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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The music of Australia ranges across a broad spectrum of styles and genres. Some modern trends in Australian music is based on, or concurrent with, similar trends from the United States or United Kingdom and elsewhere, and the music is generally influenced by cross pollination of music from elsewhere; though traditional indigenous Australian music is unique, as it dates back more than 60,000 years to the prehistory of Australia and continues the ancient songlines through contemporary artists as diverse as: Jimmy Little, Warumpi Band, Yothu Yindi, Tiddas, Wild Water, Christine Anu, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Saltwater Band, Nabarlek, Nokturnl, the Pigram Brothers, Coloured Stone, Blekbala Mujik, Kev Carmody, Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter.


Folk music

A folk club movement developed in Australia under the influence of those in Great Britain. A number of British singers have spent periods in Australia and have included Australian material in their repertoires, e.g. A. L. Lloyd, Martin Wyndham-Read and Eric Bogle.

Indigenous Australian music

Traditional Aboriginal instrument, the Didgeridoo

Indigenous Australian music refers to the music of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Music forms an integral part of the social, cultural and ceremonial observances of these peoples, and has been so for over 60,000 years.[1] Traditional Indigenous music is best characterised by the didgeridoo, the best-known instrument, which is considered by some to be the world's oldest.[2] Archaeological studies of rock art in the Northern Territory suggest people of the Kakadu region were playing the instrument 15,000 years ago.[3]

Contemporary Indigenous Australian music has covered numerous styles, including rock and roll, country, hip hop, and reggae. Jimmy Little is regarded as the first Aboriginal performer to achieve mainstream success, with his debut 1964 song "The Royal Telephone" highly popular and successful.[4] In 2005, Little was presented with an honorary doctorate in music by the University of Sydney.[5] Despite the popularity of some of his work, Little failed to launch Indigenous music in the country—from the 1970s onwards, groups such as Coloured Stone, Warumpi Band, and No Fixed Address would help improve the image of the genre.[4] It would be Yothu Yindi that would bring Indigenous music to the mainstream, with their 1991 song "Treaty", from the album Tribal Voice, becoming a hit.[6] would go on to reach #11 on the ARIA Singles Chart.[7] The band's performances were based on the traditional Yolngu dance, and embodied a sharing of culture.[4] The success of Yothu Yindi—winners of eight ARIA Awards[8]—was followed in by Kev Carmody, Tiddas, Christine Anu, and numerous other Indigenous Australian musicians.[4]

Folk rock

Australia has a unique tradition of folk music, with origins in both the indigenous music traditions of the original Australian inhabitants, as well as the introduced folk music (including sea shanties) of 18th and 19th century Europe. Celtic, English, German and Scandinavian folk traditions predominated in this first wave of European immigrant music. The Australian tradition is, in this sense, related to the traditions of other countries with similar ethnic, historical and political origins, such as New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. The Australian indigenous tradition brought to this mix novel elements, including new instruments, some of which are now internationally familiar, such as the didgeridoo of Northern Australia.

Notable Australian exponents of the folk revival movement included both European immigrants such as Eric Bogle, and indigenous Australians like Archie Roach, and many others. In the 1970s, Australian Folk Rock brought both familiar and less familiar traditional songs, as well as new compositions, to live venues and the airwaves. Notable artists include The Bushwacker Band and Redgum. The 1990s brought Australian Indigenous Folk Rock to the world, led by bands including Yothu Yindi. Australia's long and continuous folk tradition continues strongly to this day, with elements of folk music still present in many contemporary artists including those generally thought of as Rock, Heavy Metal and Alternative Music.

Popular music

Country music

Australia has a long tradition of country music, which has developed a style quite distinct from its U.S. counterpart. Early roots of Australian Country are related to folk traditions of Ireland, England, Scotland and many diverse nations. "Botany Bay" from the late 1800s is one example. Waltzing Matilda, often regarded by foreigners as Australia's unofficial National anthem, is a quintessential Australian country song, influenced more by Celtic folk ballads than by American Country and Western music. This strain of Australian country music, with lyrics focusing on strictly Australian subjects, is generally known as "bush music" or "bush band music." The most successful Australian bush band is Melbourne's Bushwackers, active since the early 1970s.

Another, more Americanized form of Australian country music was pioneered in the 1930s by such recording artists as Tex Morton, and later popularized by Slim Dusty, best remembered for his 1957 song "A Pub With No Beer". In recent years local contemporary country music, featuring much crossover with popular music, has enjoyed considerable popularity in Australia; notable musicians of this genre include John Williamson, Gina Jeffreys, Lee Kernaghan, Troy Cassar-Daley, Sara Storer, Felicity Urquhart, Kasey Chambers, The John Butler Trio and Keith Urban.

Children's Music

In 2008, The Wiggles were named Business Review Weekly's top-earning Australian entertainers for the fourth year in a row having earned AU$45 million in 2007.[9] They have been called "the world's biggest preschool band" and "your child's first rock band".[10] The group has achieved worldwide success with their children's albums, videos, television series, and concert appearances. They have earned seventeen gold, twelve platinum, three double-platinum, and ten multi-platinum awards for sales of over 17 million DVDs and four million CDs.[11] By 2002, The Wiggles had become the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) most successful pre-school television program. They have performed for over 1.5 million children in the US between 2005 and 2008.[12] They have won APRA song writing awards for Best Children's Song three times and earned ADSDA's award for Highest Selling Children's Album four times.[11] They have been nominated for ARIA's Best Children's Album award thirteen times, and won the award six times.[13] In 2003, they received ARIA's Outstanding Achievement Award for their success in the U.S.[11]


Rock music in Australia first became popular in the 1950s , with artists including Johnny O'Keefe and topping charts around the world. This tradition was continued into the 1960s, by groups such as Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, The Easybeats, and the folk-rock group The Seekers. Throughout this time, Indigenous Australian music and Australian jazz remained consistently popular.

Pub rock was immensely popular in the 1980s, and the era was typified by Mental As Anything, Midnight Oil, The Choirboys, The Angels, Noiseworks, Cold Chisel and Icehouse. INXS and Men at Work also achieved fame worldwide, and the song "Down Under" became an unofficial anthem for Australia. Australian hip hop began in the early 1980s, primarily influenced by overseas works, but by the 1990s a distinctive local style had emerged, with groups such as the Hilltop Hoods achieving international acclaim for their work.

The 90s saw an increase in the popularity of indie rock in Australia. AC/DC and INXS continued to achieve commercial success in the United States, whilst a multitude of local bands, including Regurgitator, You Am I, Powderfinger, Silverchair and Something for Kate, were popular throughout the country. A small electronic music scene emerged around Sydney and Melbourne, with Severed Heads, Ollie Olsen's No, and Foil all peaking in the 90s.

Australian music experienced somewhat of a rock renaissance in the 2000s with groups such as The Vines, Jet, Airbourne and Wolfmother charting internationally. Hilltop Hoods were the first Australian hip-hop group to reach the top of the ARIA chart. Channel 10's Australian Idol program was highly popular locally, as were the many "idols" produced.

Rock music

Australia has produced a wide variety of popular and rock music. While many musicians and bands (some notable examples include the 1960s successes of The Easybeats and the folk-pop group The Seekers, through the heavy rock of AC/DC, and the slick pop of INXS and more recently Savage Garden) have had considerable international success, there remains some debate over whether Australian popular music really has a distinctive sound. Perhaps the most striking common feature of Australian music, like many other Australian art forms, is the dry, often self-deprecating humor evident in the lyrics. Rock music has also traditionally been the mainstay of Australian music culture and group releases. Dance music and to an extent, hip hop, has only recently gained nationwide acceptance and airplay.

First wave of Australian rock

In the mid-1950s, American rock and roll spread across the world. Sydney's independent record label Festival Records was the first to get on the bandwagon in Australia, releasing Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" in 1956. It became the biggest-selling Australian single ever.

American-born entrepreneur Lee Gordon, who arrived in Australia in 1953, played a key role in establishing the popularity of rock & roll with his famous "Big Show" tours, which brought to Australia many leading American rock'n'roll acts including Bill Haley & His Comets, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly & The Crickets and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Gordon was also instrumental in launching the career of Johnny O'Keefe, the first Australian rock star, who rose to fame by imitating Americans like Elvis Presley and Little Richard. O'Keefe and other "first wave" bands were popular until about 1961, when a wave of clean-cut family bands took their place.

Though mainstream audiences in the early sixties preferred a clean-cut style – epitomised by the acts that appeared on the Nine Network pop show Bandstand – there were a number of 'grungier' guitar-oriented bands in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne, who were inspired by American and British instrumental and surf acts like Britain's The Shadows – who exerted an enormous influence on Australian and New Zealand music prior to the emergence of The Beatles – and American acts like guitar legend Dick Dale and The Surfaris. Notable Australian instrumental groups of this period included The Atlantics, The Denvermen The Thunderbirds, The Planets, The Dee Jays, The Joy Boys, The Fabulous Blue Jays and The Whispers.

Jazz was another important influence on the first wave of Australian rock. Unlike the musicians in bands such as The Comets, or Elvis Presley's backing band, who had rockabilly or country music backgrounds, many musicians in Australian rock'n'roll bands – such as Johnny O'Keefe's famous backing group The Dee Jays – had a solid background in jazz.

Second wave of Australian rock

The "second wave" of Australian rock is said to have begun in about 1964, after the impact of The Beatles. Beat groups like Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs and Ray Brown & The Whispers were followed by The Easybeats, the Bee Gees, The Masters Apprentices, The Loved Ones and cult acts like The Throb. A wave of acts also came from New Zealand, including Ray Columbus & the Invaders, Max Merritt & The Meteors, Dinah Lee, Larry's Rebels and The La De Das.

Many Australian bands and singers tried to enhance their careers by moving overseas, in particular to England, then seen as the mecca of popular music. Varying degrees of success resulted as not all bands matched the success of the Bee Gees (Who were actually born on the Isle Of Man). Others that made the journey were the Easybeats, the first band to crack the UK market, Lloyds World and the La De Das.

Third wave of Australian rock

The "third wave" of Australian rock began in about 1970 with the last of the early 60s groups dissolving. Few acts from this era attained major international success, and it was even difficult to achieve continued fame across Australia, due to low radio airplay and the increasing dominance of overseas performers on the charts.

Despite resistance from commercial radio, acts as diverse as AC/DC, Sherbet and John Paul Young were able to achieve major success and develop a unique sound for Australian rock. One of the key agents for the increased exposure of local music was the nationally broadcast ABC-TV television pop show Countdown, which was soon followed by Australia's first non-commercial all-rock radio station Double Jay. Hard rock band AC/DC and harmony rock group Little River Band also found major overseas success in the late 70s and early 80s, touring all over the world. Meanwhile, a score of Australian expatriate solo performers like Helen Reddy, Olivia Newton-John and Peter Allen became major stars in the USA and internationally. Icehouse also formed in the late 1970s.

This period also saw bands like Skyhooks moving towards New Wave music, and punk rock bands like The Saints and Radio Birdman, as well as electronic musical groups, such as Cybotron, Severed Heads and Essendon Airport. Perhaps most influential of the 'underground' scenes, however, was Australian pub rock, which began in Adelaide in the early 1970s with bands like Cold Chisel and The Angels, and in Sydney Midnight Oil.

From the post-punk music scene which had sprung up in Melbourne came The Boys Next Door featuring Nick Cave. The Boys Next Door would eventually become The Birthday Party.

The Australian Music Industry as a business began to formalise during the late 1960s and the 1970s. Although not taken seriously by the mainstream business community in those early years, none could discount the pioneering spirit and business acumen of the likes of Michael Gudinski, Michael Chugg, Ray Evans, Dennis Charter, Glenn Wheatley, Harry M. Miller, Harley Medcalf, Michael Browning, Peter Rix, Ron Tudor, Roger Davies, Fred Bestall, Lance Reynolds, Alan Hely, Frank Stivala, Sebastian Chase, Philip Jacobsen, Peter Karpin, Roger Savage, John Sayers, Ernie Rose, Bill Armstrong, Kevin Jacobsen, Phil Dwyer, Ken Brodziak, Denis Handlin, Stan Rofe, Jade Johnson, Terry Blamey and Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum. These were the people largely responsible for promoting and developing the Australian music ‘business’ during those formative years.

Clubs and Venues catering for the demand of live band entertainment flourished in capital cities all over the country, however, the central development of the Australian Music Industry during these years was in Sydney and Melbourne. Clubs such as Chequers, the Bondi Lifesaver and the Coogee Bay Hotel in Sydney, and the Thumpin Tum, Catcher, Berties, Sebastian’s, the Hard Rock Cafe and the Q Club in Melbourne were synonymous with the biggest names in Australian Rock & Roll.

In 1970 the first ever outdoor music festival modelled on Woodstock was held at Ourimbah near Sydney, and several other followed over the next two years, but most were a financial failure. In 1972 the first festival that proved successful enough to be repeated was the 1972 ‘Festival’ which attracted some 35,000 music fans from across the country to Sunbury, Melbourne. Australian music was not only alive and well; it was flourishing under the guidance of the early music industry entrepreneurs.

‘Pop’ magazines such as Go-Set (which began in 1966), the Daily Planet, RAM, and Juke, and television programs such as Countdown, Uptight, Sounds Unlimited and Happening 70 promoted Australian popular music to a youth market who had never before experienced such media exposure of their idols and stars. ‘Pop Stars’ were now being created by direct marketing to a targeted teenage audience. Recording studios such as 301, Alberts’ and Trafalgar in Sydney and Armstrong Studios and TCS in Melbourne became legendary. Independent label Mushroom Records was founded in 1973 and although it struggled to survive for its first two years of existence, it was saved in early 1975 by the commercial breakthrough of Skyhooks, whose debut LP became the biggest-selling Australian rock album ever released up to that time; this success enabled Mushroom to become a significant player in the Australian music industry and compete with established companies like EMI, CBS and Festival.

The Bands and Recording Artists who shaped Australian Music during these seminal years were: - The Choirboys, INXS, Noiseworks, Skyhooks, AC/DC, Renée Geyer, Spectrum, Chain, Daddy Cool, Marcia Hines, Zoot, The Masters Apprentices, Dragon, Air Supply, The Radiators, The Angels, Axiom, Kevin Borich Express, Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, Carson, Cheetah, Richard Clapton, Cold Chisel, John Farnham, Healing Force, Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls, Hawking Bros, Flake, Buffalo, Bjerre, Wendy Saddington, The Seekers, Ronnie Charles, Company Caine, Healing Force, Trevor Spry, Radio Birdman, Buster Brown, Little River Band, Ray Burgess, Mental As Anything, Marty Rhone, Ariel, The La De Das, Peter Allen, The Dingoes, Babeez, Mondo Rock, Icehouse, Midnight Oil, Doug Parkinson, Jon English, Blackfeather, Ronnie Burns, The Ferrets, Mike Brady,Martin Gellatley, Hush, Tully, Madder Lake, Supernaut, Russell Morris, Allison Durbin, Olivia Newton-John, Ross D. Wylie, The News, Max Merritt and the Meteors, Debra Byrne, Rose Tattoo, The Reels, The Saints, Sebastian Hardie, Lash, William Shakespeare, Sherbet, Silver Studs, John St Peters, Jeff St John, Stylus, Jim Keays, Tamam Shud, Ted Mulry Gang, Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, Ol' 55, Mark Holden, Lyndon Hart, Stevie Wright, John Paul Young, Helen Reddy, Redgum, Hot City Bump Band, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Colleen Hewett, Linda George, Ayers Rock and Brian Cadd.

David Hines has written an original Australian musical based on the music from the 70's called Class of 77


The 1980s saw a breakthrough in the independence of Australian rock—Nick Cave said that before the 80s, "Australia still needed America or England to tell them what was good".[14] An example of Australians breaking free from convention came in TISM. Formed in 1982, the band is known for its anonymous members, outrageous stage antics, and humorous lyrics. In the words of the band, "There's only one factor left that makes us work. And that factor, I think, we've burned away, with the crucible of time, into something that's actually genuine."[15]

Men at Work, Divinyls, and Hoodoo Gurus, all formed between 1979 and 1981, would go on to be hugely successful worldwide. Men at Work's "Down Under" hit number one in Australia, Europe, the UK, and the United States, and was considered the theme song of Australia's successful showing at the 1983 America's Cup.[16] Hoodoo Gurus, meanwhile, hit it big on the US college circuit—all of their 80s albums topped the chart.[17]

In the 1980s, numerous innovative Australian rock bands arose. These included Hunters & Collectors, The Church, TISM, Divinyls, Hoodoo Gurus, Mondo Rock, The Sunnyboys, Men at Work, The Go-Betweens,The Triffids, The Celibate Rifles, the Cosmic Psychos and the Hard-Ons. During this period a number of Australian bands began to reflect their urban environment in songs dealing with day to day experiences of inner-city life e.g. Paul Kelly & the Coloured Girls perhaps best exemplified in his songs "From St. Kilda to Kings Cross" and "Leaps & Bounds", John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong in songs such us "King Street" and The Mexican Spitfires in tracks like "Sydney Town" and "Town Hall Steps." This decade also saw the rise of world music groups like Dead Can Dance; of special importance is Yothu Yindi, who helped found the field of Aboriginal rock. In 1985, the Newsboys emerged and produced the hit albums Not Ashamed, Step Up to the Microphone, Devotion, and more. Then soap star Kylie Minogue began her music career in the late 1980s and released The Loco-Motion which became the biggest selling single in Australia for the decade and quickly catapulted her to worldwide stardom.

The first annual ARIA Music Awards were held in 1987. John Farnham and Crowded House were the most successful artists at the event.

1990s: indie rock

Psychobilly group The Living End were successful internationally in the 90s

The 1990s saw continued overseas success from groups such as AC/DC,[18] INXS,[19] Men at Work, Midnight Oil, The Bad Seeds, and Crowded House,[20] and a new indie rock scene develop locally. Sydney-based Ratcat were the first new band to achieve a mainstream following,[21] while bands such as the Hoodoo Gurus got off to a slower start; debut album Stoneage Romeos earned a small following but failed to captivate a mainstream that at the time "didn't get it".[22] Later reviews would describe the band as "integral to the story of Aussie indie music", influencing bands including Frenzal Rhomb and Jet.[23] The band would go on to become an ARIA Hall of Fame inductee.[24] The Church, meanwhile, was highly successful in the 1980s, only to see their careers diminish in the next decade; 1994's Sometime Anywhere saw the band recede from a mainstream audience.[25]

Alternative rock began to gain popularity midway through the 90s, with grunge and Britpop styles especially popular, resulting in a new wave of Australian bands. Some, such as Savage Garden and Silverchair, also gained quick success in the United States,[26] while Something for Kate and Powderfinger gained more success locally.[27] Bands such as Regurgitator, You Am I, and Spiderbait were hit heavily by the post-grunge backlash, losing in sales and critical acclaim.[26][28]

Much of the success of rock in Australia is thanks to radio station Triple J, which focuses heavily on Australian alternative music, and has done so since its formation as 2JJ in 1975.[29] Throughout the station's history, they have helped jump start the careers of numerous bands, through programs such as Unearthed, the Australian Music program Home & Hosed and the Hottest 100.[30] The Big Day Out festival has showcased Australian and international acts, with lineups spanning multiple genres, with an alternative focus. It has become highly popular amongst musicians; Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl said "We play the Big Day Out because it's the best tour in the world. You ask any band in the world - they all want to play the Big Day Out, every single one of them."[31] Other festivals, such as Homebake, Livid, and Splendour in the Grass, are also rock focused, and together with Big Day Out are "united by the dominant presence of the indie-guitar scene".[32]

Electronic/Dance music

Australian duo The Presets.
Pendulum bassist Gareth McGrillen. The band mixes numerous genres, including electronic.[33]

Electronic music in Australia emerged in the 1990s, but takes elements from funk, house, techno, and numerous other genres.[34] Early innovators of the genre in Australia include Severed Heads, who formed in 1979 and were the first electronic group to play the Big Day Out.[35] The band achieved long term success, winning an ARIA Award in 2005 for "Best Original Soundtrack" for The Illustrated Family Doctor, where lead singer Tom Ellard said the band would never fit into mainstream music.[36]. However, not all contemporary Australian music is electronic; bands such as Yves Klein Blue continue to expand the indie rock genre with their innovative punk-style tunes such as "Polka", "Soldier", and "About the Future".

The genre has developed a wide following, to the point the University of Adelaide offers an Electronic Music Unit, teaching studio production and music technology.[37] Traditional rock bands such as Regurgitator have developed an original sound by combining heavy guitars and electronic influences,[38] and rock-electro groups, most notably Rogue Traders, have become popular with mainstream audiences.[39][40] The genre is considered to be most popular in Melbourne, with multiple music festivals held nationally in the city.[41] However, Cyclic Defrost, the only specialist electronic music magazine in Australia, was started in Sydney (in 1998) and is still based there.[42][43] Radio still lags somewhat behind the success of the genre—producer and artist manager Andrew Penhallow told Australian Music Online that "the local music media have often overlooked the fact that this genre has been flying the flag for Australian music overseas".[44]

Recently, bands such as Cut Copy, The Presets, The Potbelleez, Polo Club, Empire of the Sun and Pnau have made a name for themselves in the genre. The success of The Presets at the 2008 ARIA Awards and the Potbelleez in the mainstream media was indicative of the rapidly growing popularity of electro house in Australia. Cut Copy frontman Dan Whitford has attributed the band's success to a change in public attitude as much as the band's quality, explaining "It's a case partly of timing and a growing awareness of electronic music in Australia".[45] Pnau's first album, Sambanova, was released in 1999, at a time when many in Australia considered electronic music to be a dying breed. Nonetheless, the band traveled around the US and Europe, and slowly made a name for themselves, and for a rebirth of electronic music in the country.[46][47]


In recent years, Australia has become known for Hardcore bands such as:


Further to this, the Australian Metal scene has gained prominence in the past number of years with bands such as:


Most recently the Australian hip-hop scene has begun to gain national momentum through bands such as:

Art music

Classical music

The earliest western musical influences in Australia can be traced back to two distinct sources: the first free settlers who brought with them the European classical music tradition; and the large body of convicts and sailors they brought with them, who brought the traditional folk music of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The practicalities of building a colony means that there is very little music surviving from this early period, although there are samples of music originating from Hobart and Sydney that date back to the early 1800s.[48]

The establishment of both choral societies (c. 1850) and symphony orchestras (c. 1890) led to increased compositional activity, although many Australian classical composers attempted to work entirely within European models. A lot of works leading up to the first part of the 20th century were heavily influenced by folk music (Percy Grainger's "English Country Gardens" of 1908 being a good example of this) and a very conservative British orchestral tradition.[48]

In the war and post-war eras, as pressure built to assert a national identity in the face of the looming super power of America and the "motherland" England, composers looked to their surroundings for inspiration. Peter Sculthorpe began to incorporate elements of Aboriginal music, and Richard Meale drew influence from south-east Asia (notably using the harmonic properties of the Balinese gamelan).[48]

By the beginning of the 1960s Australian classical music erupted with influences, with composers incorporating disparate elements into their work, ranging from Aboriginal and south-east Asian music and instruments, to American jazz and blues to the belated discovery of European atonality and the avante-garde. Composers like Don Banks, Don Kay, Malcolm Williamson and Colin Brumby epitomise this period.[48] Composers adhering to more traditional idioms include Arthur Benjamin and Robert Hughes. In recent times composers including Liza Lim, Nigel Westlake, David Worrall, Graeme Koehne, Elena Kats-Chernin, Carl Vine, Martin Wesley-Smith, Richard Mills, Ross Edwards and Constantine Koukias have embodied the pinnacle of established Australian composers.

Well-known Australian classical performers of the past and the present day include sopranos: Joan Sutherland, Joan Hammond, Marjorie Lawrence, Joan Carden, Lauris Elms, Yvonne Kenny and Emma Matthews; pianists Eileen Joyce, Ian Munro, Simon Tedeschi, Mark Gasser, Geoffrey Lancaster, Lisa Moore, Geoffrey Tozer, Roger Woodward, Robert Weatherburn, Rhondda Gillespie, Michael Kieran Harvey and Leslie Howard; guitarists John Williams, Slava Grigoryan, Timothy Kain and Craig Ogden, horn players Barry Tuckwell and Hector McDonald, oboist Diana Doherty, and didgeridu player William Barton.


The history of jazz and related genres in Australia extends back into the 19th century. During the gold rush locally formed 'blackface' (white actor-musicians in blackface) minstrel troupes began to tour Australia, touring not only the capital cities but also many of the booming regional towns like Ballarat and Bendigo. Minstrel orchestra music featurics including improvisatory embellishment and polyrhythm in the (pre-classic) banjo playing and clever percussion breaks. Some genuine African-American minstrel and jubilee singing troupes toured from the 1870s. A more jazz-like form of minstrelsy reached Australia in the late 1890s in the form of improvisatory and syncopated coon song and cake-walk music, two early forms of ragtime. The next two decades brought ensemble, piano and vocal ragtime and leading (mostly white) American ragtime artists, including Ben Harney, 'Emperor of Ragtime' Gene Greene and pianist Charlie Straight. Some of these visitors taught Australians how to 'rag' (improvise unsyncopated popular music into ragtime-style music).

By the mid 1920s, phonograph machines, increased contact with American popular music and visiting white American dance musicians had firmly established jazz (meaning jazz inflected modern dance and stage music) in Australia. The first recordings of jazz in Australia are Mastertouch piano rolls recorded in Sydney from around 1922 but jazz began to be recorded on disc by 1925, first in Melbourne and soon thereafter in Sydney.

Soon after World War 2, jazz in Australia diverged into two strands. One was based on the earlier collectively improvised called "dixieland" or traditional jazz. The other so-called modernist stream was based around big band swing, small band progressive swing, boogie woogie, and, by 1947, watered down version of bebop. By the 1950s American bop, itself, was dividing into so-called 'cool' and 'hard' bop schools, the latter being more polyrhythmic and aggressive. This division reached Australia on a small scale by the end of the 1950s. From the mid-1950s rock and roll began to draw young audiences and social dancers away from jazz. British-style dixieland, called Trad, became popular in the early 1960s. Most modern players stuck with the 'cool' (often called West Coast) style, but some experimented with free jazz, modal jazz, experiment with 'Eastern' influences, art music and visual art concept, electronic and jazz-rock fusions.

The 1970s brought tertiary jazz education courses and continuing innovation and diversification in jazz which, by the late 1980s, included world music fusion and contemporary classical and jazz crossovers. From this time, the trend towards eclectic style fusions has continued with ensembles like The Catholics, Australian Art Orchestra, Tongue and Groove, austraLYSIS, Wanderlust, The Necks and many others. It is questionable whether the label jazz is elastic enough to continue to embrace the ever-widening range of improvisatory musics that are associated with the term jazz in Australia. However, mainstream modern jazz and dixieland still have the strongest following and patron still flock to hear famous mainstream artists who have been around for decades, such as One Night Stand players Dugald Shaw and Blair Jordan, reeds player Don Burrows and trumpeter James Morrison and, sometimes, the famous pioneer of traditional jazz in Australia, Graeme Bell. See: Andrew Bisset. Black Roots White Flowers, Golden Press, 1978 Bruce Johnson. The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz OUP, 1987 John Whiteoak. Playing Ad Lib: Improvisatory Music in Australia: 1836-1970, Currency Press, 1999

Contemporary art music


Major organisations involved in funding or in receipt of funding are:

Funding Agencies
Music: Chamber
Music: Orchestra
Music: Orchestra (pit)
  • The Song Company
  • The Australian Voices
  • Sydney Chamber Choir
  • Gondwana Voices
  • Birralee Voices
  • Brisbane Chamber Choir
  • Canticum Chamber Choir
  • Sydney Philharmonia Choirs
  • Adelaide Chamber Singers
  • The National Youth Choir of Australia
  • Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Chorale
  • Brisbane Chorale

See also


  1. ^ "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts". Australian Council of the Arts. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  2. ^ Gurruwiwi, Djalu; David Lindner. The Didgeridoo Phenomenon. Traumzeit-Verlag. ISBN 3933825423. 
  3. ^ Chaloupka, George. Journey in Time: The World's Longest Continuing Art Tradition. Reed. p. 189. ISBN 0730103102. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Contemporary Aboriginal Music". Aboriginal Art Online. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  5. ^ "Music honours for Jimmy Little and Peter Sculthorpe". University of Sydney. 6 June 2005. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  6. ^ Jonathan Lewis. "Tribal Voice > Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  7. ^ "Yothu Yindi - Treaty". Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  8. ^ "Winners by artist: Yothu Yindi". ARIA Awards. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  9. ^ "Wiggles beat Kylie Minogue, Russell Crowe to top of earnings list". 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2008-09-10. 
  10. ^ Wright, Anders (2008-03-25). "Baby's first rock band". San Diego Citybeat. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  11. ^ a b c "About Us". The Wiggles Official Website. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  12. ^ Markstrom, Serena (2008-03-21). "Fab Four of kid rock comes to town". The Register Guard. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  13. ^ They won in 1995 for "Big Red Car", in 1996 for "Wake Up Jeff!", in 1998 for "Toot Toot!", in 2005 for "Live Hot Potatoes""History: List of winners". ARIA Awards 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-02.  Additionally, the Aria Awards List by performers omits the Wiggles nomination and winning of the award in 2007 for Pop Goes the Wiggles and Racing to the Rainbow in 2006.
  14. ^ "Long Way to the Top: INXS to Exile 1976 - 1988". aBC Online. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  15. ^ Michael Dwyer (2 July 2004). "The phantom menace". The Age. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  16. ^ Atkinson, Ann; Linsay Knight, Margaret McPhee (1996). The Dictionary of Performing Arts in Australia. Allen & Unwin. pp. 156. ISBN 1863738983. 
  17. ^ Buckley, Peter; Jonathan Buckley (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. Rough Guides. pp. 779. ISBN 1843531054.,M1. 
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Further reading

  • Warren Bebbington, (ed.) (1998). The Oxford companion to Australian music. Oxford. ISBN 0195534328.
  • Marcello Sorce Keller, “The Swiss-Germans in Melbourne. Some Considerations on Musical Traditions and Identity”, Schweizer Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft, Neue Folge, XXV(2005), pp. 131–154.
  • Marcello Sorce Keller, “La Swiss-Italian Festa a Daylesford-Hepburn Springs in Australia. Osservazioni etnografiche e un po’ di cronaca”, Cenobio, LV(2006), pp. 329–341.
  • Marcello Sorce Keller, “Transplanting multiculturalism: Swiss musical traditions reconfigured in multicultural Victoria”, in Joel Crotti and Kay Dreyfus (Guest Editors), Victorian Historical Journal, LXXVIII(2007), no. 2, pp. 187–205.

External links

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