Joe Birrarri, a Murriny-Patha-speaking Dimirnin clansman and one of the composers of djanba and church djanba songs, also composed his own repertory of wangga songs. Wangga is a style of didjeridu-accompanied song normally composed and owned by speakers of Daly languages (e.g. Marritjevin, Marri Amu, Mendhe, Emi, Batjamalh), whose traditional country lies to the north of Wadeye (see Marett 2005).

Joe Birrarri received his wangga songs in a dream in which he was visited by a yawa, the spirit of a deceased Marri Amu clansman.

Joe Birrarri playing didjeridu
Because he was not a Marri Amu speaker, Joe Birrarri could not translate these wangga songs from the Marri Amu spirit language used by the yawa in his dream into either everyday Marri Amu or into his own language Murriny Patha, so the songs remained unintelligible to both the singer and his audience.

Joe Birrarri playing marluk (didjeridu) circa 1941. Photographer unknown (photo courtesy of Wadeye Aboriginal Language Centre collection).


Joe Birrarri's wangga songs were recorded by W.E.H. Stanner in 1954, by Lesley Reilly in 1974 and by Michael Walsh in 1972. After Joe Birrarri's death nobody else was able to carry on the repertory, so it is no longer performed at Wadeye.