How important is the maintenance of Indigenous culture through music?
We are at risk of losing crucial parts of Indigenous music culture over the next couple of generations. Music and performance is closely linked with other forms of cultural expression, but why are these cultural traditions so important to keep alive? How have other nations dealt with the process of maintaining their Indigenous culture through music? And furthermore, why should non-Indigenous Australians be concerned with the possible loss of Indigenous cultural traditions – how much can it help us with cross-cultural understanding?
These are just some of the questions we posed to postdoctoral music researcher from the University of Newcastle, Catherine Grant, author of the soon-to-be-released book, Music Endangerment: How Language Maintenance Can Help.
In Wade Davis’s Massey Lecture, The Wayfinders, he presents a coegnt reason for why we should came about these disappearing ways of knowing the world, regardless of whether or not we might ever encounter these other cultures: climate change. Western ways of knowing the world, through capitalism and democracy, are but one way of understanding the relationship between humans, animals, the land and the cosmos. The entire history of the world that came before us stand as testament to so many different, effective ways of conceptualizing this multitude of interconnections.Perhaps our complacency with allowing so many languages vanish is that we have lost the sight of the inherent value of divergent ways of knowing. It might even be related to ego. As Davis points out, To acknowledge the wonder of other cultures is not to denigrate our way of life but rather to recognize with some humility that other peoples, flawed as they too may be, nevertheless contribute to our collective heritage, the human repertoire of ideas, beliefs, and adaptations that have historically allowed us as a species to thrive. To appreciate this truth is to sense viscerally the tragedy inherent in the loss of language or the assimilation of a people. To lose a culture is to lose something of ourselves. These other ways of being in the world are exactly that: other ways of being in the world. Climate change is the direct result of the Western way of being in the world. We are lucky that there remain these other possible conceptions of relation, that there are alternatives at all. Culture is not trivial.