Contemporary music has tended to blunt the jagged edges that exist in the borderlands between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. From Jimmy Little, ringing God on his way to chart success, through the gritty bush pulses of the Warumpi Band, Coloured Stone, Us Mob or No Fixed Address to the genre-busting revolution that was Yothu Yindi, modern music has sung country in a celebration of creativity and fusion for decades.

Black Arm Band Company’s Dirtsong builds on those foundations and adds to their rich musical heritage to evoke country and spirit.

This multimedia presentation, the culmination of a week-long exploration of indigenous culture put on by the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, drew together a stellar list of indigenous and non-indigenous trends and performers into a tantalising mix. Shane Howard, Jimmy Barnes and Paul Dempsey churning out a rocky number in language was a sight and sound to behold.

The almost god-like appearance of Archie Roach, whose shuffle across the back of the stage to the centre was accompanied by a hall full of hoots and cheers, lifted the room to heights shared by the filmed water-birds soaring in slo-mo on the screen behind him. Perhaps the most generous performer of his generation, Roach’s heart could have filled a football stadium and very near had this punter, grumpy about pre-show parking issues, pouring rain and a faulty ATM, swooning with his all-too-brief inputs.

Show stealer Lou Bennett, part of a three-part female chorus including Emma Donovan and Deline Briscoe, embodied the charged music and gentle imagery of the tie-in film produced by Natasha Gadd and Rhys Graham projected behind.

But it was William Barton’s didge work and his surprisingly choirboy-like singing in language who provided the earth from which everything grew. If music has indeed bevelled and softened the harsh edges of cultural and social misunderstanding and ignorance, then it has been the aural burr of the didge that has been its most compelling force. Barton’s integral segues held the thematic line and spoke to country like nothing else in a fancy concert hall of mostly middle class white people could.

The occasional nature of this particular piece, and the changing cast members, gave an air of watching a late stage rehearsal. A few chords were inevitably dropped and Barnes for one was noticeably struggling with the words in his spots. But, as the film behind projected scenes of a bush shindig, with indigenous kids cutting moves in the dust, such imperfections seemed fitting, as a kind of spontaneous bush bash under the stars.

With songs by Paul Kelly, Ruby Hunter, Kev Carmody, Neil Murray and Howard and Roach themselves, there is a political undertone to Dirtsong. But the politics, while perhaps risking being sentimentalist, were allowed by the music to be inclusive and embracing. The use of text from Alexis Wright’s Gulf Country epic Capricornia, translated into language, confirms the endeavour to wrap black and white Australia up in a warm embrace of country-speak and an appreciation of the extraordinary place we all call home.

Translations of the in-language sections might have been useful however. While it was easy to be held purely by the musicality and cadence of the 11 indigenous languages featured throughout, and to trust them as our guide despite the language barrier, those of us outside the language loop missed much of Wright’s curious, rambling story sculpturing.

Disappointing too was the absence of an encore. A standing, stomping, hollering audience perhaps deserves a little more than hasty house-lights, especially from a 90-minute show jam packed with enough star power to kick on into the wee hours.

This Black Arm Band view of Australia is pumped with life, love and with the everyday majesty of our shared journey. And it has a great soundtrack.

The details: Dirtsong played the Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre from March 2-5.