For the sake of a song

Barrtjap's Repertory

Tommy Barrtjap (Burrenjuck) (c. 1925-1993) (?1925-92), a Wadjiginy songman resident at Belyuen on the Cox Peninsula, Northern Territory, was well known throughout the Daly Region and Australia’s Top End as a ritual leader, wangga composer, and, in his youth, a talented football player. He frequently visited Darwin and performed for public concerts as well as ceremonial occasions. With other performers from Belyuen (Delissaville) he performed ‘tourist corroborees’ at Mica Beach (Talc Head) and later at Mandorah. As a young man, he was taught to sing by his father’s brother, Jimmy Bandak, and after the latter’s death inherited his repertory and continued to receive songs from him in dream. Bandak’s and Barrtjap’s musical activities at Belyuen in this early period are described in Ewers (1954), Simpson (1951) and Elkin and Jones (1958); see also Barwick and Marett (2011) for comparison of musical practice at Belyuen in 1948 compared to recent times.

Wangga Image Figure 4.1 Portrait of Tommy Barrtjap (Burrenjuck), photograph by Alice Moyle, Delissaville (Belyuen), 1976. Photograph by Alice Moyle, courtesy of Alice Moyle family and AIATSIS (Moyle.A3.Cs - 6412), reproduced with the permission of Belyuen community.

Marett first met Tommy Barrtjap in 1986 on a visit to Belyuen. He was a tall rather severe man, in his mid-sixties, the men's ritual leader at Belyuen. At that time he was the senior wangga singer in the Daly region, and even today, some eighteen years after his death, his memory is held in the highest regard and his songs remain popular. Barrtjap’s repertory was passed on to his sons Kenny (1949-2008) and Timothy (1953-), and some Barrtjap songs are featured in the repertory of the Kenbi Dancers, a group of Belyuen performers who continue to perform tourist corroborees around Darwin.

When listening to songs recorded by A.P. Elkin at Delissaville (Belyuen) in 1949, Belyuen people today find it difficult to distinguish the voices of Jimmy Bandak and Tommy Barrtjap; they are described as having ‘the same voice’. Barrtjap helped us to transcribe and translate the texts of his songs, which are in a mixture of his own language Batjamalh and the language of Wunymalang ghosts, but he was never able to speak the words of his songs, preferring to sing them for us (very slowly, at our request, causing great hilarity amongst those present at the sessions).

Notes on the recording sample

Table 4.1 summarises the songs from the Barrtjap repertory discussed in this chapter, using the same system of numbering as in Songs, Dreamings and Ghosts (Marett, 2005). We provide at least one recorded example, together with transcribed, glossed and translated texts, for all but three of Barrtjap’s songs. [61] Where more than one version of a song is provided, it is normally because, unusually for Barrtjap, there are significant differences between two versions of a song, or because there are a number of versions of the song by different singers. For example, the four tracks of ‘Naya Rradja Bangany Nye-ve’ (tracks 16-19) were recorded by four different singers: Jimmy Bandak, Lawrence Wurrpen, Tommy Barrtjap and Kenny Burrenjuck. Considering that these performances range over almost fifty years, the versions are remarkably similar.

Track  Song #  Title  Singer  Recording 
Track 01  ‘Ya Bangany-nyung Nga-bindja Yagarra’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s02 
Track 02  ‘Yagarra Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi Ngayi’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s03 
Track 03  3*  ‘Bangany-nyung Ngaya’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s04 
Track 04  ‘Bangany-nyung Ngaya’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s05 
Track 05  4*  ‘Kanga Rinyala Nga-ve Bangany-nyung’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s06 
Track 06  ‘Kanga Rinyala Nga-ve Bangany-nyung’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s07 
Track 07  ‘Ya[garra] Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s08 
Track 08  ‘Ya[garra] Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s09 
Track 09  ‘Yagarra Bangany Nye-ngwe’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s10 
Track 10  ‘Be Bangany-nyaya’  Barrtjap  Moy68-05-s11 
Track 11  8*  ‘Nyere-nyere Lima Kaldja’  Barrtjap  Mar88-04-s02 
Track 12  9*  ‘Nyere-nye Bangany Nyaye’  Barrtjap  Mar88-04-s03  
Track 13  10*  ‘Karra Ngadja-maka Nga-bindja-ng Ngami’  Barrtjap  Mar88-04-s07 
Track 14  11*  ‘Yerre Ka-bindja-maka Ka-mi’  Barrtjap  Mar88-05-s11 
Track 15  12  ‘Yagarra Ye-yenenaya’  Barrtjap  Mar88-05-s02 
Track 16  13*  ‘Naya Rradja Bangany Nye-ve’  Bandak  Elk52-19B-s04 
Track 17  ‘Naya Rradja Bangany Nye-ve’  Burrenjuck  Mar97-04-s16 
Track 18  ‘Naya Rradja Bangany Nye-ve’  Wurrpen  Mad64-02-s15 
Track 19  ‘Naya Rradja Bangany Nye-ve’  Barrtjap  Mar88-05-s03 
Track 20  14  ‘Yagarra Nedja Tjine Rak-pe’  Barrtjap  Mar88-05-s06 
Track 21  15*  ‘Ya Rembe Ngaya Lima Ngaya’  Barrtjap  Mar88-05-s13 
Track 22  16  ‘Yagarra Tjüt Balk-nga-me Nga-mi’  Barrtjap  Mar86-03-s04 
Track 23  17  ‘Yagarra Tjine Rak-pe’  Barrtjap  Mar86-03-s06 
Track 24  18*  ‘Yagarra Delhi Nya-ngadja-barra-ngarrka’  Barrtjap  Mar86-03-s05 
Track 25  19*  ‘Nga-ngat-pat-pa Mangalimba’  Burrenjuck  Mar97-04-s07 
Track 26  22*  ‘Anadadada Bangany-nyaya’  Burrenjuck  Mar97-04-s04 

Table 4.1 Songs from the Barrtjap repertory discussed in this chapter. Songs known to have been sung by Kenny Burrenjuck are asterisked.

Tracks 1-9 are taken from a recording session made with Barrtjap in 1968 by Alice Moyle (Moy68-5) (some of these recordings were published by AM Moyle, 1977/1992, track 3). Because of the historical importance of this recording session, here we have included most of the songs recorded by Moyle on that occasion and present them in the order in which they were recorded. There then follows a sequence of tracks recorded by Marett in 1988 (tracks 11-15, 18, 20-21). This sequence is interrupted by a number of tracks included for comparative purposes made by Elkin in 1952 (track 16, Elk52-19B), Maddock in 1964 (track 17, Mad64-2) and Marett in 1997 (track 19, Mar97-4). The remaining tracks are all taken from recordings made by Marett in 1986 (tracks 22-24, Mar86-3) and 1997 (tracks 25-26, Mar97-4). Three Barrtjap songs (numbers 20 ‘Ngaya Lima Bangany-nyaya’, 21 ‘Nyala Nga-ve Bangany’ and 23 ‘Karra Bangany-nyaya’ in table 3.2 in Marett, 2005, p 247) are omitted here because the quality of performance and/or recording was insufficient for publication.

Wangga Image Figure 4.2 Tommy Barrtjap (seated) singing for a group of dancers at Belyuen, 1952, including from left: John Scroggi, David Woodie, [boy obscured], George Munggulu, George Manbi, Jimmy Havelock, Nipper Rankin, Ginger Moreen, Brucie Pott, Harold Woodie, Mosek Manpurr, Prince of Wales. Courtesy of University of Sydney Archives, reproduced with the permission of Belyuen community.

Wangga Image Figure 4.3 Tommy Barrtjap standing and singing, with dancers Tommy Lippo and Brucie Pott, and audience including George Munggulu, Mosek Manpurr, Prince of Wales (at rear), George Manbi, Nipper Rankin and Ginger Moreen. Courtesy of University of Sydney Archives, reproduced with the permission of Belyuen community.