365 Day Song Challenge: Day 87 – “Djäpana”

Day 87: A song that you like that’s from a different culture.

“Djäpana” – Yothu Yindi

DjäpanaToday’s choice may be a little sketchy, depending on your interpretation of the challenge.

“Djäpana” is a song by Yothu Yindi, a group composed of both Australian Aboriginals and non-Aboriginal members. The music has a western sound, but it is strongly influenced by the Aboriginal culture and makes good use of native instruments, such as yidaki (more commonly known as the didgeridoo). The video for the song also embraces and celebrates the Aboriginal culture.

When I returned to Australia in 1992, the group had recently released its Tribal Voice album, which spawned not only “Djäpana” but also another hit called “Treaty.” And both were doing well in the ARIA charts.

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This was a little surprising to me, because at the time, racism was still pretty rampant in Australia. (That’s not to say it isn’t here in the US, too, but I saw more blatant evidence of it there than I had ever witnessed personally here.) Hopefully that’s changed in the intervening two decades, but I can’t say for sure. In fact, some of the lyrics in “Djäpana” deal with that, as well:

Hey, you people
Out there
How come
You ain’t fair
To the people
Of the land
Try my, try my, sunset dreaming

Now, to be sure, it’s not all Australians who held those views. Bands like Midnight Oil (and others) were doing what they could to not only change the “mainstream view” of the Aboriginals, but also to work towards Aboriginal rights. I think they were attempting to bridge the gap, to varying degrees of success. (Some people will never change their minds.) Songs like “The Dead Heart” and “Warakurna” are in the vein of trying to get people on each side of the race line to understand each other (and their issues) better. Here’s hoping…

On a less serious note, “Djäpana” could have been a serious contender for the “song you change the words to when you sing it” post. I’ve been singing the native lyrics wrong for so many years, I couldn’t even begin to get them right at this point. For example, the song starts with (and it might be helpful to start the video now and listen as you read):

Wo-o-o djäpana
Wo-o-o warwu

Now, I stayed in a small town called Kiama, and there was a nearby town called Warrawong. The way “warwu” from the lyric above is sung, it always sounded like “Warrawong” to me (even though I knew it wasn’t) so that’s what I sang.

For mis-sung lyric #2, direct your attention to about 0:15 in the video. Tell me it doesn’t sound like they’re chanting “puffed wheat” (or “buckwheat”, take your pick, although given the stereotype usually associated with that it could be considered a little bit racist in itself). I honestly have no idea what they’re actually saying. So, “puffed wheat” it is.

Note the  didgeridoo in that passage as well.

Hmm? Why, yes, I am trying to draw your attention away from my idiocy, in fact. Did it work?

But back to the matter at hand. No, “Djäpana” is not a “pure” example of a song from another culture. It’s not really “World Music” as we’ve come to know it. I suppose I could have gone with something from Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel, but I don’t feel like that counts since it’s coming primarily from a very “Anglo” artist, even if there are World Music elements to it. My choice is not something from Africa or South America, but the Aboriginals have their own unique culture. One that should be respected and celebrated. Despite its Western leanings, “Djäpana” is about as close as I can come using songs that are actually in my collection.

And at the end of the day, I just like it.

Sunset dreaming…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 19 – “King Of The Mountain”

Day 19. A song that you love from a band that has since broken up:

“King Of The Mountain” — Midnight Oil

Midnight+Oil+-+King+Of+The+Mountain+-+3-+CD+SINGLE-535674Midnight Oil was a bit of a one-hit wonder here in the United States. Which is a shame, because they were a really good band that put out a lot of really good music.

Today’s song comes from their 1990 album Blue Sky Mining. That was the studio follow-up to Diesel And Dust, which contained their only US Top 40 hit, “Beds Are Burning” (although I always felt “The Dead Heart” was the stronger song). They did get a number of songs into the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, including “King Of The Mountain,” which reached #20. But still, most people know them for only the one song, if at all.

In their native Australia, of course, it’s a bit of a different story. They had a number of Top 10 hits and albums during their career and had a large, somewhat (okay, very) rabid following. Heck, as I mentioned in my dance post, “Blue Sky Mine” even got played at dance clubs, and it wasn’t at all a dance song. Good beat, yes. “Who Let The Dogs Out”, no.

While I had discovered them before I went to Australia, I certainly came to know them better as a result of being there. They were strong advocates for Aboriginal rights and many of their songs addressed political, and sometimes controversial, topics. (“Blue Sky Mine,” for instance, is about the abuses of big business.)

I was able to see them live twice. The first on the tour supporting the Blue Sky Mining album. I remember driving to Springfield, Massachusetts from Worcester to see the show. I actually remember the drive home better. It was September, I believe and the driver’s side window of my car had shattered and was missing. That was a cold, cold ride home. The second time was in 2001, when they were supporting what turned out to be their final studio album, Capricornia. The second time was better. Mostly because, thanks to my friend Pete, I was three feet from the stage.

I remember that show fairly well, but two things stick out:

  1. It was 6 weeks after 9/11, and Peter Garrett, the always-political lead singer of the group, talked about how we as a country were handling it.
  2. I got sweated on by Peter Garrett.

Yes, you read #2 correctly. It was gross and somehow cool all at the same time. (But mostly gross.) The man sweats profusely during shows. Couple that with the weird, almost epileptic, movements he makes and us being so close to the stage, and I guess it was bound to happen.

Anyway, I picked today’s song (rather than “Beds Are Burning” or “The Dead Heart”) for three reasons:

  1. You’ve likely heard “Beds Are Burning” and I’m trying to broaden your horizons.
  2. “The Dead Heart” was also on Diesel And Dust, their most popular album in the US, so there’s an outside chance you’ve heard it, too, even if you don’t recognize it by name. (For those of you not reading this on a mobile device, I encourage you to check out the song preview on the Amazon Widget.)
  3. I do really love the song. It’s my favorite on Blue Sky Mining, which is saying something, because it’s a very strong album.

After the “sweat” tour, Midnight Oil broke up, with the exception of a couple of reunion shows. Peter Garrett ran for Parliament, and won. He’s recently retired from that, so fans are hopeful that the band will reform and record a new album.

That would be cool, not only for the new music, but because I wouldn’t mind seeing them again. I can’t decide whether I would or would not want to be sweated on again. Maybe I’d just settle for an autograph.