29 Apr 2008

From Apology, a Hit Song Grows

From Apology, a Hit Song Grows

By Tim Johnston, The New York Times

 

A song about racial reconciliation with the Aboriginal minority has become the fourth-biggest-selling recording in Australia, even though it is available only as a download from the Web.

 

The song, 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', begins with a recording of the words of Australia's prime minister, Kevin Rudd, from his February apology for the country's history of mistreatment of its indigenous peoples. "As prime minister, I am sorry", Mr. Rudd says on the recording. "On behalf of the government, I am sorry."

 

From Mr. Rudd's words the song later moves on to these lyrics: 'There are moments in the lives of nations where hope and history rhyme. Now's one of those times. Let's close the gap, and if we truly mean it, we can stare down our future and find we can see through those eyes. Let us not stand with those who deny.'

 

The song, which also takes lines from comments made by indigenous leaders after Mr. Rudd's apology, combines hip-hop rhythms with more conventional instrumentation. It is a remake and rewording of a song written about 20 years ago to celebrate one of the most famous of Australia's campaigns for racial equality, the drive for equal pay for indigenous farm workers. "This follows a long history of being a significant song, but it has been given a new meaning because of the apology", said Richard Kingsmill, music director at Triple J, one of Australia's most popular music radio stations. "This is one of those times when politically conscious music will sell."

 

The new version of the song was designed by the Internet-based political action group GetUp, along with Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, who were the original song's authors, to capitalize on the new mood in Australia since Mr. Rudd's apology. Mr. Kelly and Mr. Carmody perform on the recording as part of a group called the GetUp Mob. "In the past, every time indigenous affairs hits the front pages, it disappears almost  immediately", said Brett Solomon, the executive director of GetUp, which offers the song on its Web site for download for $1.69 in Australian dollars (about $1.60). The song is also available on the iTunes online music store. "We wanted to magnify the momentum toward a reconciled future", Mr. Solomon said. Mr. Solomon said that all the profits from the song will go to three charities that help the Aborigines.