A Brief History of Australia Music

Australian Music History in Brief

The Australia Music Industry has a rich and extensive history that has existed for more than 60,000 years. It formed an integral part of the culture, and the art itself has been passed down from generations, changing form in the process. 

A Brief History of Australia Music

Indigenous music 

Indigenous music in Australia refers to the music of Torres Strait Islanders and Aborigines. For them, music was a ceremonial, social, and cultural observance best characterized by the digeridoo – the world’s oldest and best-known instrument. The songs represent the distinct and rich oral tradition of each community, and its uniqueness dates back more than 60,000 to prehistory Australia

Although indigenous music played a significant part in shaping Australia’s contemporary music identity, there was a shift from it nonetheless. Cultural integration and international travels between countries saw the introduction of all genres of songs including folk, classical, rock, and more. 

Folk music and Folk Rock 

Australian folk music is traditional music adapted from different immigrant cultures and original Australian inhabitants. The first wave of European immigrant music was dominated by German, English, Scandinavian, and Celtic folk traditions. However, the indigenous Australian tradition included a mix of novel elements like new instruments. 

European settlements of Australia started transporting convicts from Great Britain during the convict era. These convicts brought back songs with them that were quickly adapted to Australian traditions and conditions. Notable songwriters of the era include Frank Macnamara, Yothu Yindi, and Eric Bogle. 

There are more than 50 folk festivals in Australia, and rich migrant cultures have improved the themes and traditions. 

Bush Music

Bush music 

The century after the European settlement of Australia saw the development of Bush music, especially among itinerant workers like shearers. Like it happened in the convict era, most bush music was a result of popular traditions and songs. However, the arrival of radio and recorded music marked the end of traditional Australian bush music. 

Children music 

Children music developed towards the end of the 20th century and remained a relatively small segment of the Australian music industry. However, the emergence of The Wiggles – a children’s group, in the late 1990s gave children music the popularity it deserved. 

Soul music and R&B 

R&B and soul music did not receive a warm reception at the beginning as anecdotal evidence suggests that racism was a key factor. Most people deemed it too noisy and black, and as a result, songs were pulled from playlists. However, despite many radio’s reluctances to play American soul originals, local performers adopted the styles until it was eventually accepted. 

Rock and Pop

Rock and pop 

American Rock and Roll spread across the world in the mid-1950s. Lee Gordon played a significant role in establishing the popularity of music in Australia with famous shows. The music style had to go through three waves before it was permanently adapted all over Australia. 


The early 1980s saw the introduction of reggae to radio charts in Australia. Toots and the Maytals was the first artist to use the term “reggae” in a song. Early reggae groups from Australia included The Igniters, JJ Roberts, and Larry Maluma.  


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