For the sake of a song

Yagarra Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi Ngayi

TRACK 2 (Moy68-05-s03) Song 2: Yagarra Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi Ngayi [62]

Sung text  Free translation 
yagarra nga-bindja-ng nga-mi ngayi ngayi yit ngayi  Yagarra! I’m singing ‘ngayi ngayi yit ngayi’ 
yagarra yine ngadja ya di di  Yagarra! What am I? Ya di di … 

Here the text states that the utterer (the song-giving Wunymalang, or the songman) is singing the didjeridu mouth sounds, ‘ngayi ngayi yit ngayi’ and then, in text phrase 2, poses the question, ‘what am I?’ This question points to the fact that singers deliberately obscure the distinction between themselves and their song-giving Wunymalang. Between vocal sections 2 and 3 Barrtjap performs a high call, which represents the voice of the Wunymalang (such calls may be performed either by the singer or by someone else). Whose voice are we hearing here: the voice of the ghost or the voice of the man? This is one of the means by which the singer creates a liminal space that, in the context of kapuk (mortuary) ceremonies, facilitates the passing of the deceased from the world of the living to the world of the dead (Marett, 2000).

The text is relatively stable; apart from variability in the number of iterations of the didjeridu mouth sounds and in the concluding vocables, the song is the same from vocal section to vocal section and from performance to performance. The didjeridu mouth sounds are performed cyclically to the same rhythm and set isorhythmically.

In addition to this single performance from 1968, there are three from the 1980s: Mar86-03-s01 and Mar88-04-s08 and –s09. These show that Barrtjap was still singing the song in almost exactly the same way twenty years later.

This song is one of two in moderate quintuple metre (defined by the stick beat pattern qqQqQ, performed in the moderate tempo band). The other is song 16, ‘Yagarra Tjüt Balk-nga-me Nga-mi’ (track 22). Typically for quintuple metre, the coda uses the didjeridu mouth-sounds ‘yit ngayi yit ngowe yit ngowe.’

Song structure summary


Melodic section 1

Text phrase 1

Rhythmic mode 4d (moderate uneven quintuple)

yagarra  nga  -bindja  -ng  nga  -mi  ngayi  ngayi  yit ngayi 
EXCL  1MIN.S  sing  SIM  1MIN.S  sit  SW  SW  SW 

Yagarra! I'm singing ‘ngayi ngayi yit ngayi’

Melodic section 2

Text phrase 2

Rhythmic mode 4d (moderate uneven quintuple)

yagarra  yine  ngadja  ya  di   di 
EXCL  what  1MIN.S.PRO  SW  SW  SW 

Yagarra! What am I? Ya di di …


Rhythmic mode 4d (moderate uneven quintuple)


Rhythmic mode 4d (moderate uneven (quintuple))

yit ngayi yit ngowe yit ngowe…