Last night was an important moment for Australia’s Indigenous musicians, and our community as a whole, as A.B. Original were honoured with the Australian Music Prize for their vital protest record Reclaim Australia – but it seems that someone has entirely missed the point, with a reductive headline from The Australian last night completely undermining the achievement.
The record, which tackles the dense issues of oppression and discrimination with razor-sharp lyricism and sheer blunt force, has already become a cultural touchstone, its lead single ‘January 26’ almost single-handedly driving a movement to see Australia Day changed from its current date, out of respect for the Indigenous population who feel that it’s nothing to celebrate.
It is the sort of raw, undeniable protest music that Australia has been missing of late, and not something to be summed up by The Australian‘s insanely reductive label of ‘Album containing a song attacking Australia Day’.
The publication’s summary, sent out on Twitter at 10:16pm last night, soon after the $30,000 award had been given to the duo, completely undermined what both the prize and its winners in its unfortunate assessment of the moment.
In fact, the tweet also served to undermine the writer of the piece Iain Shedden, whose tone was more professional than the attention-grabbing tweet would suggest. The title of his article, as it appears on the site itself, is a more measured ‘Indigenous hip-hop act A.B. Original wins Australian Music Prize’.
Meanwhile, the site’s dedicated music section labels it as ‘Oz Day critics net music honour’, somewhat underselling the story and following a similar thread to the offending tweet, but at least rising a step above. It was this version of the story that was re-tweeted this morning, this time with mentions of the artist and prize involved – no doubt when the first was noticed by somebody with more savvy than its writer.
Now, you may be thinking, “Well, the album does attack Australia Day, and it did win a national award, so what’s the issue?” The issue is, of course, that reducing one of the most important records this country has produced in years (and quite simply one of its best hip hop albums as well) to that one sensational point is doing everyone involved a disservice.
Sure, we know Briggs and Trials won’t be complaining; they want to provoke as many reactions as they can, no matter how poorly-conceived, and they’ve copped far worse. But even in the limited space of a single tweet, thought and care need to be given to the importance of what’s being discussed.
In this case, a pair of artists created a landmark album not only for Australian music and the Indigenous community, but for our culture as a whole, and were recognised accordingly. That’s something that should be celebrated, not sensationalised.