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This project concentrates on public dance-songs composed, owned and performed by men and women of Murriny-Patha-speaking clans. The three main repertories currently performed are thanpa, wurlthirri, and malkarrin.

Thanpa and wurlthirri songs are both used for circumcisions, funerals, 'ragburning' mortuary ceremonies for the disposal of the belongings of the deceased, and other secular ceremonies such as graduation ceremonies, welcome ceremonies for visiting dignitaries, or book launches.

wurltjirriDancing
Dancing wurlthirri at a ragburning ceremony, 1998. Photo: Mark Crocombe.

For circumcisions thanpa and wurlthirri songs are often performed alongside dance-songs of other neighbouring groups such as the lirrga of Marri Ngarr people, or the wangga of the Marri Amu, Marri Tjavin and Magati Ge-speaking people. Each has its own specific form of dancing (purrkpurrk) and bodypaint (dirrmu). Malkarrin and church thanpa are frequently performed in church, especially for funerals, sometimes alongside church songs in the lirrga and (these days, very rarely) wangga styles.

Very little has been published on Murrinh-patha song, but for other genres at Wadeye (wangga and lirrga) see Marett 2005 and other works in the references.

In previous decades, Murrinh-patha speakers used to perform repertories of wangga and balga, which were recorded in the 1940s by Colin Simpson at Delissaville (1948), by W.E.H. Stanner at Daly River (1957) and by Lesley Reilly and Michael Walsh in the early 1970s.