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Coolabah  2011 

Beyond Rock. Social commitment and political conscience through Popular Music in Australia 1976 - 2002. The case of Midnight Oil

Keywords: Midnight Oil , Peter Garrett , ethnomusicology

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Abstract:

The work and career of Midnight Oil illustrate a case of interaction betweenculture and politics in Australia. Furthermore they represent an example of socialcommitment from the sphere of urban popular culture. For a quarter of a centuryMidnight Oil offered a critical and ideological interpretation of the Australian social andpolitical evolution. Aware of and sensitive to changes and events happening aroundthem, five Sydneysiders thought about Australian identity in terms of what theyconsidered to be their national challenges from a universal perspective. Hence, theyapproached issues like pacifism, Indigenous rights and environmentalism and developeda social and political discourse based on the defence of human rights and acondemnation of capitalist excesses. Through more than a hundred songs and almosttwo thousand gigs the band urged politicians to reassess the institutions. At the sametime they criticized people’s apathy asking them for a deeper engagement with thedevelopment of the country’s welfare. Finally, in December 2002, Peter Garrett quit hissinger-activist journey to launch a political career by joining the Australian Labor Party,for which he is the current Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youthin the Julia Gillard Government. It is thus that now we can make sense of the extent towhich the political and social message of a rock band can actually generate enoughcredibility to allow for the lead singer′s transition from the stage to parliament.

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