For the sake of a song

Yagarra Nedja Tjine Rak-pe

CD 1, Track 20

TRACK 20 (Mar88-05-s06) Song 14: Yagarra Nedja Tjine Rak-pe

         
Sung text  Free translation 
yagarra nedja tjine rak-pe  Yagarra! Son, where is my camp/eternal country? 
yagarra rama rama gama  Yagarra! Rama rama gama 
(three times) 
yagarra nedja  Yagarra! Son! 
ii  Ii! 

Here the song-giving ghost addresses the songman directly as ‘son.’ Not long before his death in 1993, Barrtjap told Marett that this text referred to ‘my place … my country long way back,’ by which he seemed to mean both that the country lay at a great distance, and that it had been his since time immemorial. When he was asked the name of the country he gave four place-names: Djakaldja, Barakbana (South Peron Island), Barrabumalh and Djedjekana, all places that lie in his ancestral country near the Daly River.

In 2002, however, Barrtjap’s widow Esther Burrenjuck gave another interpretation, namely, that the song had been given to Barrtjap by the ghost of his mother when she returned to the family camp at Milik on the west coast of the Cox Peninsula and found it deserted; the family had moved from there into the community of Delissaville (Belyuen).

The two interpretations rest upon an ambiguity inherent in the word rak, which can mean both ancestral country and camp (we are grateful to Nicholas Evans for this insight). It is not unusual for Aboriginal songs to exploit ambiguity and opacity in song texts in order to generate different exegeses according to different circumstances. The circumstances surrounding these two exegeses are discussed more fully in Marett, 2005, p 35.

Note that David Woody, the second ‘singer’ (in fact he is only playing part of the interlocking stick pattern), makes a mistake (filling in one of the empty beats) at the point where the rhythmic mode changes at the end of instrumental section 2.

This is another lerri ‘happy’ song deploying isorhythmic text and presenting the vocal section first in fast doubled beating (rhythmic mode 5b) and later in fast uneven quadruple beating (rhythmic mode 5c).

Song structure summary

VOCAL SECTIONS 1-2

Melodic section 1

Text phrases 1-3

Rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled)

   
yagarra  nedja  tjine  rak  -pe 
EXCL  son  where  camp/country  forever 

Yagarra! Son, where is my camp/eternal country?

   
yagarra  rama  rama  gama 
EXCL  SW  SW  SW 

Yagarra! Rama rama gama

Text phrase 4

Rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled)

   
yagarra  nedja 
EXCL  son 

Yagarra! Son!

Melodic section 2

Text phrase 5

Rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled)

   
ii 
SW 

ii

INSTRUMENTAL SECTIONS 1-2

Rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled) (changes to rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple towards the end of instrumental section 2)

VOCAL SECTION 3

Melodic section 1

Text phrases 1-3

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

   
yagarra  nedja  tjine  rak  -pe 
EXCL  son  where  camp/country  forever 

Yagarra! Son, where is my camp/eternal country?

   
yagarra  rama  rama  gama 
EXCL  SW  SW  SW 

Yagarra! Rama, rama, gama

Text phrase 4

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

   
yagarra  nedja 
EXCL  son 

Yagarra! Son!

Melodic section 2

Text phrase 5

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

   
ii 
SW 

Ii

INSTRUMENTAL SECTION 3

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

CODA

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

yit ngayi yit ngayi yit ngowe, ngayi yit ngayi yit ngayi yit ngowe …