Signifiers of indigeneity in Australian and New Zealand popular music


  • Oli Wilson Otago University



Popular Music, Aborigine, Māori, Indigenous, Indigeneity, Identity, Moana and the Moahunters, Yothu Yindi


This paper explores the notion of indigenous cultural identity in Australia and New Zealand by examining how indigenous culture is represented in popular music, specifically, through ‘known’ signifiers of indigenous culture. This paper argues that these signifiers are limited to specific instrumentation, musical characteristics such as rhythm and melody, and indigenous language. These findings are reached through an examination of the extant literature on indigenous popular music in Australia and New Zealand, and by applying the same methods these studies employ to a comparison of indigenous popular music from these countries. Music from the groups Yothu Yindi (from Australia), and Moana and the Moahunters (from New Zealand) is analysed, demonstrating how signifiers of indigenous culture are perceived to have roots in traditional culture. This paper concludes by presenting an Australasian framework through which signifiers of indigenous identity have been identified and discussed in academic literature, and argues that the limitations of semiotic analysis has restricted the exploration of popular music’s capacity to express indigenous identity.

Author Biography

Oli Wilson, Otago University

Oli Wilson is a musician and PhD student in ethnomusicology at Otago University in Dunedin New Zealand. His interests include New Zealand, Australian, and Pacific Island popular and tradi- tional music, and he is currently researching the Papua New Guinea recording industry.


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How to Cite

Wilson, O. (2010). Signifiers of indigeneity in Australian and New Zealand popular music. Perfect Beat, 11(1), 25–47.