The Big Issue : Edition 542
30 THE BIG ISSUE 28 JUL – 10 AUG 2017 this, the latter being the first Indigenous act to win the Australian Music Prize, in 2016. Alongside them, the group Kardajala Kirridarra are re-defining who we are and obliterating the patriarchy, one sweet note at a time. Kardajala Kirridarra came together through the Barkly Regional Council’s National Multimedia program for young people. Their singer-songwriter Eleanor Dixon is a Mudburra woman from the remote Northern Territory community of Marlinja, and she has been singing since the age of four – in the local church or with family members at ceremonies and gatherings. In addition to Dixon (pictured, second from left) the group is made up of, from left, Janey “Namija” Dixon, Melbourne-based producer Beatrice “Nalyirri” Lewis and Kayla Jackson. On their self-titled debut, Dixon sings in Mudburra language, as the group explore electrifying synth-pop sounds in the vein of Beach House and The Knife. Collaborating with Melbourne producer Nalyirri brings a tone and perspective to Kardajala Kirridarra that differs to working with community, but as the self-deprecating Dixon explains: “We never said we’re going to fit in or try and become pop stars.” For her, it was about the feeling behind the music and hoping people would connect with it. Storytelling is her main priority; it just happens that music is how she is choosing to express it. The choice to write in Mudburra and English has seen Dixon’s music described as a merging of “traditional with contemporary”. But this description reduces the depth of the stories she seeks to reveal in her songs. For many Aboriginal people, straddling traditional SONGLINE IN THE SAND LAST YEAR, IN an article for literary magazine The Lifted Brow, Wiradjuri writer Hannah Donnelly commented: “Segregation runs through this music culture like a current, it censors our people’s stories.” Storytelling is an inalienable part of Aboriginal culture but, as Donnelly articulates with painful precision, “No radio stations, commercial or alternative, give us the plays unless it’s a designated ‘special’ segment. Why not?” For so long industry gatekeeping has failed Aboriginal musicians, perpetuating myths about our capabilities and culture rather than realising our potential to create anything from pop anthems to searing hipster melancholy. But over the last few years this has started to shift. Dan Sultan, Thelma Plum and A.B. Original are among a new wave of high- profile artists who have been a part of KARDAJALA KIRRIDARRA ARE PART OF A NEW WAVE OF ABORIGINAL ARTISTS, USING MUSIC TO SHOW A DIFFERENT SIDE OF THEIR CULTURE, WRITES TIMMAH BALL.