For the sake of a song

Puliki (Buffalo)

TRACK 1 (Moy68-02-s5) Song 1: Puliki

         
Sung text  Free translation 
rimili dje the raga mele dje   Rimili dje the raga mele dje  
rimili dje the raga mele dje   Rimili dje the raga mele dje  
rimili dja da raga mele dja  Rimili dja da raga mele dja 
nga-ni-purr-mbele ngayi-nö alawa mari-pinindjela  I will always dance for you at Mari-pinindjela [Mica Beach] 
rimili dja da raga mele dja  Rimili dja da raga mele dja 

Jimmy Muluk’s song ‘Puliki’ (Buffalo) is one of the best known of all wangga. It is widely sung, even today. Recordings have been made as far away as Mowanjum in the western Kimberley (Various artists, 1991, track 3). Alice Moyle published two recordings of this song in Songs from the Northern Territory, volume 1 (AM Moyle, 1967a, track 13).

Wangga Image Figure 5.3 Buffalo dance at the tourist corroboree, Mica Beach, September 1972. Photograph by Allan Laurence, with permission of Belyuen community.

Wangga Image Figure 5.4 The ‘Buffalo’ chases a dancer up a tree at the tourist corroboree, Mica Beach, September 1972. Photograph by Allan Laurence, reproduced with the permission of Belyuen community.

The song describes a Buffalo ngutj (ancestral spirit) [71] who has swum from Matpil (a favourite camping place near Mandorah) across to Mica Beach, where he dances. The song text consists of a section in ‘ghost language,’ followed by a section in Mendhe, in which the ghostly Buffalo sings that he will always dance at Mica Beach. In some performances only the ghost language section is sung. In more public performances, such as tourist corroborees, the deeper meaning of the song is concealed, so that the song is interpreted as being not about a ghostly Buffalo, but rather a buffalo hunt. The dancing in tourist corroborees plays out this more mundane interpretation.

Wangga Image

The ‘Buffalo’ chases one of the dancers at the tourist corroboree, Mica Beach, early 1970s. (Photo by Allan Laurence)

Two stories about ‘Puliki’ have been translated and discussed by Lysbeth Ford. The first was given by Jimmy Muluk himself, recorded by Alice Moyle in 1968:

JM: Pitj alawa ngany ngandhi, mari pinindjila. Yuwana gamengwulhayi. Yiya yuwananganayi. Nganamutharriya. Puliki ngaden gumbu. Wangga ganapurr ganeneyi. Wanggangani ganapurr ganamörögumbu. kakdjen gana. Ganayi. merrangarr gamayi. Gananganayi. Ganapirrwuda. Madjelanganayi , Midjili gami. Ganawulhaga yiinhdha garru.

‘There’s a certain beach belonging to me, a curving beach on the peninsula (Mica Beach). That [old] man over there told me to come back. It was from him, away from here. I was packing up, with my back to him. I saw buffalo tracks. He was dancing. He was dancing for me till daybreak. Then he went away. He walked. He stood in the jungle. He walked from there. He swims. From Madjelaba he came out at Midjili. He deliberately comes back right here. (Ford, 2007, p 80)

The second was told to Ford in Mendhe twenty years later by Alice Jorrock:

Wel wulmen gaya, puliki ganapirrwudayi mari ngandhi, la pinindjila. Puliki ganapurr, wulmen wadjet gaya. Ginmenerre wulmen. inmenerre. Gaden awa puliki wangga ganapurr gaya. Ganapirrwudayi. Wangga ganapurr gaya buliki. Wulmen manhdha gamen. Gameneyi manhdha. Garrungatj.

‘Well, the old man lies down there on the peninsula, where the buffalo had swum, over the other side of the creek. The buffalo dances, the old man lies there and watches. The old man wakes up, he wakes up. He watches the buffalo who is always dancing wangga. He had swam there. The buffalo always dances wangga. The old man picks up the song. He picked up the song. He hides. That’s all.’ (Ford, 2007, p 80)

In track 1 we hear a recording of Jimmy Muluk himself, recorded by Alice Moyle in 1968 during a tourist corroboree held at the Mandorah hotel. Somewhat distractingly, in all songs recorded by Moyle on this occasion a whistle is blown intermittently; this was intended to assist the later synching of the audio tape with a silent film of the dancing taken at the same time.

Three further performances of ‘Puliki’ are included in this chapter. In track 2, Jimmy Muluk’s contemporary, Billy Mandji sings his own, slightly different version of the song. On track 3 we hear an even earlier recording made by Alice Moyle in 1964 of four boys from Delissaville (Belyuen) singing at the Darwin Eisteddfod. Two of these, Colin Worumbu Ferguson and Robert Gordon (see above), are still singing the song today. Track 4 is a recording of Colin Ferguson singing in 1998, also at Mandorah. See the notes for tracks 2-4 below for further details.

See the musical analysis section at the end of this chapter for detailed discussion of Muluk’s use of rhythmic modes in this song.

Song structure summary

VOCAL SECTION 1

Melodic section 1

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

Text phrases 1-3

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dja da raga mele dja

Melodic section 2

Rhythmic mode 2b (slow even, stick beating suspended)

Text phrase 4

   
nga  -ni  -purr  -mbele  ngayi  -nö  alawa  mari-pinindjela 
1MIN.S.IR  walk  dance  2MIN.BEN  1MIN.S.IR lie  PURP  beach  place name 

I will always dance for you at Mari-pinindjela [Mica Beach]

Text phrase 5

rimili dja da raga mele dja

INSTRUMENTAL SECTION 1

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

VOCAL SECTION 2

Melodic section 1

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

Text phrases 1-3

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dja da raga mele dja

Melodic section 2

Rhythmic mode 2b (slow even, stick beating suspended)

Text phrase 4

   
nga  -ni  -purr  -mbele  ngayi  -nö  alawa  mari-pinindjela 
1MIN.S.IR  walk  dance-  2MIN.BEN  1MIN.S.IR lie  PURP  beach  place name 

I will always dance for you at Mari-pinindjela (Mica Beach)

Text phrase 5

Rhythmic mode 2b (slow even, stick beating suspended)

rimili dja da raga mele dja

INSTRUMENTAL SECTION 2

Rhythmic mode 4a (moderate even)

VOCAL SECTION 3

Melodic section 1

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

Text phrases 1-3

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dja da raga mele dja

Melodic section 2

Rhythmic mode 2b (slow even, stick beating suspended)

Text phrase 4

   
nga  -ni  -purr-  -mbele  ngayi  -nö  alawa  mari-pinindjela 
1MIN.S.IR  walk  dance-  2MIN.BEN  1MIN.S.IR lie  PURP  beach  place name 

I will always dance for you at Mari-pinindjela (Mica Beach)

Text phrase 5

rimili dja da raga mele dja

INSTRUMENTAL SECTION 3

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

VOCAL SECTION 4

Melodic section 1

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

Text phrases 1-3

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dja da raga mele dja

Melodic section 2

Rhythmic mode 2b (slow even, stick beating suspended)

Text phrase 4

   
nga  -ni  -purr-  -mbele  ngayi  -nö  alawa  mari-pinindjela 
1MIN.S.IR  walk  dance-  2MIN.BEN  1MIN.S.IR lie  PURP  beach  place name 

I will always dance for you at Mari-pinindjela (Mica Beach)

Text phrase 5

rimili dja da raga mele dja

VOCAL SECTION 5

Melodic section 1

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

Text phrases 1-3

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dja da raga mele dja

Melodic section 2

Rhythmic mode 2b (slow even, stick beating suspended)

Text phrase 4

   
nga  -ni  -purr-  -mbele  ngayi  -nö  alawa  mari-pinindjela 
1MIN.S.IR  walk  dance-  2MIN.BEN  1MIN.S.IR lie  PURP  beach  place name 

I will always dance for you at Mari-pinindjela (Mica Beach)

Text phrase 5

rimili dja da raga mele dja

INSTRUMENTAL SECTION 4

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

VOCAL SECTION 6

Melodic section 1

Text phrases 1-3

Rhythmic mode 2a (slow even)

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dja da raga mele dja

Melodic section 2

Rhythmic mode 2b (slow even, stick beating suspended)

Text phrase 4

   
nga  -ni  -purr-  -mbele  ngayi  -nö  alawa  mari-pinindjela 
1MIN.S.IR  walk  dance-  2MIN.BEN  1MIN.S.IR lie  PURP  beach  place name 

I will always dance for you at Mari-pinindjela (Mica Beach)

Text phrase 5

rimili dja da raga mele dja

VOCAL SECTION 7

Melodic section 1

Rhythmic mode 2b (slow even, stick beating suspended)

Text phrases 1-3

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dje the raga mele dje

rimili dja da raga mele dja

INSTRUMENTAL SECTION 5

Rhythmic mode 4e (moderate doubled)