Australian Rap: BBC Radio Doc Explores Indigenous Australian Hip-Hop

In Australia, Indigenous youth are using politically charged music as a forum to discuss cultural pride, racicism and self-empowerment.

The BBC Radio Documentary Australian Rap, investigates the Indigenous youth hip-hop scene in interviews with Rhianna Patrick, producer of ABC’s program for Aboriginal and Torres Straight communities Speaking Out, hip-hop aritst Moreganics, who provides youth workshops across Australia, Tony Mithchell from the Univeristy of Technology Sidney, who has studied the development of rap music in Australia, and others.

Rhianna shares:

…music has played a really big part in not only getting the younger generation to really think about their culture and to reconnect with culture in some instances, but I think it’s also given them a voice. There are parts of our Aborriginal young people in Australia who feel disengaged. They’re disadvantaged, they feel isoltated, and I think music has given them an avenue to really talk about the issues happening in their communites that you may or may not hear about.

Hip-hop traditionally has always been about accessibility and it’s also been about not needing to know how to play an instrument – you can make your own music.  But these days it’s obviously coming into the computer age, where people can build their own beats on a computer program, put it together, write their own rhymes, record it all and they’ve got their own instant recording studio. Which is accesability in a different age. But that was always the beauty of hip-hop – that it was accessible to you no matter how much money you had or didn’t have. If you couldn’t play an insturment you could beat box.

Moreganics travels across Australia teaching youth how to share their stories, beatbox and record their tracks.

It’s not unusual for a school teacher or community worker to come up to [me] and say “wow, I didn’t know that kid could write, he’s never written before.”

One song, Down River, unexpectedly hit high rotation after Moreganics helped five 8-12 year old boys – later know as the Wilcannia Mob – record it during one of his workshops:

That hip-hop comes from marginalized communities is seen world over.  Interestingly, the connections being made in North America between traditional Indigenous cultures and contemporary Indigenous hip-hop, are also prevalent Down Under:

A lot of the stuff that was actually being done was from really young kids who were using hiphop as a vehicle to rap about their own life stories and about their dailiy lives. Gradually this started to become accepted by Aboriginal elders who were initially very sceptical about hip-hop becuase they saw it very much as an American form. Once they saw some of the kids performing, they said “hey this is not too far away from Aboroginal storytelling, maybe this is ok.”

Listen to the full half-hour documentary on BBC: Australian Rap.