Sunday, June 10, 2012


One of the most iconic instruments from Australia is from the Aborigines: the didgeridoo. The word itself is onomatopeic as we know it, but in the native languages, there are at least 45 different words to describe the instrument – each tribe pretty much has its own word.

It’s technically an aerophone, meaning one that’s played with the lips. It’s made of wood, usually from a eucalyptus or native bamboo where there is obvious termite damage to it. They’re usually cut to be about four feet long, give or take some, and then painted with meaningful symbols to that particular tribe or person.  Here is an example of how they find the trees and what it sounds like (it’s about halfway through, pay no attention to the fact that it looks like it was recorded from a VHS).

But then we get to today’s music. And who knew it was full of a lot of my favorites. Let’s start with one of the famous ones I remember from VH1's Pop-Up Videos: Men At Work’s “Down Under.” 

And then there are some of the other groups that were famous in the 1970s and 1980s:  Bee Gees, Air Supply, AC/DC, INXS, Severed Heads. AC/DC would have to be one of my favorites; their songs remain timeless in my book.

Severed Heads branched out from the various rock genres and pushes toward the alternative electronica scene, even though they never really landed on a specific genre. This one sounds a lot like house music or trance in places. 

Then you get to my high school and college years in the 1990s and early 2000s: Savage Garden, Silverchair, Kylie Minogue (even though she spans several decades). I had no idea any of these musicians were Australian. If funny how listening to these albums will instantly bring me back to certain times in my life.

And of course, today some of my favorites include The Vines and Wolfmother, both of whom I’ve listened to for years, without knowing they were Australian. The Vine's song "Ride" was used in a Nissan commercial several years ago, which is when I first heard of them. 

I’ve got two albums by Wolfmother, a band I love for its quasi-70s psychedelic rock sound. Definitely high in cool points. Both of these bands have had songs that have appeared in commercials, TV shows, and movies. My Australia playlist on Spotify is definitely one of my more awesome playlists.

I did find some artists I found that I didn’t previously know.  One was a house DJ called Dirty South.  My husband and I are huge house fans, and I found one of his remix CDs on iTunes for $5.99, so I bought it. There were 28 songs on it, and 2 tracks were over a hour long! I’m so happy with it; I can’t wait to play it loud in the car.

Another artist I found was rapper Bliss N Eso. I listened to his album “Running on Air,” and there are several tracks that remind me of one of my favorite rappers Atmosphere. I almost bought it off of iTunes for $9.99, but I decided to just keep it on Spotify instead. 

Dance in Australia is something of a vast topic. There is certainly Aboriginal dance, but then the Europeans who arrived brought their own dances as well, mostly from England, Ireland, and Scotland.  This came to be known as bush dance. From the non-dancer, it looks really similar to folk dancing or square dancing in the US. But if you think about it, it is a tradition that was stemmed from the Scots-Irish and English traditions, so it's understandable that it would appear very similar (with subtle differences of course) in the areas where they traveled to. 

Aboriginal dance is thought to be an extension of Dreamtime, basically their version of creation stories and the beginnings of spirituality. Most of the dances have a purpose, mostly to tell a story. Their bodies are painted, and the locations of these dances are treated as sacred ground. Many times, they will enact an animal that is important to the area or part of a story. Sometimes they will also perform what’s called a corroboree, where they perform these dances as part of a performance in front of other people.

Today there are a number of professional dance schools and dance companies throughout Australia. Bush dance is viewed as part of the canon of traditional dance; in fact, it’s even included in dance competitions. Modern dance as well as other world dances are also popular in Australia. 

Up next: The Food

Wikipedia: "Music of Australia" "Didgerigoo" "Dreamtime" "Dance of Australia"

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