Art, culture & heritage, Northern Territory, Australia

Aboriginal music and dance

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Red Flag dancers, Darwin Festival, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Music and dance are integral to Aboriginal culture, be they in traditional forms or the more contemporary styles of today. Visit during festival time or catch a performance at a culture centre to experience the sounds of the desert produced with didgeridoo and clapping sticks, or seek out local interpretations of hip hop and reggae.

Ceremonial rituals

Discover the traditional music and dance of the NT, a fundamental part of ceremonies and sacred gatherings of Aboriginal people. At ceremonial meetings, themes of the Dreamtime manifest through a colourful explosion of body paint, music and pulsating dance. Given the sacred nature of these events it's unlikely you can visit unless you're invited, but you can experience traditional performances at many culture centres across the territory. Otherwise, time your visit to coincide with the many local arts festivals and events.

Music of the Dreamtime

Traditional Aboriginal music is most recognisable from the classic resonance of the didgeridoo combined with the tribal beat of clapping sticks. Indigenous music is sung in different dialects from the many clans across the region and encompasses themes of nature and folklore from the Dreamtime. Traditional dancing is used primarily for ceremonies and is also a form of storytelling that can involve anything from mimicking kangaroos and birds to hunting with spears.

Modern music

In the past few decades contemporary indigenous music has made a name for itself on the world music stage. The Northern Territory is home to several big name bands and artists like Yothu Yindi, Warumpi Band and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Music spans genres from reggae, hip hop, country and rock, but often incorporates traditional instruments. Songs are not only about the land, but have also served as an effective platform to express political and social issues for indigenous people.

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