Whether you’re marching in solidarity with Australia’s Indigenous people today or otherwise, January 26, 2017 will still be a public holiday in Oz, which means there is time to listen to some excellent music. Here’s your mega-mix of top tracks by our favourite Indigenous Australian artists, to recognise and celebrate the original inhabitants of this land.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Bapa

Born on Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land, Gurrumul is from the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu, and sings in English and three different Yolngu dialects. He has entranced audiences with his remarkable voice ever since his 2008 debut album Gurrumul, which won two ARIA Awards and a Deadly Award for Album of the Year.

 

Gawurra, Ratja Yaliyali

From his win at the 2015 NT Song Of The Year Awards and on to the stage at Big Sound last year, Stanley Gawurra Gaykamangu’s star is on the rise. His debut album Ratja Yaliyali came out just six months ago, and the Milingimbi Island-born singer/guitarist has received enormous acclaim for his tracks, inspired by traditional Arnhem Land songlines and sung in his own language, Gupapuyngu.

 

Thelma Plum, How Much Does Your Love Cost?

This track is from Plum’s second EP, 2014’s Monsters; while she’s been popping up in Like A Versions all over the place, the Delungra-born, Melbourne-residing singer-songwriter has yet to release a full-length. But we’ll wait – the fan adoration following her win at triple j’s 2012 National Indigenous Music Awards is still going strong.

 

Warumpi Band, My Island Home

That’s right: Christina Anu covered this track. The songwriting credit goes to seminal rock-country group Warumpi Band, who formed in NT’s remote Papunya settelment in 1980. The 2015 compilation Warumpi Band 4 Ever reignited appreciation for the group, who were one of the first Indigenous bands to receive airplay for a track sung in Aboriginal language (Luritja). After becoming close friends with Peter Garrett on the Sydney live music pub scene, in 1985 they signed with Midnight Oil’s Powderworks label, and toured across Australia and internationally.

 

A.B. Original, January 26 feat. Dan Sultan

Hip hop duo A.B. Original – comprised of musicians Briggs and Trials – are 2016’s biggest Oz music success story. Not only did their debut album Reclaim Australia receive stupendous reviews across the board, their commitment to Aboriginal Australians’ issues has encouraged Aboriginal Rights discussions into more mouths than ever before.

 

BONUS: Dumb Things with Paul Kelly and Dan Sultan, because as if you don’t want to see the best ever Like A Version again.

 

Sue Ray, Lover Evermore

With her incredibly arresting voice and knack for heart-aching melodies, Sue Ray has drawn comparisons to Neko Case and Martha Wainwright over the course of her 15-year career. Lover Evermore is the perfect example of the transcendent sweetness this singer-songwriter can deliver.

 

Apakatjah, Waru

Pulling their loves of desert reggae, heavy metal and classical guitar techniques together, duo Apakatjah have created a unique and compelling sound. Dion Forrester and Jonathan Lindsay share vocal and guitar duties across all tracks, combining the Luritja language with English. The band is named for a Luritja kriol word, meaning a person of mixed race heritage; it’s a demonstration of the pair’s pride in their identity. Their debut single Waru was a finalist in 2016’s NT Song Of The Year awards, and their first full-length is due early this year.

 

Archie Roach, Get Back To The Land

Mr Archie Roach, AM [pictured in header image, with Ruby Hunter – see down the list] may need no introduction, but let’s go over his amazing story anyway. Born in Victoria’s rural town of Mooroopna, Roach was part of the Stolen Generations; when he was under a year old, the Indigenous population of the town was relocated to Rumbalara mission, and a few years later Roach was forcibly removed from his family into an orphanage. He was eventually placed with a family who introduced him to jazz, soul and pop music, as well as the guitar. After learning the truth about his childhood he left home, living on the streets, trying to find his family, and beginning to write music on his guitar. During these years he met his lifelong partner Ruby Hunter, with her formed a band, and soon came to the attention of other musicians. Paul Kelly saw him play and offered him a number of support slots, and in 1990 Roach recorded his debut solo album Charcoal Lane. Since then, Roach has recorded a further 10 albums, received five ARIA Awards (and been nominated for another nine), toured the world, remained a dedicated activist, and in 2015 received a Member of the Order Of Australia from the Queen, for services to music as a singer-songwriter, guitarist and a prominent supporter of social justice. This track is one of our favourites from his latest album, 2016’s Let Love Rule.

 

Tjintu Desert Band, Tjamuku Ngurra

Tjintu Desert Band is a five-piece from Ikuntji, a very small Indigneous community in Central Australia. Performing their songs in a mixture of Luritja and English, the group mesh reggae, funk and solid rock sounds. This is the awesome title track from their last album, 2014’s Tjamuku Ngurra.

 

Yothu Yindi, Djapana

Best known for their international hit Treaty – about Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s failure to honour the promise he made during Australia’s 1988 bicentennial celebrations, that a treaty with Australia’s Indigenous people would be concluded by 1990 – Yothu Yindi became an international success with their energetic dance tracks. Led by the late Mandawuy Yunupingu (who passed away in 2013), Yothu Yindi released six albums, won eight ARIA Awards (from 14 nominations) and were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2012.

 

Dan Sultan, Old Fitzroy

Whether you prefer sexy Dan or reflective Dan, you’ve got agree that Sultan is a musical powerhouse. His father is Irish (and worked as a lawyer for the Aboriginal Legal Service when Dan was growing up) and his mother is Indigenous, of the Gurindji and Arrernte people. Sultan’s last two albums were 2014’s Blackbird and a live recording from the Melbourne leg of his 2015 solo tour, entitled OpenLIVE: Live From The National Theatre.

 

Leah Flanagan, Chills

Leah Flanagan’s latest full-length Saudades (from which this song comes) caused quite a stir amongst music critics in September last year. The Sydneysider is considered one of Australia’s most gifted songwriters, blending alt-folk and soul into her affecting tracks.

 

Troy Cassar-Daley, Factory Man

You don’t get many Aussie country artists as decorated as Troy Cassar-Daley. The singer and guitarist has been a beloved staple of the scene since his first EP in 1994, having released a whopping 14 albums and winning about a jillion Golden Guitar awards (25 of them – he’s behind only Lee Kernaghan with 31, and the late Slim Dusty, with 36).

 

The Black Arm Band, Far Away Home, dirtsong and Big Law

The Black Arm Band is a rotating collection of Australia’s preeminent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers – many solo artists on this list have performed as part of the group at some point. They are revered for their moving musical theatre performances and their celebration of Indigenous music, culture and language. This clip comes from a performance of three songs at the 2014 Adelaide Festival, and features the talents of Deline Briscoe and Emma Donovan (voice), Tjupurru (didgeridoo), Genevieve Lacey (recorders), Nigel MacLean (violin), Iain Grandage (cello), and Greg Sheehan (percussion).

 

Jessica Mauboy, Risk It

2016 was an extraordinary year for 27-year-old Australian Idol runner-up (in 2006) Jessica Mauboy. Starring in the television series The Secret Daughter, Mauboy also released the series’ soundtrack which went straight to #1 on the ARIA charts – making her the first ever solo Indigenous artist to debut in the top spot. She has received numerous accolades and awards across her career, including AACTA and AFTA Awards for her role in 2013 film The Sapphires, three ARIA Awards, nine Deadly Awards, and was named the 2013 Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year.

 

Frank Yamma, Everybody’s Talking

A prolific recording artist, singer and guitarist Frank Yamma is a Pitjantjatjara man who sings in both the Pitjantjatjara language and English. He has played at myriad festivals in Australia and across the world, including Byron Bay Bluesfest, WOMADelaide, Sydney Festival, Womad in the UK, Scotland’s New Hebridean Festival, and several American folk festivals.

 

Ruby Hunter, Kurongk Boy, Kurongk Girl

The late Ruby Hunter (she passed away in February 2010, at the age of 54) was an incredible beacon of Aboriginal musicality and a devoted rights activist. A Ngarrindjeri woman, Hunter released four albums and toured extensively over her career, often performing with her partner Archie Roach, whom she met at the age of 16. Like Roach, Hunter was forcibly taken from her family when she was a child. After her passing, Roach established ‘Ruby’s Foundation’ in her memory; its purpose is to create opportunities for Aboriginal people through the promotion, celebration and support of Aboriginal arts and culture.

 

Yung Warriors, Just A Thought

Tjimba Possum Burns and Danny Ramzan released their debut album as Yung Warriors in 2007; their tracks quickly gained traction and garnered them Deadly Awards in 2013 and 2014. Although they haven’t released an album since their self-funded and -produced 2014 effort Turnt Up, we’re still digging their raps about socio-political issues Aboriginal Australians face in modern Australia.

 

Bob Randall, Brown Skin Baby

Bob Randall was another member of the Stolen Generations, who became an elder of the Yankunytjatjara people in Central Australia. He recorded Brown Skin Baby (They Took Me Away) in 1964, and it’s been a classic ever since. In 2012, Paul Kelly said of the track: “I first heard Bob Randall’s Brown Skin Baby by a camp fire in the late ’80s when I was touring with my band in the Northern Territory. The guitars and songs were being passed around along with kangaroo tails singed in the coals. I felt the hairs stand up on my arms from the very first keening notes – “Yowie, yowie, my brown skinned baby, they take ’im away.” Almost everyone there knew the words and sang along. “Yowie, yowie.” The soft howl of those wordless words said it all, returning after each verse of the inexorable story.” Randall passed away in May of 2015.

 

Emma Donovan, Dawn

Mixing gospel, soul, roots, reggae and country influences, Emma Donovan’s singing and songwriting has been honed to a brilliant gem, from her first beginnings performing in her uncle’s revered Aboriginal country band The Donovans at age seven, through an impressive multi-decade career. She’s won several Deadly Awards, been the subject of a 2005 SBS documentary, and was the youngest ever performer in The Black Arm Band.