Tales of Australia

Black Arm Band uses Aboriginal music to spread the word.


Black Arm Band plays Feb. 12 at Zellerbach.

The Black Arm Band hails from the land down under, but these soulful ballads are a long way from goofy ditties about vegemite sandwiches. Composed of the continent’s foremost Aboriginal musicians, the Black Arm Band explores the despair of Australia’s history of colonial exploitation and bloody racial violence. The band’s name is taken from a comment by an Australian historian who saw the country’s modern history as a series of shameful colonial massacres and land grabs.

These compelling and heartrending songs bridge over 13 native languages incorporating both traditional and modern Aboriginal musical styles—from the throaty warble of the didgeridoo to the freshest of 21st-century hip-hop beats—all backed by visuals from the films of Melbourne’s Daybreak Films showing the reality of life in Australia’s Aborigine communities.

Dirtsong cries out against centuries of injustice and shines a spotlight of truth on dark deeds committed in a sun-scorched land, but even the darkest songs in this beautiful and soul-stirring cry contain the faintest glimmer of hope for the future.

Feb. 12, 7 p.m., $13-$54. Zellerbach Hall, 101 Zellerbach Hall #4800, UC Berkeley, Berkeley. CalPerformances.org


Published online on Feb. 2, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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