Aboriginal music has become a vehicle for social protest, and has been linked, by both performers and outsiders, with similar forms from Native Americans; Jamaican singer Bob Marley is often credited with helping to revive traditional Aboriginal music, as did the movie Wrong Side of the Road, which depicted Aboriginal reggae bands struggling for recognition and linked it with land rights. Yothu Yindi's sudden pop success in the 1990s surprised many observers, and helped bring many Aboriginal issues into mainstream Australian affairs. In 1980, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) began broadcasting traditional music and has become extremely successful. CAAMA has helped popularise remote musical communities, such as Blek Bala Mujik whose "Walking Together" became a sort of Australian anthem after its use in a Qantas commercial. Other popular Aboriginal bands include Desert Oaks Band, Blackstorm, Chrysophrase, Young Teenage Band, North Tanami Band, Christine Anu, Warumpi Band, Bart Willoughby, Buna Lawrie, Coloured Stone, Areyonga Desert Tigers and Waryngya Band.
Aboriginal mythology tells of a period in the ancient past called the Dreamtime, during which totemic spirits wandered the continent singing the names of plants, animals and other natural features. Thus, song brought the world into existence; these totemic spirits left emblems across the continent, and the paths between them are called songlines. Music is thus deeply linked to the creation myth; Yothu Yindi's Mandawuy Yunupingus said "The song is creation. The art is creation. The specialness in that, is that we have a heart and mind connection to mother earth... Songlines is entrenched within the land itself, the journey of the songlines is from the east to the west, the journey is about following the sun".
Bunggul is a style of music that arose around the Mann River and is known for its intense lyrics, which are often stories of epic journeys and continue, or repeat, unaccompanied after the music has stopped.
A particular clan in Aboriginal culture may share songs, known as emeba (Groote Eylandt), fjatpangarri (Yirrkala), manikay (Arnhem Land) or other native terms. Songs are about clan or family history and are frequently updated to take into account popular films and music, controversies and social relationships.
Karma is a type of oral literature that tells a religious or historical story.
A didgeridoo is a type of musical instrument, a woodwind aerophone, traditionally made out of eucalyptus or bamboo. Aborigines used the didgeridoo to communicate over long distances, as well as to accompany songs, and the instrument is commonly considered the national instrument of Australian Aborigines. Famous players include Mark Atkins and Joe Geia, as well as white virtuoso Charlie McMahon.
The Krill Krill song cycle is a modern musical innovation from east Kimberley. A man named Rover Thomas claims to have discovered the ceremony in 1974 (see 1974 in music) after a woman to whom he was spiritually related was killed after a car accident near Warmun. Thomas claimed to have been visited by her spirit and received the ceremony from her. In addition to the music, Thomas and others, including Hector Jandany and Queenie McKenzie, developed a critically acclaimed style of painting in sync with the development of the ceremony.
Kun-borrk arose around the Adelaide, Mann and Rose Rivers, distinguished by a didgeridoo introduction followed by the percussion and vocals, which often conclude words (in contrast to many other syllabic styles of Aboriginal singing).
Wanga arose near the South Alligator River and is distinguished by an extremely high note to commence the song, accompanied by rhythmic percussion and followed by a sudden shift to a low tone.