Black Arm Band

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Black Arm Band is an Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander music theatre organisation.[1]


The organisation was founded in late 2005 by Steven Richardson and has produced seven large-scale productions since its debut performance at the Melbourne Festival of the Arts in 2006 in addition to ongoing educational and development work in remote Aboriginal communities.[2] The organisation's name comes from a speech by former Australian prime minister John Howard, who referred to a "black armband view of history".[3]

Their first show, murundak (meaning "alive" in Woiwurrung), debuted at the 2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival and afterwards played around Australia and internationally in London.[4][5][6][7][8] Their second show, Hidden Republic, debuted at the 2008 Melbourne International Arts Festival. Both the 2006 and 2008 festivals were under the artistic direction of Kristy Edmunds.[9][10]

In 2009 the new artistic director of the renamed Melbourne Festival, Brett Sheehy, continued the relationship with Black Arm Band.[citation needed] This saw the commissioning and presentation of the world premiere of Dirtsong, a piece of musical theatre conceived and directed by Steven Richardson, in 2009. With words written by Miles Franklin Award-winner Alexis Wright, Dirtsong, included both contemporary and traditional songs, and was a celebration of preservation of Indigenous languages.[11] The show was reprised for the 2014 Adelaide Festival,[12][13] with performers including Trevor Jamieson (who was not in the 2009 version), Archie Roach, Lou Bennett, Emma Donovan, Paul Dempsey, and many other singers and musicians. Some of the songs were sung in Aboriginal languages.[14]

Seven Songs to Leave Behind (2010) was also conceived and directed by Richardson. Seven Songs was an international collaboration by contemporary Indigenous singers and musicians, including Gurrumul Yunupingu, joined by Sinéad O'Connor, John Cale, Rickie Lee Jones and Meshell Ndegeocello.[citation needed]

Notes From the Hard Road And Beyond (2011, also by Richardson) saw Mavis Staples, Joss Stone, Emmanuel Jal and Paul Dempsey join Black Arm Band to celebrate protest music from the 1960s through to contemporary Indigenous songs of activism.[citation needed]


Members are drawn from around Australia and include both blackfella and white musicians with diverse musical backgrounds.[3]

Members have included:[citation needed]


  • murundak, 2006
  • Hidden Republic, 2008
  • Dirtsong, 2009
  • Seven Songs to Leave Behind, 2010
  • Notes from the Hard Road and Beyond, 2011
  • Mamiaith - Mother Tongue, 2012
  • Ngangwarra means heart, 2013
  • Nyami, a collaboration with the Bangarra Dance Theatre, in production 2018[15]



Title Details
Murundak Live
Hidden Republic Live
(with The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)
(as The Black Arm Band Company)
  • Released: 2009
  • Label: MGM Distribution
  • Format: CD+DVD, DD


  • In 2013, the group won the Building Health through the Arts Award.[16]

The Deadly Awards[edit]

The Deadly Awards, commonly known simply as The Deadlys, was an annual celebration of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievement in music, sport, entertainment and community. The ran from 1995 to 2013.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
Deadly Awards 2008 Black Arm Band Band of the Year Won [17]

Helpmann Awards[edit]

The Helpmann Awards is an awards show, celebrating live entertainment and performing arts in Australia, presented by industry group Live Performance Australia since 2001.[18] Note: 2020 and 2021 were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2010 Dirtsong (with Steven Richardson and Alexis Wright) Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work Nominated [19]

Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards[edit]

The Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards commenced in 1984 and recognise outstanding achievements in dance, drama, comedy, music, opera, circus and puppetry.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2010 Black Arm Band Group Award awarded [20]


  1. ^ "ATSIA". Australia Council. Australia Council.
  2. ^ "About". Black Arm Band. TBAB Inc.
  3. ^ a b Donovan, Patrick (23 October 2008). "Yunupingu takes Black Arm Band message to the world". The Age. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  4. ^ Q Weekend Magazine. 12 July 2008 Solid Rock
  5. ^ Evening Standard. 27 June 2008 Oz still has its wizards
  6. ^ The West Australian. 25 February 2008 Perfect time to celebrate indigenous Oz
  7. ^ X-Press Magazine. 21 February 2008 Murundak – The Black Armband
  8. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 December 2007 Musical Journey to Aboriginal heart
  9. ^ Melbourne International Arts Festival program The Black Arm Band. Hidden Republic Archived 16 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ The Age, 22 October 2008 Yunupingu takes Black Arm Band message to the world
  11. ^ "Dirtsong". AustLit. 24 October 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2022.
  12. ^ "Dirtsong" (audio). The Wire. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 19 October 2022.
  13. ^ McDonald, Patrick (17 March 2014). "Adelaide Festival review 2014: Dirtsong – Black Arm Band". Adelaide Now.
  14. ^ Johnson, Dash Taylor (16 March 2014). "Black Arm Band: dirtsong". InDaily. Retrieved 19 October 2022.
  15. ^ "Productions". Black Arm Band. TBAB Inc. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  16. ^ History. "About". Black Arm Band. TBAB Inc.
  17. ^ "Deadlys 2008 Winners Announced!". Vibe News. 8 October 2008. Archived from the original on 17 October 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  18. ^ "Events & Programs". Live Performance Australia. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  19. ^ "2010 Helpmann Awards Nominees & Winners". Helpmann Awards. Australian Entertainment Industry Association (AEIA). Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  20. ^ "The Black Arm Band receives top award". The Fred Hollows Foundation. 14 March 2020. Retrieved 23 March 2022.

External links[edit]