Entertainment Music The magic behind the words and music of Baker Boy

The magic behind the words and music of Baker Boy

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A song about the healing properties of music helped Baker Boy sweep through the National Indigenous Music Awards, further cementing the impact the Yolngu rapper is having on the country’s cultural psyche.

After gathering momentum for a couple of years, Baker Boy found a national platform in 2019: He was named Young Australian of the Year, was nominated for three ARIA awards and even appeared on Play School.

On the weekend, he was named Artist of the Year at the Darwin-presented awards, for the second year running.

“To my family back in Darwin across Arnhem Land, I’m so proud to represent my people and so overwhelmed by the support and success I have achieved rapping in Yolngu Matha and English,” said Baker Boy, accepting the award via video link.

His track Meditjin, featuring New Zealand artist Jess B, won song of the year and film clip of the year.

When he released the track in November, Baker Boy explained its creation: Meditjn means medicine in his language Yolngu Matha.

“Music is the best meditjin. It brings everyone together, makes you want to dance, love, laugh, vibe and feel and I wrote Meditjin with just that in mind,” he said at the time.

From the heart

Baker Boy, born Danzal Baker, grew up in remote communities in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

He now lives in Melbourne, but his roots are never far from his art.

He raps in English and Yolngu Matha.

“It’s who I am and it’s my identity to speak in Yolngu Matha,” Baker told ABC.

“It was my first language that I’ve learned to speak, and then it was my mother’s tongue, which is Burarra.

“For me it was kinda easy to come up with [the raps] but with more of the common language that we speak back in Arnhem Land.

“Especially back home, where most of the kids don’t even speak English as much, for me to rap in Yolngu Matha and teach them to be proud and strong and not be ashamed and keep moving forward and chase your dreams and goals, to teach them through music, it’s like an awesome way to go.

“Because they actually listen to the track and repeat it and actually sing along and some of them start understanding what it means.”

As well as making music, Baker dedicates (when global pandemics allow) himself to travelling the country and connecting with young children in Australia’s remote communities.

He’s also an ambassador with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.

Recognising talent

At the awards, Ruby Hunter was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame, while her partner Archie Roach was awarded Album of the Year for Tell Me Why, based on his memoir of the same name.

Miiesha, a 20-year-old Queensland artist, won new talent of the year.