Chronology of recorded collections of Murrinh-patha Song

  • Colin Simpson, 1948.
    The broadcaster Colin Simpson with ABC audio technician Ray Giles visited Delissaville (later known as Belyuen) in 1948, and made recordings there that were later broadcast and published by the ABC (see Simpson 1948, in Audiography, and Simpson's book Adam in Ochre, published in 1951). A group of people visiting Delissaville from the Daly/Fitzmaurice region (that is, the area around present-day Wadeye) performed 5 items from a song series in balga style about a trip in a truck. It is likely that the non-secret song item in balga style by a "Brinken" group recorded at Delissaville and published in the recordings of the American-Australian Expedition to Arnhem Land by Charles Mountford in 1949 was also recorded by Simpson and Giles during this session.

  • W.E.H. Stanner, 1950s.
    Some of the earlliest recordings of Murrinh-patha song were made by the anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner in 1954 and 1957, providing a valuable indication of performance practice at that time. Stanner recorded a total of 14 items from Murrinh-patha performers, including Joe Birrarri Malakunda and Wagin (wangka, purratjang balga and malkarrin genres) (information from Allan Marett report to AIATSIS) (Marett 1999).

  • Alice M. Moyle, 1962.
    On one of her earliest field trips, the ethnomusicologist Alice M. Moyle recorded a number of Aboriginal performances at the Darwin Eisteddfod in June 1962. One of the performances recorded mixed thanpa and balga songs, led by the Murrinh-patha speaker Barney Munggin and his wife Sugar Garbat, residents of Daly River who performed with a group from Auvergne Station (one of a number of cattle stations on the Fitzmaurice River where people from Wadeye and the eastern Kimberley often worked). An excerpt from this recording is published in Moyle 1967 (Songs from the Northern Territory 5 ). This is the earliest known recording of thanpa songs, which according to L. Kolumboort were first composed by his brother Robert the year before, in 1961 (p.c.).

  • Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, 1963.
    Four tapes were recorded in Sydney in 1963 on the occasion of a concert by the Aboriginal Theatre, which toured Sydney and Melbourne and included performers from Bathurst Island, Yirrkala and the Daly River area. The recording includes several thanpa song items (AIATSIS tapes A1766-1769). Two of the performers (Barney Munggin and Sugar Garbat) are the same as those recorded the year before at the Darwin Eisteddfod by Alice Moyle (see above). Another performer, Frank Artu, was later recorded by W.E. Hoddinott at Daly River in 1967 (see below).

  • John Cleverly, 1966.
    John Cleverly, a linguist working on Jaminjung language, was a collaborator of W. Hoddinott. He recorded Murrinh-patha song on two occasions: Tape 6, recorded at Timber Creek in 1966 (AIATSIS LA160B), which includes wangka (12 items from the Jimmy Mulluk series) and thanpa (6 items) both performed by people from Port Keats (Wadeye), and Tape 9, recorded at Bullo River station in 1966 (AIATSIS LA158B). This tape includes 24 Murrinh-patha songs (not yet checked).

  • W.E. Hoddinott, 1967.
    The collection of the linguist W.E. Hoddinott includes songs recorded at Daly River in 1967 with Frank Artu, a Marri Tjevin man who was one of the dancers on the 1963 Elizabethan Theatre Trust tour of the Aboriginal Theatre and who went on to become one of the main ceremonial organisers at Wadeye. Hoddinott tapes 28-29 include 7 thanpa song items and one wangka item (performed without didjeridu), evidently taken from the repertory of the Aboriginal Theatre (AIATSIS A1409-1410).

  • Alice M. Moyle, 1968.
    In 1968 Alice Moyle undertook an extensive field trip to record the main singers in the Kimberleys. She recorded Murrinh-patha songs on two occasions: Field tape 68/6, (AIATSIS A2670A) includes two thanpa song items recorded on 3 June 1968 at Delissaville (Belyuen) from Billy Mandji and Philip Mileru. Field tapes 76-78 (AIATSIS A2700AB), include 32 thanpa song items recorded at Kununurra, 28 August from Pannikin Manbi and others. Although the songs are in Murrinh-patha language, most of them are not familiar to Murrinh-patha speakers at Wadeye today.

  • Michael Walsh, 1972-74.
    The linguist Michael Walsh (one of our team members) began his linguistic fieldwork at Wadeye in 1972 (see reference list for his publications on Murrinh-patha language). His recordings include a total of 165 song items, of which 73 belong to Murrinh-patha genres (thanpa, wurlthirri, malkarrin, Joe Birrarri wangka), and the remainder to various other song genres (including balga, wangka and lirrga) belonging to other language groups resident at Wadeye (Jaminjung, Marri Tjevin and Marri Ngarr), or visiting Wadeye from elsewhere.

  • Lesley Reilly nee Rourke, 1974-76
    The lay missionary Lesley Rourke (later Reilly) first came to Wadeye in 1974, and then returned in 1976 and on various other later occasions. She made recordings mainly for her own interest or at the request of performers, not for academic study. She recorded a total of 111 song items belonging to the various Murrinh-patha genres (thanpa, malkarrin, wurlthirri, and Joe Birrarri's wangka), and many more wangka and lirrga songs belonging to Marri Tjevin and Marri Ngarr people resident at Wadeye. For further information about the Reilly collection and its contents, see this account of the digitisation of the collection by Linda Barwick. Copies are deposited at the Wadeye Knowledge Centre and at AIATSIS.

  • Deborah Bird Rose, 1981.
    Anthropologist Deborah Bird Rose undertook fieldwork at Yarralin (NT) in the Victoria River District in the early 1980s. During her fieldwork a circumcision ceremony was held that included performances by a group from Port Keats (Wadeye), who performed both wangka and thanpa songs (see Rose 1982 for an account of circumstances surrounding the performance). Rose kindly provided Allan Marett with a copy of her fieldtapes of this occasion. 15 Murrinh-patha songs (thanpa and malkarrin) are included on the tapes.

  • Allan Marett, 1988.
    Ethnomusicologist Allan Marett (one of our team members) was based in Barunga in 1988, pursuing research on wangka. He made two brief trips to the Wadeye area, where he recorded a total of 119 thanpa song items during two days of a circumcision ceremony at Wadeye and a later ragburning ceremony at Nadirri. He also took significant video footage of thanpa dancing on these occasions (on the second occasion with the assistance of linguist Nick Reid, another chief investigator on the present grant).

  • WALC collection, 1990s.
    The Wadeye Aboriginal Languages Centre (WALC) was established in the early 1990s and coordinated recordings of local songs, languages and oral histories. Phil Costigan and Mark Crocombe undertook much of the recording and organising of the collection, which also included copies of recordings deposited by visiting researchers such as Allan Marett and Lesley Reilly. The collection was transferred from cassette tape to CD in 2002 with a grant from the National Library of Australia (work undertaken in 2002-3 by Alberto Furlan). Not counting WALC collection copies of tapes indexed elsewhere in this document, unique WALC tapes contain a total of 265 Murrinh-patha song items (including thanpa, church thanpa, wurlthirri and malkarrin).

  • Allan Marett and Linda Barwick, 1998, 2001
    Ethnomusicologists Allan Marett and Linda Barwick visited Wadeye regularly from 1998, with an initial research focus on wangka and lirrga. In 1998 and 2001 they recorded a number of ceremonial occasions that included a total of 225 items of Murrinh-patha song (thanpa, church thanpa, malkarrin and wurlthirri) including 9 thanpa items performed by Murrinh-patha speakers resident at Kununurra in the Eastern Kimberley region of Western Australia.

  • Alberto Furlan, 2002
    Anthropologist Alberto Furlan spent a year at Wadeye (2002-2003) undertaking research on the social significance of song at Wadeye for his doctoral thesis at the University of Sydney. In addition to recording a total of 183 items of Murrinh-patha song (thanpa, church thanpa, wurlthirri and malkarrin genres) on various occasions, Furlan also digitised the WALC tape collection and collected information and song texts on various older recordings. The song texts and information collected in his PhD thesis (Furlan 2005) provided a valuable point of departure for the work of the present project team.

  • Joe Blythe 2005
    Linguist Joe Blythe, a postgraduate student on the present ARC project, undertook two lengthy periods of fieldwork at Wadeye in 2004 and 2005. In addition to assembling information for his doctoral thesis topic "A grammar of reference in Murrinh-patha conversation", he also worked intensively with knowledgeable Murrinh-patha performers to transcribe, gloss and translate song texts, in the course of which he recorded several elicited performances. In July 2005 he recorded a funeral that included 17 song items (thanpa, malkarrin and church thanpa).