Protesting Colonial Australia

Convict Theatre and Kelly Ballads

Authored by: Stephen Gaunson

The Routledge History of Social Protest in Popular Music

Print publication date:  June  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415509527
eBook ISBN: 9780203124888
Adobe ISBN: 9781136447297


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The oral tradition insists on a direct performative participation with the text. As Benedict Anderson explains, “no matter how banal the words and mediocre the tunes, there is in this singing an experience of simultaneity. At precisely such moments, people wholly unknown to each other utter the same verses to the same melody. The image: unisonance.” 1 Through colonial ballads, Australia's jocular mockery of the English and celebration of the under-class was ingrained into the Australian culture and character. Folklorist and Kelly expert Graham Seal understands the English as a target to be lampooned in popular song as stuffy, pompous, and unable to endure Australia's bucolic outdoors. 2 Briton Francis Adams in 1891 conceded that, in Australia, “the bush is the heart of the country, the real Australian Australia, and it is with the Bushman that the final fate of the nation and race will lie… the English cannot thrive far from the sea.” 3

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