Australian Music & Politics: Where’s The Power & The Passion?
So why is that that our musicians seem to shy away from taking a stand on issues? It’s not like there aren’t plenty of issues to get up fired up over. There’s immigration, the carbon tax, political dissolution, the mining boom and the environment – just to name a few.
Maybe our musicians are afraid they might cop a backlash for having a whine about Australia’s political situation when, compared to events like the London Riots, our situation can seem fairly tame.
Furthermore, why is it that our artists would rather get into the politics of countries other than Australia? As previously stated, The Temper Trap’s ‘London’s Burning’ was not an ideal way to make political commentary. Yes, they were there when the riots were happening, but the song failed miserably because the band lacked the necessary legitimacy and authority on the issue.
Perhaps one explanation for our musicians’ political apathy is the ‘lucky country effect’; the belief that Australia’s relative luck compared to the rest of the world has made us lazy and spoilt.
Hypothetically if Australia weren’t in such a sweet political situation would our music scene stand up to the task of expressing through song the issues that affect our country?
In the past month, The Age reported that Deloitte Access Economics had forecast our mining boom to end in two years. Now we’re not pretending to be financial whiz kids and nor do we want to incite fear, but just imagine for a second the serious effects the end of the boom could have on the state of Australia’s economy.
Which artists would stand up and sing for and about what affects the Australian people? More importantly though, would we really care or would we be too busy looking for a new job to notice?
Could you imagine if Matt Corby released a single in two years about job losses and political dissolution with national airplay on Nova? Would it make his music any less worth listening to than before? Would fans turn their backs because of it? As long as he doesn’t shave his hair off, he’s probably safe.
It’s possible any musician who did stand up could be open to vilification, or even ridicule. Australians have a long history of loving the underdog, but also an equally long history of ‘tall poppy syndrome, shunning those who rise to the top or seek to lecture us.
This is especially true when they come from a background such as the arts, an often misunderstood profession seen by many to be an easy way to make a living, out of touch with the average man and his struggles.
Knocking those who rise from their pedestal may be ingrained in our national identity, but that shouldn’t scare our best and brightest musicians off. They are after all, role models who can have a broader influence on the young minds of our society.
Different and independent voices are integral to diversifying the views that we already get from the media and other public figures. The more people contributing to the national conversation, the better. Musicians shouldn’t have to be afraid of career suicide just because they’re standing up for what they believe in, or for mirroring the public’s discontent with the way things are.
Australian musicians should be allowed to grow a pair without being knocked down by naysayers. Musicians have just as much right to be political as any other citizen in our democracy.
The more artists that stand up and create art that reflects and challenges modern day society, the better. It’s thought provoking, it creates healthy debate and it helps to keep people informed.
If the issue at hand is important and strikes a chord with many, the power of music can be a great way to electrify support for a cause and enlighten the public on serious issues or symbolise our anger.
Midnight Oil remain the championing example, their Blackfella/Whitefella tour of outback Australia, allowed them to see first-hand the health and living standards of remote Aboriginal communities. What the band learnt from the experience was a springboard for educating the public on what so many had previously ignored.
Their positive affects and progressive agitation prove that we should embrace musicians having a voice and if we don’t agree with it we’re more than welcome to say our piece through whatever means at our disposal, particularly in today’s digital climate that’s dominated by social media.
So next time we need to grab a pitchfork and head to Canberra, we should hope that our Australian musician friends join us with as much fervour as Plan B has in England. Or more importantly we could steer clear of dismissing Xavier Rudd’s voice just because he’s a musician, and if you’re inspired enough maybe even join him.
Because if things in Australia do happen to fall by the wayside, you can be sure it’ll be the musicians who’ll be able to make your voices heard.
Ganggajang – Sounds of Then (This Is Australia) Initially far from a commercial success when it was released in 1985, the song’s evocative lyrics of Australian suburbia and countryside have made it one of the most recognisable ‘Aussie’ songs. Watch video Watch this slideshow »