Rachel Hopkin

Folklorist and Radio Producer

Country Down Under – broadcast today on BBC Radio 4

20 December, 2016

Country Down Under, the radio documentary which I made earlier this year, is getting its BBC Radio 4 broadcast today. 

Glenn Skuthorpe in Goodooga

Glenn Skuthorpe in Goodooga

Here’s the programme synopsis as per its BBC webpage:

Country music is commonly associated with downtrodden, lovelorn, white inhabitants of America’s rural south – but it has also long been a significant form of expression for Australia’s Aboriginal peoples.

Kev Carmody and Beryl

Kev Carmody and Beryl

Country music became popular Down Under during the first half of the 20th Century. Thanks to gramophone recordings, wind-up radios and touring bands, it even reached the bush where most Aboriginals lived, often more or less imprisoned on missions and government-controlled reserves. At a time when their own cultural heritage was being systematically erased, country music became a medium through which they could maintain their practice of sharing stories via the oral tradition.

Sue Ray

Sue Ray

Its resonance was enhanced by melodies which tended towards the melancholic. As one musician put it “country music was all about loss, and we’d lost everything”.

Through country music, Aboriginal people were able to give voice to their personal experiences and ongoing struggles for justice. For example, songs describe the stealing of babies and land, incidents of racism, poor living conditions and high levels of incarceration.

And so country music, far from its origins, has become a deeply moving and powerfully activist Aboriginal art form.




Producer: Rachel Hopkin

Sound Engineer: Robin Wise

Consultant: Clinton Walker

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4