The Voice and Its Doubles: Media and Music in Northern Australia
This chapter describes how country music has come to occupy a distinct and privileged place in Aboriginal public culture, sounding an expressive counterpoint to Aboriginal urbanization, labor migration, and other forms of movement and mobility. For decades now country music performers have toured the towns and remote communities of northern Australia, selling records and cassette tapes and providing a foundational commercial media for a then-nascent Aboriginal consumer culture. From the 1950s on, Aboriginal performers themselves also turned to the genre, penning songs that drew on country music’s well-known pastoral tropes of loss to speak to the distinct situation of Aboriginal people in Australia. The chapter explores this history and its remediation in film and other forms of new media and argues that country, the first commercial music shared across Aboriginal Australia, is produced today as the tradition of a particular Aboriginal modernity, lending its affecting, musical address to recent history.