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“[T]hey seemed to recognise us as brethren from a far distant tribe”: The influence of the fisk jubilee singers among Australian and New Zealand indigenous communities, 1886-1936

journal contribution
posted on 27.02.2019, 00:00 by Nicole AnaeNicole Anae
This article argues that the influence of the Fisk Jubilee Singers on both Australian Aboriginal and New Zealand Māori communities had long‐term implications for both communities. Māori New Zealanders and Australian Aboriginal peoples experimented with musical traditions, adapting African American traditions introduced by the Fisk Jubilee Singers and incorporating them into their own music‐making and performance history. To the author's knowledge, an (ethno)musicological study of this kind has not been published. Very little research explicitly addresses the influence of the Fisk Jubilee Singers on Australian Aboriginal and New Zealand Māori communities from a historical perspective, apart from a few cursory and very brief mentions in Australian sources, such as Ann Curthoys' “Paul Robeson's Visit to Australia and Aboriginal Activism, 1960.”2 There are however, selected historical, musicologically oriented texts, such as Louis D. Silveri's “The Singing Tours of the Fisk Jubilee Singers: 1871–1874,” Andrew Ward's Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America, and Sandra Graham's “What's the Score? Interpreting Transcriptions of the Fisk Jubilee Spirituals,” which, while not focusing specifically on the influence of the Fisk Jubilee Singers on the cultural practices of Australian Aboriginal and Māori New Zealander peoples, nonetheless deserve a mention. Other themes under examination here have been covered widely by folklorists and (ethno)musicologists, including black minstrelsy related to constructions of racial identity as well as notions of “authenticity” and what it means in terms of the racialization of musical performance. These studies include Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, Daphne A. Brooks's Bodies in Dissent: Spectator Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850–1910, and Brian Roberts' recent work, Blackface Nation: Race, Reform and Identity in American Popular Music, 1812–1925, among others.






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Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, US

Peer Reviewed


Open Access


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Era Eligible



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