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date: 26 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article, focuses on the durability of Methodist “mission music” among the Yolngu, an Australian Indigenous people, and addresses questions of musical transfer between missionaries and Yolngu over fifty years that have shaped their Christian music politics. “Mission music” is marked as a genre by its association with the early missionaries among the Yolngu, their processes of teaching and transmission and its articulation with some aspects of Yolngu ritual performance practices. Today, mission music is performed together with an array of contemporary Christian musics reflecting its ongoing importance as a local, transnational and international currency. Magowan shows how hymnody has persisted for Yolngu as a musical mode of remembering and celebrating the past, illustrated first in early dialogic approaches to music teaching and choral training, and later recaptured in choral performances for the 50th anniversary festival of a Yolngu mission. She argues that “mission music,” in spite of its introduced, non-local origins, has become an experiential, rhythmical and textual sign of the “local” as it is adopted and used by the Yolngu. Choral singing is shown to be a means of embodying mission memories and facilitating local charismatic leadership, in turn, transforming Yolngu-missionary relationships over time. Ongoing work with missionary evangelists and frequent travel to foreign mission fields have also created new arenas for intercultural dialogue, leading to increasing complexity in Yolngu relationships embodied in Christian performance.

Keywords: music, Christianity, Australia, indigenous, Yolngu, missions, performance, memory, place, locality

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