For the sake of a song

Kanga Rinyala Nga-ve Bangany-nyung

TRACK 5 (Moy68-05-s06) Song 4: Kanga Rinyala Nga-ve Bangany-nyung

     
Sung text  Free translation 
kanga rinyala nga-ve bangany-nyung  Kanga rinyala, I’ve come for a song 
ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ni  Ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ni 
kanga rinyala nga-ve bangany-nyung yagarra  Kanga rinyala, I’ve come for a song, yagarra! 

‘Kanga Rinyala’ is another of the most frequently performed and important of Barrtjap’s songs. It is the song that is sung in kapuk ceremonies at the point at which the spirit of the deceased is driven out of his or her belongings by burning them, and conducted, with encouragement from the singers, dancers and audience, to the world of the dead. The recorded corpus includes a large number of performances (two of which are included here—see also track 6) by a range of different performers, including Barrtjap’s son Kenny Burrenjuck. Apart from some variability in the stick beating (see below) this song is very stable from performance to performance.

The vocal section once again comprises the words of the song-giving Wunymalang ghost, stating that he has come to give the songman the song. The text also includes a significant amount of ‘ghost language,’ which includes ‘ngwe ngwe’ and ‘ni,’ but it is the two vocables, ‘kanga rinyala,’ that begin the song that are particularly interesting, first because they are unique to this song, and secondly, because one of the ghost words has a tangential relationship to human language (Batjamalh). Lysbeth Ford suggests that the ‘ghost language’ word ‘rinyala’ may be related to the Batjamalh word ‘riny-malh’ (sung melody). Barrtjap and others we have consulted over the years have, however, been adamant about the fact that these are song words and not words in normal spoken language.

The song is usually accompanied by slow even beating (rhythmic mode 2), a rhythmic mode reserved for deeply serious moments. In some performances the mood of deep seriousness is further intensified by suspending the stick beating entirely: it is almost as if time stands still. The performance of ‘Kanga rinyala Nga-ve Bangany-nyung’ on track 6 shows an example of this practice.

In the coda the stick beating changes from slow even to fast triple beating (accompanied by the didjeridu mouth sounds ‘yit ngayi yit ngowe …’).

Song structure summary

VOCAL SECTIONS 1-2

Melodic section 1

Text phrase 1

Rhythmic mode 2 (slow even)

   
kanga  rinyala  nga  -ve  bangany  -nyung 
SW  SW  1MIN.S  come  song  DAT 

Kanga rinyala, I've come for a song

   
ngwe  ngwe  ngwe  ngwe  ngwe  ngwe  ni 
SW  SW  SW  SW  SW  SW  SW 

Ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ngwe ni

Melodic section 2

Text phrase 2

Rhythmic mode 2 (slow even)

   
kanga  rinyala  nga  -ve  bangany  -nyung  yagarra 
SW  SW  1MIN.S  come  song  DAT  EXCL 

Kanga rinyala, I've come for a song, yagarra!

INSTRUMENTAL SECTIONS 1-2

Rhythmic mode 2 (slow even)

CODA

Rhythmic mode 5d (fast uneven triple)

yit ngayi yit ngowe, ngayi yit ngayi yit ngowe …