Anti-Colonial music from Aboriginal lands

Dispossessed’s music comes at you like a raging bull. The fierce vocals and merciless riffs lift you off your feet. The young and angry musicians are described by Vice as “…the most Uncompromising, Unapologetic and Important Band in Australia.” The reason being, they voice their anti-colonial, anti-capitalist and anti-white supremacist views fearlessly.

The band comprises of Serwah Attafuah, Jarrod Smith, Harry Bonifacio Baughan and Jacob Cummins. Their music encompasses several genres such as black metal, blackened death metal, sludge metal, punk and shoegaze providing an all-round experience to the music connoisseur. The anti-colonial approach that Dispossessed infuses into their music is unique and a turn from the usual metal that avoids political perspectives. They deal with serious issues which have been questioned and studied by theorists and writers such as Frantz Fanon, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, etc.

In the conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon writes “For centuries Europe has brought the progress of other men to a halt and enslaved them for its own purposes and glory….” He further adds that it is important for the colonized to establish an identity for themselves and not imitate European standards. Unlike the late Australian poet Les Murray who blends both the past Aboriginal and present westernised cultures of Australia, Dispossessed strongly revolts against the white supremacist, leaving no space for a middle ground. In their song ‘Black Metal’, the lyrics produce an evocative image of the atrocities caused by the colonizer against the Aboriginals:

 

We know you

By our chains

By our scars

 

It refers to the years of imprisonment and violence faced by the natives of the land. The chains and scars give a visual representation of the treatment of the natives by the colonizers. In ‘Thronebreaker Zero’, the band writes:

 

We will never kneel

At the heel of a white god

 

It reminds the listener that Australia isn’t all about the tourist attractions and white-dominated institutions. The lines prise out the consciousness of the listener, reminding them that Australia originally belongs to the various Aboriginal tribes who are believed to have inhabited the continent for over 50,000 years. British settlers began colonizing Australia in 1788, which involved violent struggles and deaths. It led to the deterioration of the tribal cultures in Australia. Between 1910 and 1970, the government issued assimilation policies which led to around 33 percent of Aboriginal children being removed from their homes to be put into adoptive families and other institutions. They were forbidden from speaking their native tongues. They came to be known as the Stolen Generations. In 2008, Australian Prime Minister issued a national apology for the actions of the government towards the Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations. However, it still does not undo the damage that has already been caused to the many cultures, languages and practices of the Aboriginal tribes of Australia.

Dispossessed attacks the concept of the White Man’s Burden in the song ‘PC Terrorist’, calling the colonizers the “Bastard children of white man’s burden”. It informs the listener that the real ‘savage’ is the colonizer and not the native. The line sticks in the listener’s mind like a freshly carved insult and is a slap in the face of the supremacists who claim that the white race is superior. The song ‘Black Gaze’ portrays several powerful images:

 

Do they haunt you? Spirits still lost –

do they whisper to you in a tongue that you forgot?

 

The lines bring into foreground the idea of the subaltern, a concept introduced by Antonio Gramsci and studied extensively by Spivak. In order for the subaltern to be heard, they must adopt the Western language and medium to speak. Dispossessed sings in the oppressors tongue, allowing the supremacists to understand the core of the problem, which is that of displacement of native values. The tongue that has been forgotten is the language that has been suppressed and demonised to a point of extinction by colonial practices. The song also talks about a war, though not a physical one, but one of words:

 

They tried to bury us.

But the words we hold,

will make them choke

 

The lines highlight the title of the album ‘Warpath Never Ended’. It suggests that the members of the band will not rest until they have taken their message across to people who feel that colonisation is a boon to Australia. The approach to action is not through means of violence, but one of artistic expression and words. It is similar to the approach to the traditional practice of digging at a farm as seen in Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Digging’ where he notes that he cannot physically do the labour that his father and grandfather did, but he can undertake a different digging – with a pen:

 

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.

 

The band believes that it will always be Aboriginal land and that there has been no surrender to the colonisers. In some ways, the music and ideology is one that decolonises the mind as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o would have put it.

2 thoughts on “Anti-Colonial music from Aboriginal lands

  1. Hi Bhuva,

    finally managed to find time to go through this well-written work of yours. Congrats!

    I finally managed to meet the deadline for the paper submission just 24 hrs ahead! This kept me on my toes for weeks. How have you been? Hope your exams are approaching fast. You did mention of making a trip home before that if possible. Any chances of coming? Been a long time since I spoke to Dad too. Hope they are all doing well. Where is Brihadeesh these days?

    Looks like you had some good rains in recent weeks. Here, the last two months have been good but still there’s no water in the tanks. Was hoping to get some good water birds this season but unfortunately it’s not likely.

    Would like to hear from you on your latest. Take care.

    Warmly, Uncle Suresh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi uncle,

      I am so glad that you liked this piece! And I am even more happy to hear that the paper submission went smoothly despite all the obstacles that came your way. I was at home after my exams briefly, but I thought I would meet you this time when I come for my Christmas break which is relatively longer. Dad has been travelling a bit right now and will be back to RV this week. My brother is also at RV now and has taken up a new project.

      I hear it has been raining at RV of late, and yes the rain gods have been generous in Chennai this time, and we have been having regular rains. They say that the reservoirs are healthier now and the water problem seems to be mitigated. I shall meet you when I come to RV this month!

      Warmest,
      Bhuva

      Like

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