Chosen and adopted: Fred Eaglesmith, female appreciation and Australian country music

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Hayward, P 2008, 'Chosen and adopted: Fred Eaglesmith, female appreciation and Australian country music', in B Diamond, D Crowdy & D Downes (eds), Post-colonial distances: the study of popular music in Canada and Australia, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, pp. 91-104. ISBN: 9781443800518


This anthology emanated from a conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland, that brought together popular music scholars, folklorists and ethnomusicologists from Canada and Australia. Implicit in that conference and in this anthology is the comparability of the two countries. Their ‘post-colonial’ status (if that is indeed an appropriate modifier in either case) has some points of similarity. On the other hand, their ‘distance’ – from hegemonic centres, from colonial histories – is arguably more a matter of contrast than similarity. Canada and Australia are similar in various regards. Post-colonial in the sense that they are both former British colonies, they now each have more than a century of stature as nation states. By the beginning of the 21st century, they are each modest in size but rich in ethnocultural diversity. Nonetheless, each country has some skeletons in the closet where openness to difference, to indigenous and new immigrant groups are concerned. Both countries are similarly both experiencing rapid shifts in cultural makeup with the biggest population increases in Australia coming from China, India, and South Africa, and the biggest in Canada from Afro-Caribbean, South Asian countries, and China. The chapters in this anthology constitute an important comparative initiative. Perhaps the most obvious point of comparison is that both countries create commercial music in the shadow of the hegemonic US and British industries. As the authors demonstrate, both proximity (specifically Canada’s nearness to the US) and distance have advantages and disadvantages. As the third and fourth largest Anglophone music markets for popular music, they face similar issues relating to music management, performance markets, and production. A second relationship, as chapters in this anthology attest, is the significant movement between the two countries in a matrix of exchange and influence among musicians that has rarely been studied hitherto. Third, both countries invite comparison with regard to the popular music production of diverse social groups within their national populations. In particular, the tremendous growth of indigenous popular music has resulted in opportunities as well as challenges. Additionally, however, the strategies that different waves of immigrants have adopted to devise or localize popular music that was both competitive and meaningful to their own people as well as to a larger demographic bear comparison. The historical similarities and differences as well as the global positionality of each country in the early 21st century, then, invites comparison relating to musical practices, social organization, lyrics as they articulate social issues, career strategies, industry structures and listeners. Denis Crowdy is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Contemporary Music Studies at Macquarie University in Australia. He specialises in the popular music of Melanesia, and has published articles, book chapters and a book on topics including local stringband, local rock/reggae, and the traditional/jazz-rock fusion band Sanguma (from PNG). He is currently involved in an extensive research project exploring the music industries of Melanesia. Beverley Diamond is the Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Director of the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place (MMaP). Since the early 1970s, she has worked extensively in Inuit, First Nations, and, more recently, in Saami communities and has also done research on multiculturalism in Canada. The themes of her research have included cultural identity, feminist musicology, Canadian music historiography, Indigenous modernity, and the construction of social meaning in sound recording. Her book, Native American Music of Eastern North America (2008) is part of Oxford University Press' Global Music Series. Daniel Downes is Associate Professor of Information and Communication Studies at the University of New Brunswick at Saint John. An academic, musician, and broadcaster, Downes has published articles on copyright, the structure of the new media economy and the role of media in the construction of community and personal identity. His research interests include the relationships between Irish, Canadian and American musical practice and technology and the role of intellectual property in the regulation of cultural industries and popular culture. He is the author of Interactive Realism: the Poetics of Cyberspace (Montreal: McGill University Press, 2005).