Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Australian country music

From the Brisbane Institute, I read an interesting piece by Rae Wear on the politics of Australian country music. Unlike American country music, it doesn't seem to be closely associated with patriotism.

In the Australian context, populism's anti-system, anti-elitist message can be heard in numerous songs describing hardworking farmers forced off the land by a combination of natural and human agents, including banks and politicians. Like populism, country music presents a black and white world: good women and bad; authentic and fake, city and country. In country music, city and country people are portrayed as inhabiting fundamentally different worlds. While country boys and girls may be seduced by city partners, these romances invariably fail and the prodigals
return, with relief, to their country homes. Alternatively, they remain permanent exiles, pining for country homes and family. The Australia of the imagination that they dream of is monocultural, not significantly different from the country described by the bush balladists at the turn of the last century, or the one that Pauline Hanson wanted to retrieve.

In a significantly less populated land, there is going be far less variety in talent as well as tales. Folks of the Outback would be more isolated in their rural surroundings and less familiar with the functioning of their nation. American country music is exceptionally diverse in terms of urban and rural experiences, and as a result, diverse in power and wealth. Though hard working on the ranch remains a dominant theme in country music, consider some of the cities our cowboys do business in: Albequerque, Tucson, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Louisville, Memphis - all cities with populations of a half million or more. Add in the big six from Texas (Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso), and now you have more than half of Australia's population. The American country music culture has a greater influence in America than its Australian counterpart does there, resulting in a more pro-establishment and patriotic view.

Never need an excuse to add some videos. The first is Australia's unofficial anthem, "Waltzing Matilda," with a little narrative at the beginning. The second is a clip from the 1970 movie Ned Kelly with Mick Jagger singing "The Wild Colonial Boy."


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