ICS Seminar Series - Cammi Webb-Gannon and Michael Webb

Date: Thursday 18 May 2017
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: EB.G.35, Western Sydney University, Parramatta South campus

Camellia Webb-Gannon and Michael Webb

(Western Sydney University / Sydney Conservatorium of Music)

'More Than a Music, It's a Movement': West Papua Decolonisation Songs, Social Media and the Remixing of Resistance


In the 1980s Melanesian musicians began to compose songs protesting the Indonesian occupation of West Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea). Facilitated by social media, thirty years on such songs began to proliferate across Melanesia, with musicians from elsewhere in Oceania contributing to the flow. The continuing colonial occupation of West Papua has led to the coalescence of a new Pacific-wide resistance movement. The corpus of around 50 freedom songs that form the focus of this study is not only a manifestation of this movement; it is also bound up in the digitally enabled remixing and dissemination processes of the identity, unity and decolonisation discourses that drive it. This paper explores links between the popular protest medium of songs and song-videos, and the new-Pasifikan discourse of wansolwara (Melanesian Pidgin, one ocean of islands), which it argues, is related to emergent understandings of Pacific indigeneity.


Cammi Webb-Gannon is a decolonisation ethnographer whose work focuses on Melanesia. Her PhD thesis examined processes of conflict and unity within West Papua's independence movement. Her current research project explores the ways mobile phones are being used to create and disseminate resistance music in Melanesia's decolonisation movements. Cammi is the Coordinator of the West Papua Project at The University of Sydney.

Michael Webb is an ethnomusicologist who has studied historical and contemporary musical developments in Melanesia. He has published articles in Ethnomusicology, Journal of Pacific History, and The Contemporary Pacific, and is a co-author of the OUP book, Music in Pacific Island Cultures.