Connecting Indigenous song archives to kin, Country and language
Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Johns Hopkins University Press
In Australia and elsewhere, the repatriation of archival material has emerged as a common practice amongst music researchers working with Indigenous communities. The return of archival audio recordings and documentation to their communities of origin can assist local efforts to sustain endangered song traditions. Increased community access to old recordings of song performances may prompt recollections, trigger new performances and provide impetus to for communities to engage in processes of cultural revival and revitalisation. The Noongar song traditions of Western Australia's large southwest corner are critically endangered, as is the Noongar language. A review of pertinent archival recordings, plus more recently collected material, assists in tracing the tenuous maintenance of Noongar song traditions throughout a hostile and challenging historical context. Surveying the broader field of Indigenous music repatriation projects, the geographical, genealogical and ethnolinguistic connections between singers recorded in the past and those interested in sustaining musical traditions into the future loom as integral to the nature of Indigenous music revivals. Such factors may also serve to enrich archives, potentially providing previously absent metadata and contemporary contexts and purposes for old recordings.