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Authentic Aboriginal Music - Music from the Wandjina People
|Lorrie Utemorrah||songman, didjeridu|
|Louis Karadada||didjeridu, songman|
CD, Playing time 39:44 minutes
(1995) Arc Music - EUCD 1341 , Arc Music America, P.O. Box 2453, Clearwater, FL 34617
This natural and earthy field recording grasps the wonder and ruggedness of the Aboriginal way of life. The project was assisted by the Aboriginal Arts Board and has produced an important record of the culture of the Aborigine and his music, both indigenous and unique to Australia.
Reviewer: Arc Music
The music on this album was recorded on location at Lalumburu, an Aboriginal community near the coast in the far north Kimberley region of Australia. All the artists are members of the Wunambul Tribe, the traditional owners of the land in the Mitchell Plateau and Kalumburu regions. The album features Wongga music, which is widespread from West Kimberley up into the Northern Territory. Songmen travel extensively to spread new songs and to keep alive the old traditional songs. Individual artists apply their own styles to the music. Lorrie Utemorrah, on of the most famous songmen in the Kimberleys has his very strong and distinctive style. The Wongga songs on this recording ar all initiation songs that may be heard by the general public. The 2nd half of this album contains four distinctive styles of song: Bandrru, Balga, Moraburr and Djunba. Bandrru is "island music" inspired by the numerous islands off the north Kimberley coast. Jefferey Mangolamara is a man with many stories to tell about the sea in his part of the world. He leads the singers through the mellow harmonies of these songs. The Balga and Djunba songs are distinguished by the distinctive intertwining of male and female vocal harmonies, always underpinned by the rhythm of the clap sticks. The songs all have a story to tell; some light-hearted, some serious, some of contemporary contents, some passed down through the generations. The Moraburr songs are uncomplicated ballads, prominently featuring stories of the sea.
Reviewer: liner notes
This album comprises 36 very short cuts, about 1 minute each, in a variety of traditional styles. The recording is a good quality field recording of six members of the Wandjina tribe of the Kandiwai Community at Mitchell Plateau, in the far northern Kimberly region of Australia. The first 16 songs are in the Wongga style, having a male songleader accompanied by didjeridu and clap sticks. The songs are public initiation songs. This is followed by 6 cuts in the Bandrru style (island songs), 6 songs in the Balga style, 6 songs in the Moraburr style and 2 Djunba songs. Only the Wongga songs include didjeridu playing. The liner booklet gives some insight into the styles and the people on the recording in four languages.
Listening carefully to this recording will teach you a lot about the Aboriginal way of making music. The songs almost all follow a basic format of a rhythmic beginning by clap sticks, didjeridu or both, quickly followed by the songman's "phrase". The "phrase" usually begins on a high note and ends on a lower note, with a variety of pitch variations and syllables during the "phrase". This basic format creates a similarity to each of these songs which masks the subtle differences in each. It is amazing for me to discover the variety of expression within this framework, and to think about the amount of memory involved in such song making.
Some songs are rather simple with easy 4:4 or 3:4 rhythms, while in others the clap sticks beat the rhythm and a counterpoint rhythm. The rhythms also vary widely from fast to slow, sometimes switching from 8:8 to 4:4 in mid stream. Even with slow rhythms the songman is usually quickly vocalizing syllables and varying pitch. The didjeridu playing is not usually marked by vocalizations or by much more than a basic repeating rhythm. The emphasis is on the vocals, not the accompaniment.
The Bandrru, Balga, Moraburr and Djunba songs feature male and female vocals, sometimes together, sometimes intertwined. The differences in the songman's styles can be compared. Lorrie Utemorrah sings with much more enunciation within phrases, than say, Louis Karadada who tends to use mostly "la", "ha", "ga" sounds. Lorrie also seems to use more complex melodies than Louis. Jeffery Mangolamara tends to end each phrase on a monotonic note for several syllables while clearly enunciating.
I have difficulty enjoying traditional Aboriginal songs the way I enjoy, say, Led Zeppelin or Sinead O'Connor. Undoubtably I would be more comfortable if I could understand the lyrics! But this album provides a breadth of styles in a format that has permitted me to discover a lot and gain better appreciation for the Aboriginal music tradition.
Reviewer: John Morfit