The Australian musical landscape is obviously teeming with Indigenous talent, and while we have collected ten of the best acts into this spotlight feature, there are oceans of awesome deadly music out there. Listening to First Nations stories and experiences first-hand – not just via music, but all methods of expression – is the best way to learn about (and further appreciate) Australia’s First Peoples. Get in!

THE YOUNG GUNS: Baker Boy, Miiesha, King Stingray

We’ve been astounded by the effervescent talent of Danzal Baker – AKA BAKER BOY – since his tracks Cloud 9 and Marryuna won the then-20-year-old the Triple J Unearthed National Indigenous Music Awards comp in 2017. (That latter track features another young gun, Baker’s mega-talented cousin Yirrmal – keep an eye out for his own debut album just around the corner!)

Baker’s debut Gela (2021; read our interview with Danzal all about it right here) is a collection of propulsive gems that thump with bright basslines and rhythms, alongside the rapper’s irresistible flow which incorporates both English and Yolngu Matha. Gela was shortlisted for the 17th Australian Music Prize, and we can’t wait to see what the Fresh Prince of Arnhem Land does next.

Baker Boy is playing Splendour in the Grass 22/7, Queenscliff Music Festival 26/11, and a handful of dates in between; details here.

Also earning an AMP nom in 2020 was the debut from R’n’B-soul singer-songwriter and proud Pitjantjatjara and Torres Strait Islander woman MIIESHA. We thought the gobsmacking Nyaaringu was “unique, universal, and profoundly personal”; the 20-year-old has just released her follow-up EP Smoke & Mirrors, our review of which is out now.

Miiesha is playing Splendour in the Grass 22-24/7, and Listen Out Festival 23/9 – 2/10; details here.

And in the ‘so fresh their debut isn’t out yet’ bucket is last year’s Unearthed Artists of the Year, KING STINGRAY. The all-fella five-piece may be green, but they boast a remarkable pedigree; vocalist Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu’s uncle was the late Dr M. Yunupiŋu, and guitarist Roy Kellaway’s father is Stuart Kellaway, who were both founding members of legendary poprock band Yothu Yindi.

Yirrŋa and Roy grew up playing music together in North East Arnhem Land, plaiting indigenous melodies with surf rock. They eventually formed King Stingray in 2020, with Dimathaya Burarrwanga (rhythm guitar, backing vocals, yidaki) Campbell Messer (bass) and Lewis Stiles (drums), and their debut Camp Dog is out next month on JB-exclusive opaque yellow vinyl with exclusive artwork!

King Stingray are playing Splendour in the Grass 24/7, and across the country Sep-Dec; details here.

THE ESTABLISHED ICONS: Thelma Plum, Jessica Mauboy

It seemed Snickers-level nuts that THELMA PLUM’s 2019 album was her debut – the Gamilaraay singer-songwriter had been a fixture of radio play, festivals and awards stages since 2012, delivering increasingly divine pop treats to our ears. But Better in Blak displayed Plum’s talents at an apex we hadn’t yet seen (read our review here!), and the AMP-nommed, ARIA-winning, arrow-to-the-heart LP remains a testament to Plum’s candid and intuitive talent. Meanwhile, she’s just released new track Backseat of My Mind, and we’re awaiting sophomore album news any day now.

Thelma Plum is playing dates across the country Sep-Nov; details here.

From grassroots to prime time, Kuku Yalanji woman JESSICA MAUBOY has forged an enviable career since she won the 2004 Telstra to Tamworth comp at just 14 years old. After coming second in the 2006 series of Australian Idol, she’s represented us at Eurovision, starred in popular TV drama The Secret Daughter (which also spawned two excellent soundtrack albums), became a judge on The Voice, and in 2019 released the extraordinary LP Hilda. With her recent sashay over to Warner and transcendent new tracks receiving Triple J airplay, we get the feeling there’s a new album very close by.

Jess Mauboy is playing dates across the country Sep-Dec; details here.

THE LEGENDS: Kev Carmody, Archie Roach, Emma Donovan, Troy Cassar-Daley, Gurrumul

The 2020 edition of tribute album Cannot Buy My Soul (featuring Courtney Barnett, Alice Skye, Mo’Ju and more) introduced the remarkable songs of Murri man and ARIA Hall of Famer KEV CARMODY to a younger Australian audience. But we recommend you spend some time with the lauded singer-songwriter’s 2015 release Recollections… Reflections… (A Journey) to hear the power of the man’s storytelling and melodic genius – it’s truly breathtaking.

Also etched into the annals of the ARIA Hall of Fame – and our Album Tales feature artist for this month – is ARCHIE ROACH AM, whose 1990 track Took the Children Away launched a career marked by myriad events: global tours, a pile of awards, intensive activism, lung cancer, the death of Ruby Hunter – Roach’s soul mate, whom he met while living on the streets as a young man and with whom he forged a remarkable musical partnership and loving home – and ten albums of uniquely stirring music, all telling his own and his ancestors’ stories with bittersweet beauty. Check out The Songs of Charcoal Lane and My Songs (1989-2021) in particular.

Archie Roach is playing Melbourne 7/8 and Sydney Opera House 7-8/10; details here.

With two albums now having received AMP nominations, Gumbainggir woman EMMA DONOVAN has never been a slouch – she was performing to huge audiences with The Donovans when she was just a wee seven-year-old. A former member of the Stiff Gins and the Black Arm Band, Donovan now unleashes her (frankly astonishing) soul pipes at the mic with her band the Putbacks, while still finding time to appear in numerous docos and collab with a who’s who of Australia’s most revered artists. Do not miss her most recent LP, Under These Streets (read our review here!).

Emma Donovan & the Putbacks are playing dates across the country Jul-Nov; details here.

Flying the flag in the ‘country’ camp is Nicest Guy In Music (and whiz at designing a heart-shredding melody), TROY CASSAR-DALEY. Coming from the Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung people of northern coastal NSW, Cassar-Daley’s 13 albums and too-numerous-to-mention awards have culminated in his highest-charting LP to date: last year’s brilliant The World Today, our review of which you can read right here. (Bonus: check out the material of Troy’s 20-year-old daughter Jem Cassar-Daley, whose fledgling career is about to take off!)

Troy Cassar-Daley is taking the ‘Together Alone’ tour (with Ian Moss) across the country Jul-Aug and Oct; details here.

And finally, one of the most astounding talents Australia has ever produced: the late Dr G Yunupingu, also known to his legions of fans around the world as GURRUMUL. The decorated Yolŋu musician possessed a voice startling in its distinctive purity, and he sang both in-language (Gaalpu, Gumatj and Djambarrpuynu) and English. The mega-successful albums he released while alive (as a member of Yothu Yindi and the Saltwater band, as well as solo) were joined by the posthumous LPs Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) – which won the 2018 AMP and hit number one on the ARIA chart; read our review right here – and last year’s The Gurrumul Story compilation.

If you’ve yet to discover the man’s work, the time is now. Have a squiz at our interview with Gurrumul’s collaborator, spokesperson and confidante, Michael Hohnen, right here.