But the event itself was far from shadow. This was a celebration of First Nations talent, both past and present.
Yolngu rapper Baker Boy (real name Danzal Baker) was the big winner of the night, being named artist of the year and also taking out the award for album of the year. His debut album Jelly, a vibrant and self-assured “celebration of survival”, reached number three on the ARIA charts on its release in October.
This is the third time the 25-year-old has been recognized as best artist (he won in 2019 and 2020, but lost out to The Kid Laroi in 2021).
Unfortunately Baker Boy was not present at the awards as he was overseas (a fact that host Steven Oliver should be celebrated, because he’s bringing his music to the world). He was one of four winning artists to send an acceptance speech via video. Other notable absences from the event included Jessica Mauboy and Thelma Plum – both of whom were originally slated to perform, but had to pull out due to sickness.
The award for song of the year also went to a Yolngu act, with surf-rockers King Stingray winning for their infectious hit Milkumana. They accepted the award in their first language, which prompted a lot of love from the crowd. The five-piece band (who easily got the biggest cheers of the night), also performed a lively set to close out the ceremony featuring tracks from their self-titled debut album which dropped on Friday.
Milkumana was a fitting choice for best song in the end; as guitarist Roy Kellaway (son of Yothu Yindi bass player Stuart Kellaway) has previously said, it’s about “role models and the importance of setting good examples for the new generation”.
As these awards show, that new generation is a particularly exciting one. Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung indie-pop artist Jem Cassar-Daley, the 21-year-old daughter of country legend Troy Cassar-Daley, won the award for new talent of the year. And Malyangapa and Barkindji rapper Barkaa, who was also nominated in the category, took home the prize for best film clip.
Barkaa’s winning video was for King Brown, which was also nominated in the category of best song. The clip shows off her incredible stage presence of her – think: Australian Missy Elliot – and explains why she’s been dubbed “the new matriarch of Australian rap”.
“I couldn’t do this without black women,” she said, via video message in her acceptance speech. “But at the same time [I want to] pay homage to the greatest: Uncle Archie Roach, who gave us this voice, who gave us this pathway to do what we do today.”
Filipino-Aboriginal rapper Dobby also received the Archie Roach Foundation Award for emerging artists and performed his own version of We Won’t Cry via pre-recorded video. It was a timely reminder of how the much-loved songman’s legacy lives on.
When Roach set up the foundation in 2014, he said he hoped to “be a signpost for others, to walk alongside and empower them to tell their story through the arts to point them in a deadly direction”.
Before announcing the award, Emma Donovan said she and other artists “had been yarnin’ up to Uncle about his foundation, his legacy and what he wants to – what he SE busca to-leave behind. And most of all, for Uncle, it was [about] encouraging young mob.”
2022 National Indigenous Music Awards
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
The Kid Laroi
Winner: Baker Boy
SONG OF THE YEAR
Backseat of My Mind -Thelma Plum
Made For Silence – Miesha
Winner: Milkumana – king stingray
Sometime – Mo Ju
King Brown – Barkaa
ball and chain – Xavier Rudd
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Winner: Baker Boy – Gela
Emma Donovan & the Putbacks – Under These Streets
Jem Cassar-Daley – I Don’t Know Who to Call
Dallas Woods- Julie’s Boy
Archie Roach- My songs 1989 – 2021
NEW TALENT OF THE YEAR
Winner: Jem Cassar-Daley
Tilly Tjala Thomas
give me it
FILM CLIP OF THE YEAR
Love Too Soon – Tasman Keith
Winner: King Brown – Barkaa
Black Matriarchy – Barkaa
My Mind -Baker Boy
Automatic -Jessica Mauboy
COMMUNITY CLIP OF THE YEAR
Koori Mob- Our Country, Our Life -Desert Pea Medium
Gumbaynggirr Collective – through the smoke -Desert Pea Medium
Doomadgee, QLD- Where We Wanna Be -Indigenous Outreach Project
Winner: Numbulwar, NT- Loud & Proud -Indigenous Outreach Project
Ballarat, VIC- Don’t Give Up On Yourself -Indigenous Outreach Project
Meg Watson traveled to the National Indigenous Music Awards courtesy of Darwin Festival, with support by Tourism Australia through the Regional Arts Tourism Package.
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