Celebrating Adelaide UNESCO City of Music

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Long known for its rich cultural heritage and thriving arts scene, The SA capital has achieved yet another remarkable milestone by being designated as Adelaide UNESCO City of Music. Learn what that means and how you can explore it on your visit to the city.

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What is the UNESCO City of Music Title?

UNESCO City of Music is a title given to cities around the world that have shown a remarkable commitment to promoting music as a means of cultural expression and sustainable urban development.

It’s a way of recognising cities that have fostered creativity, preserved musical heritage, and made music an integral part of their cultural identity.

Adelaide was given the UNESCO City of Music title in 2015, and it is the only place in Australia given the honour.

There are currently 59 UNESCO Cities of Music across the globe. We’ve got Glasgow, Scotland, famous for its indie and rock scenes, the sultry rhythms of Havana, Cuba, and the jazzy vibes of New Orleans, Louisiana.

These cities have embraced the power of music to connect people, cultures, and histories.

Adelaide UNESCO City of Music

An orchestra playing in a darkened room
Photo credit: Tyr Liang & Xplorer Studio; Artist: The Avalanches: Since I Left You, Live, Illuminate Adelaide, Adelaide

The prestigious title recognises Adelaide’s outstanding contribution to the world of music, from its talented musicians and diverse music festivals to its innovative music education programs and supportive infrastructure for artists.

Adelaide’s journey to becoming a UNESCO City of Music began with its deep-rooted commitment to fostering creativity and preserving musical heritage. Here are just a few of the talented groups and artists to come out of the city

  • The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra – The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1936, is a musical treasure that graces both local and global stages. Their performances at the Adelaide Festival Centre are captivating symphonies and contemporary collaborations.
  • The Hilltop Hoods – This hip-hop trio is a true Aussie success story, hailing from the suburbs of Adelaide. Their beats and lyrics paint vivid pictures of life down under. They’ve taken the Australian hip-hop scene to new heights and even earned international recognition. Songs like “Cosby Sweater” and “Nosebleed Section” are anthems that resonate with audiences far and wide.
  • Cold Chisel – No discussion of Australian rock is complete without mentioning Cold Chisel. With anthems like “Khe Sanh” and “Flame Trees,” they’ve carved their place in rock ‘n’ roll history. Their music is an anthem for generations, a soundtrack to countless Aussie road trips. Cold Chisel embodies the raw, unapologetic spirit of Australian rock, and their legacy lives on.
  • Sia – You might know her as the enigmatic pop sensation behind hits like “Chandelier.” Yep, she’s from Adelaide, too! Sia’s ability to connect with audiences on a deep, emotional level is what sets her apart. Her evolution from a behind-the-scenes songwriter to a global pop icon is a source of inspiration for aspiring musicians everywhere.
  • Guy Sebastian – This Adelaide-born artist captured hearts when he won the inaugural season of Australian Idol. His soulful voice transcends genres, touching on pop, R&B, and soul, creating a unique and unforgettable sound. Guy’s journey from humble beginnings to becoming a beloved musical icon is a testament to the power of perseverance and raw talent.

WOMAdelaide: More Than Just Local

A man singing on stage with backup singers behind him
Photo credit: Gospo Collective, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide

As a UNESCO City of Music, Adelaide has not only nurtured its local musical talents but also opened its arms to the rich tapestry of global sounds with one of the most popular music festivals in Australia.

WOMAdelaide, an annual world music and dance festival held in the heart of Adelaide, exemplifies the city’s UNESCO City of Music status.

This dynamic festival brings together musicians and artists from across the globe, celebrating the universal language of music that transcends borders.

WOMAdelaide, with its eclectic lineup and vibrant atmosphere, serves as a harmonious testament to Adelaide’s commitment to cultural diversity through music, reinforcing its well-deserved recognition as a UNESCO City of Music.

It’s a captivating fusion of international and local musical flavours that resonates with the city’s spirit of inclusivity and creativity.

More Music Festivals

a large outdoor stage in front of a crowd of people at night
Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Adelaide

It’s not just WOMAdelaide though, there are dozens of music festivals across the state every year. Here are just a few

  1. Adelaide Fringe Festival – While primarily celebrated for its diverse performing arts, the Adelaide Fringe is also a vibrant hub for live music. Throughout the festival, you can discover an eclectic array of musicians and bands performing in various venues, from the streets to intimate settings, offering a rich tapestry of musical experiences.
  2. Adelaide Guitar Festival – A must-attend for guitar enthusiasts, the Adelaide Guitar Festival is a celebration of all things guitar. It showcases a captivating mix of international and local guitarists, spanning genres from classical to blues and rock, making it a mecca for guitar aficionados.
  3. Harvest Rock Festival – For those who revel in the raw energy of rock music, the Harvest Rock Festival is an adrenaline-fueled experience right in the city centre. It brings together top-notch rock bands and musicians for two days of headbanging, unforgettable performances, and the iconic sound of roaring guitars.
  4. St Jerome’s Laneway Festival – The Laneway Festival is a modern music marvel, featuring a cutting-edge lineup of indie and alternative artists. Held in Port Adelaide’s vibrant laneways and urban spaces, it’s an immersive experience that captures the essence of Adelaide’s contemporary music scene.
  5. Groovin’ the Moo – Groovin’ the Moo is a music extravaganza that showcases a diverse mix of national and international artists, spanning genres from indie rock to electronic dance. Held at the Adelaide Showgrounds, it’s a day of dancing, grooving, and celebrating the joy of live music.

Musical Lanes

A large colourful mural of the artist Sia on the side of a building. Painted as part of the celebrations for the Adelaide UNESCO City of Music announcement.

But that’s not all! Adelaide has paid homage to its UNESCO City of Music status with the renaming of some of its iconic lanes.

Across the city, you can now find Sia Furler Lane, Cold Chisel Lane, Paul Kelly Lane, No Fixed Address Lane and The Angels Lane.

Each one of the laneways has been adorned with street art to honour the artists. You can’t help but notice the beautiful mural of Sia, called “She Imagined Buttons” by Jasmine Crisp, as you drive along Morphett Street.

The others are a little more hidden but are easy enough to find as you explore the city centre.

More Musical Street Art

A large mural of David Bowie

The largest street art in Adelaide was commissioned to celebrate the UNESCO City of Music.

The mural, by Dave Court, can be found on the side of a Hindley Street building, but the best place to view it is from Morphett Street (opposite the Sia mural)

While not directly linked the the Adelaide City of Music project, there are more street art murals depicting musicians across the city. Look out for Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and more.

Where to Find Live Music in Adelaide

Part of a mural about the band Cold Chisel

If you love live music, and you’ll find it pulsating through numerous venues across the city. Here are some of the places to start your search for live music.

The heart of it all is the Adelaide Festival Centre, where the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra delivers symphonic marvels.

For an intimate experience, the city’s laneways and local pubs like the Grace Emily and the Wheatsheaf Hotel host emerging artists and indie bands. The Gov, a historic pub turned iconic music venue, offers a diverse lineup.

Thebarton Theatre is a favourite for larger acts, while the Adelaide Entertainment Centre hosts world-class performances. The big stadium acts play at Adelaide Oval.

During festivals like the Adelaide Fringe and Adelaide Guitar Festival, music resonates from every corner. At any time you will find buskers in Rundle Mall.

And for something truly unique, head to the Adelaide Botanic Garden for Moonlight Sonata, an outdoor concert series under the stars. No matter where you go, Adelaide’s live music scene is an eclectic symphony waiting to be explored.

So, there you have it, folks! Adelaide, a UNESCO City of Music, is not just a destination for great beaches and fine wines; it’s also a place where the sweet melodies of creativity and culture resound in every corner.

Whether you’re a music lover, an adventurer, or just someone looking to immerse yourself in the rhythmic heartbeat of a city, Adelaide’s got it all.

Before you go…
Learn more about things to do in Adelaide with these posts
South Australia Festivals for Every Month
100 Adelaide Experiences
Tips for Visiting Adelaide on a Budget

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About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.