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May 11, 2006

Stop the Jabiluka Uranium Mine

Tribal Music of Australia
AP Elkin
Label Information:
Folkways Records FE 4439
Media Type:
Out of print

Track Number Track Title Track Time Notes
Djedbang-ari (yirkalla) 0:02:28 These three pieces are examples of the Djedbang-ari. This is a special form of song and dance from the Yirkalla district in the far north-east of Arnhem Land. A usual feature of the structure is a break in the singing half-way through a stanza and dance scene. This is called 'stopping the dance, half-way'. When the didjeridu and singing commence, the dancers move on to the dance place from the side opposite the Songman and didjeridu-blower or 'Puller', as he is called. They move gracefully, weaving in and out and swaying their arms, until the rhythm changes, and the song stops, the Songman uttering only such sounds as ge: ge:. At this point, the dancers stop in their steps and stamp with one foot, until the Songman starts again; they then move forward and reach the latter at the end of the scene. The primary basis of this structure is the approach of the waves to the seashore; when they hit this, they appear to stop and then to go on again, running up the beach. A variety of themes have been developed, some from non-aboriginal subjects. Thus, the first of these three pieces is an interpretation of the comic moving pictures which a Songman saw at a military camp during the war. The pictures go on and yet stop in one place; moreover, after pauses they go on again. The change of rhythm in the middle and at the end to mark the stops is very pronounced. The second of these three songs is about a small bird which lays a little egg, and flies away calling tau tau. The rhythm of the didjeridu is especially good, with its syncopated effects. The tau tau tau and a noticeable break in the rhythm of the didjeridu mark the 'half-way stop' of the djedbang-ari pattern. In later verses the dances can be heard stamping si-si-ing and uttering trills. The third piece in this band refers to a snake moving in the water, where it bites a little bird, after which it crawls into a hole and sleeps. Two persons are tapping the rhythm sticks, and some young lads join in the singing. They half-way stop is not as pronounced as usual, but is marked by the lengthening of two beats, a couple of bars apart, and the two shouts.
Djedbang-ari (riredjingo) 0:01:27 These two verses are excellent examples of the Djedbang-ari; the structure of which was described in track 1. In this case the Songman is a Riredjing-o 'tribesman' from the country of origin of the Djedbang-ari. The 'half-way stop' and the finish are very clearly indicated. The abruptness of the songman's calls or ejaculations, suggest the secondary pattern which has been taken into this song and dance form. During the War, Riredjing-o men saw service-men drilling, and heard the commands to march, halt, mark time and march again, given in ultra-staccato fashion. So in the Djedbang-ari the dancers move on to the dance-place, but at the 'command' stop and mark time (by stamping with one foot) and then at the next 'command', the Songman's high explosive note, move forward again. Because of the importance and strength of the didjeridu, the words can hardly be heard, except for the repeated wol-e in the second verse, followed by dibang-mala. These two verses are part of a long series in which the group-names (bulain, nagaritj and others) are called of dancers who take it in turn to remain on the edge of the dance-place until with the second half of each verse and scene, they run on and join the others. The words express sorrow for the person left out, and then call him in.
Djedbang-ari 0:01:09  
Wadamiri 0:03:04 The Wadamiri or Waramiri series of songs come from a north-eastern Arnhem Land Island and mainland linguistic group of that name, and from a ceremonial and social half of the tribe which is always associated with the introduction of foreign customs and objects. Some of the songs are about aeroplanes, steam boats, cards, tobacco and so on. This Wadamiri is an example of 'foreign' subject--tobacco. This was brought to Arnhem Land by Macassars before the time of European settlement. So too was the 'Malay' pipe. The song, of which four verses are given, refers to a person worrying for the white man's sweet tobacco, cutting the paper to get at it, smoking, inhaling and blowing the smoke away, and then putting the tobacco under the pillow and going to sleep.
Wadamiri 0:02:28 The sample here is based on an indigenous subject, the ground wasp. The song, of which three verses are given, tells how this insect makes a hole in the ground in which it sleeps on a pillow. Then to the music of a sacred ceremony, it comes out of the hole, stands, runs, and flies away. The first word, woiju-woiju, (waju) wasp, is clear. The singing, words are often transformed for the sake of rhythm and euphony, and so are hard to follow. This is a very vigorous song. The didjeridu and sticks together with the si si and the stamping of the dancers, carry the scene on with a great swing. At the beginning of the second verse a shout is heard. This is made by the dancers forming a close ring; all facing in and towards the ground they shout towards the latter, the spirit of 'mother earth'.
Maraian Chants (Sacred) 0:01:17 SECRET
Didjeridu Solos 0:03:09 In the following five samples the didjeridu 'puller' was recorded alone, though the Songman's sticks joined in the fifth item, and can be faintly heard in the others. The first gives a Djedbang-ari rhythm. The half-way 'stop' is clear. The second rhythm imitates the movements of a graceful blue-gray bird, with long thin legs, and about four feet high from head to ground. Famous for its group dances, the bird makes a rhythmic noise which is imitated by the 'Puller'. The third is the accompaniment for the dance and song of a small bird, called 'moi kandi'. It has a high squeak which the Puller reproduces at the same time as he blows his didjeridu. The fourth and fifth provide the fast varied rhythm of the sea-gull song and dance. The songman's sticks are well synchronized with the didjeridu in the fifth.
Gunborg 0:02:27 This is a sample of Gunborg singing, as it is called, in south-western Arnhem Land. Actually this type of song comes from western Arnhem Land, especially Goulburn Island and Oenpelli (the Alligator River region). The Songman in this case was from a little south of the latter. The theme of the Gunborg is gossip. The Songman composes the words on some passing event in social happenings such as in love affairs, but makes the allusions indirect, so as to avoid trouble. Moreover, the words frequently have not only an entirely innocent patent meaning, but also a latent meaning, usually with sexual significance. The sample of which two verses are given, states that the Songman wanted his female cousin, and that they came out (from the camp). He then lit a fire, ate and was satiated, after which he covered himself, for rain was coming up on top (in the sky). The musical form is interesting. The didjeridu commences, after which the dancers on the side of the dance-place call O: and shout in to the ground. The didjeridu then continues and the Songman begins. There are four musical parts in each verse irrespective of the subject, or of variations in the melody. The general characteristic of all the phrasing is a descending glide. In the first three, each part consists of three or more glides, each a phrase of meaning, and each, as a rule, starting and always ending on a lower note than the preceding. The dancers may utter a call or a shout between or during the phrases. The end of the third part seems to be the end of the verse, the decided hand-clapping and final stamp seem to indicate this. But after a pause, a final single glide from the top to the bottom is sung; this is the fourth section of the verse.
Cloud Song 0:04:10 Portions of the Cloud chant in the Riredjing-o language of far north-east Arnhem Land. It is about the clouds which come from the island of the Dead away to the east. The wind blows them along, sometimes as fine flakes, sometimes like the seed which appears when grass or a flower-bud opens, and sometimes as though they are sitting on the sea. It blows them around both sides of Bremer Island, and after beating the water into waves, reaches the Riredjing-o people, who came from the place of the Cloud, and now feel sorrow for their old-time leader. Most of the many verses end with a short recitative, that is, the singing continues without sticks or didjeridu. This usually gives the key words of the verse. It is a feature of several types of chants in Arnhem Land. In the singing, too, it will be noticed that in many instances no effort is made to prevent the didjeridu and sticks from drowning out the voice. The latter provides the authoritative background, and is essential, but can be 'sotto voce'. This adds to the difficulty of following the words.
Djerag (seagull Song) 0:02:41 A sample of the Djerag or sea-gull series from north-east Arnhem Land. It belongs to the ceremonial 'half' of the community which is traditionally responsible for indigenous subjects and objects. This is a sea series, and includes such themes as shark, salt-water fish and birds. The example given is about the shark jumping up and cleaving the water as he chases little fish which hurry off between the stones, and big fish which dash off, before his teeth close on them. The 'swing' of the didjeridu is particularly good. There are two Songmen, who in the first verse follow on the principle of the round. In the second they are in unison, or almost so.
Brinkin Wongga 0:02:54 This is an example of the Brinkin Wongga, or the song pattern (Wongga) of the Brinkin tribes. These belong to the inland country of the Daly River region, which is on the west of Arnhem Land proper, but through intermarriage and trade, the Wongga has spread into the south-west of Arnhem Land proper. This sample is sung by a Maielli or stone-country tribesman of that part, while the didjeridu is played by a Gunwinggu man from further north. Both the Songman and the 'Puller' stand all the time; a boy holds the far end of the didjeridu. The melody usually starts on a high note, generally falsetto, and descends. Words are absent, being replaced by syllables. Each song, however, has its name or subject, such as a dead man's spirit, a bird, or as in the example given here, fire. Men around take part, hand-clapping, calling, and dancing. In the Wongga pattern the Songman sings without beating his rhythm sticks, but when not singing, he beats them in time with the hand-claps of those around. The high sustained monotoned call of the dancers almost gives the effect of harmony. This usually occurs just as the Songman begins on his high note. After he reaches his low note, he pauses and beats his sticks and then utters a long drawn ah! followed by grunts. Finally, in this and in several other types of dances, the dancers give a final 'off-stage' call and shout after each scene and verse. It is an acknowledgment of the spirit of 'mother' earth whose dust they have raised, a symbol of the life which comes from her.
Djarada (love Song) 0:00:30 This is a djarada or love song and refers to the women (djingolo) calling out (bugurungga) as they bathe or swim (ngororong) in the river. The actual words in this stanza are hard to follow, but great rhythm is made of the je je je. The young boys take the lead with much gusto, leaving the Songman to come in on a lower pitch. They begin with a singing prefix, 'ing'.
Nyindi-nyindi Corroboree 0:03:04 Part of the Nyindi-yindi corroboree or dance of the Wadjigin people of the coast from Darwin to the lower Daly River. The didjeridu has a distinctly different quality from other didjeridus recorded. The Songman is hard to hear and no meaning could be obtained for the words. Indeed most of it seems to be only syllable-slurring. This corroboree is eminently social. It is marked by much good humour and by virtuoso dancing by individuals. The dancers, after painting up, jump through a smoke fire, and approach the dance-ground shouting and calling with spears held erect. This group is among the best 'ballet' dancers of the north. In the extract given here, individuals took turns to dance singly in the midst of the rest, putting great energy into their actions, which were very sharply synchronized with the rhythm of the music. The stamps of the dancers on the bare earth and their calls witness to the energy expended. The wail, given by a leader, is for a distinguished dancer and songman, Mosek, who had died about a year before.
Maraian Chant (Sacred) 0:01:22 SECRET

Copyright 2002-2006 J.H. Burrows and Peter Lister