Sound tracks of the Black Pacific: Music, identity and resilience in Australian South Sea Islander communities

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Journal Article
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Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies
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Webb-Gannon, Camellia
Webb, Michael

Australian South Sea Islanders, the descendants of the Melanesians from (primarily) Vanuatu and Solomon Islands who were ‘blackbirded’ to Queensland and New South Wales (1847-1904) for their labour, have, through music and dance practices, come to identify as part of a global black ‘transnation’. Studies of the ‘Black Atlantic’ point both to the transnational character of slavery and the importance of music as a medium of resistance. This article proposes that Australian South Sea Islanders’ musical cultures might usefully be understood in terms of a parallel concept, the ‘Black Pacific’, in relation to which the Pacific’s colonised and decolonised peoples have developed their own expressions of black pride and performed resistance. It argues that a more nuanced appreciation of Australian South Sea Islander performance culture as part of the Black Pacific will allow all Australians to better understand some of the vitally important yet obfuscated consequences of Australia’s blackbirding past.

Australian South Sea Islanders, Melanesia, Black Pacific, decolonisation, music, dance
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CC BY 4.0