The Sound of Social Justice in Australia: 'From Little Things Big Things Grow'

By Jarrod McKenna 5-13-2008

If you thought socially conscious music in the mainstream was a thing of the past, turn your ears to what Australia is listening to. A song about justice and reconciliation in Australia was the highest new entry in the charts two weeks ago - starting out at #2 on the Australian charts and #2 after Madonna on the digital track charts - and remains in the top 50. As The New York Times reported:

A song about racial reconciliation with the Aboriginal minority has become the fourth-biggest-selling recording in Australia, even though it is available only as a download from the Web.

The song "From Little Things Big Things Grow," written more than 20 years ago by Australian artists Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, tells the story of Australian nonviolence hero Vincent Lingiari. Under the name "GetUp Mob," they have collaborated with other Australian musicians, such as Missy Higgins and John Butler, to sing of this historic moment in Australian history. And (to my knowledge) they have launched the musical career of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by sampling his historic apology speech:

As prime minister, I am sorry. On behalf of the government, I am sorry.

Both Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly's music is richly submerged in themes of justice and in biblical poetry, from Paul Kelly's song "The Lion and the Lamb," to Kev Carmody's "Comrade Jesus Christ." In "From Little Things Big Things Grow," you can hear the mustard seed of racial reconciliation and dignity spreading. As Ambrose, one of the kids in my neighbourhood, said about the song, "It's boss!"

It seems along with little Ambrose, Australian listeners are agreeing.

Watch the music video.

Jarrod McKenna is seeking to live God's love. He's a co-founder of the Peace Tree Community, serving with the marginalised in one of the poorest areas in his city, and is the founder and creative director of Empowering Peacemakers (EPYC), for which he has received an Australian peace award in his work for peace and (eco)justice.

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