well known of all the Aboriginal instruments is the didjeridu. The didjeridu is usually formed when termites hollow out a tree branch. The branches are usually cut to about 5 feet and are smoothed to make a suitable mouthpiece.

When blown the didjeridu is a rich and complex sound. The function of the didjeridu is to provide a constant drone on a deep not, somewhere around D flat. The note is broken up in rhythmic patterns and accents by the use of the player’s tongue and cheeks. Constant air pressure s maintained by simultaneously blowing out through the mouth and breathing in through the nose, known as circle breathing. Great stamina is needed to play the didjeridu. [pic] [pic] Most contemporary styles of indigenous Australian music come from the fusion with European traditions.

It also represents from the fusion with mainstream styles of music such as rock and country. Artists like The Deadlys give us an example of this using rock, country, and pop. Common traditional musical instruments such and the didjeridu and clapsticks are used to give a different feel to the music (Indigenous Australian Music). Overall, most ancestors stay true to their past roots of music. The remaining indigenous Aboriginal tribes still practice their culture and pass it down from generation to generation. The traditions have all remained the same even though European colonization changed the tribes forever.

Even though there aren’t as many tribes remaining, the people of Australia keep their music alive in traditional and contemporary ways. Works Cited “Indigenous Australian Music. ” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 13 May 2007. 17 May 2007. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Indigenous_Australian_music (Dreamtime. net. au. Australian Museum. 17 May 2007. http://www. dreamtime. net. au/indigenous/index. cfm Telford, Hans W. “Australian Aboriginal Music. ” Santa Clara University. 20 May 2007. http://www. scu. edu. au/schools/sass/music/musicarchive/AusGeneral. html.

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