Buried Country - Darwin Festival Opening Night Concert
While American country music stars were household names in Australia, the powerful songs from Aboriginal country musicians were being played out of earshot of the mainstream radio waves.
By Tamara Howie
The story behind Aboriginal country music will pay tribute to the forefathers of the genre in a special stage production of Buried Country to kick off Darwin Festival.
Country music icon Roger Knox will be in Darwin to share his story on stage alongside other Indigenous performers including Warren H Williams, Leah Flanagan and three generations of the Knox family, including his son and blues musician Buddy Knox and grandson Teangi Knox
“It’s based on Aboriginal musicians in the early years and the song writers and our struggles,” Knox says.
Knox grew up in Toomelah Aboriginal Mission on the NSW/Queensland border to the sounds of gospel tunes. He was introduced to country music when his family members would visit with their guitars in tow.
“I didn’t hear Slim Dusty songs sung by Slim Dusty – I heard my cousins sing them."
"I didn’t know anything about country music at the time, but these cousins and uncles who introduced me to it were my heroes back in those days.”
Music became a way for Aboriginal people to share their stories, which were unrecognised at the time. Songs like Bob Randall’s ‘Brown Skin Baby’ spoke of forced removal of light-skinned babies long before there was national attention and outrage about the Stolen Generations.
Buried Country began as a book and film by Clinton Walker in 2000, and was adapted for the stage in 2016.
Knox says he believes one of the reasons the story has been so successful is not just because there’s great music and powerful stories, but because it taps into an unappreciated and unknown part of Australian history.
“People come not knowing the story and go away with a better feeling and understanding,” he says.
“There’s nothing political, just hard hitting raw truth.”
Thu 9 Aug | 7pm | Gates 5.30pm | Darwin Botanic Gardens Amphitheatre | See the event listing
Thumbnail and inset: Roger Knox
Header: Image by Jon Langford