top of page


Object all you like to their language, their aggression and their disdain for radio blatherers and racist mouthpieces in parliament, but one thing you can't deny about the Australian hip-hop duo A.B. Original is they won't die wondering.

Their provocatively titled album, Reclaim Australia – a raised finger to the white supremacists who had assumed ownership of that term – is the most forthright, engaged and wholly committed political musical statement made here in a long time.

This is the kind of album – angry, polemical, brutally frank and meant to inspire a response, good or bad –which will have the flame throwing right wing columnists exploding with indignation at gutter youth and ungrateful generations, and the soft-talking left wing columnists contorting themselves as they try to say both "well, yes, they've got a point" and "but do they have to say it so, well, brutally?"

And it's the kind of album so rarely done in Australia that it comes as a shock to the system. A necessary one.

During the recent presidential elections comparisons here were made between America's politically active musicians – along the way highlighting those such as Taylor Swift who stayed right out – and Australia's mostly non-directly engaged ones.

Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Ted Nugent and Kid Rock, Katy Perry and many more spruiked for their candidate. Not just urging people get out and vote but get out and vote this way.

We just don't do partisan pop here, the rare moments such as Gough Whitlam's It's Time ad and accompanying arts community backing, standing out starkly for their rarity.

A few individuals such as Tim Freedman (a staunch Labor man, with or without his band the Whitlams) will declare himself for a particular party – an even rare one, such as Peter Garrett will actually stand for a particular party – and an occasional band will play a Greens event. But mostly the indifference bordering on antipathy the general public has for the political class is reflected in musicians who have the additional fear of alienating potential fans, or sponsors, as their risk-averse label heads remind them.

It's not complete disengagement. As the ARIA Awards this week and the APRA screen music awards two weeks ago showed, when it comes to social issues such as marriage equality, refugees' policy and Aboriginal recognition in the constitution – and in the past, nuclear energy, land rights and the Iraq wars – many musicians will place themselves up front for change.

When they do that though it is usually with a degree of politeness, a kind of respectful approach that is all about bringing people with them, sharing the love, being one with the universe in a Ben Lee in a yellow suit hugging John Butler way, Public Enemy or Niggas With Attitude didn't come from these parts.

Which is why A.B. Original, the duo of Briggs and Trials – Yorta Yorta and Ngarrindjeri men, respectively – stand out so thrillingly. And, yes, for some, scarily.

Nice things are not promised, even though it has pop hooks and great rhythms in there. You won't finish the album loving your fellow man and wanting to have a meaningful dialogue like Waleed Aly wants you to have with your One Nation-supporting uncle and your Trump-loving colleague. There are no hugs dispensed on Reclaim Australia.

You will find yourself saying hell yeah (actually far stronger than "hell yeah", but that's another story) this is appalling, still; shouting at the radio/stereo/phone in unison with Briggs and Trials; and declaring I'm seriously bloody angry (actually far stronger than "bloody", but …).

Too much politics and anger for you? That's now how we do it in Australia? Actually, it's time.

bottom of page