For the sake of a song

Anadadada Bangany-nyaya

CD 1, Track 26

TRACK 26 (Mar97-04-s04) Song 22: Anadadada Bangany-nyaya

Sung text  Free translation 
anadadada bangany-nyaya nga-bindja–ya  ‘Anadadada’ is the song I’m singing 
anadadada bangany-nyaya nga-bindja–ya  ‘Anadadada’ is the song I’m singing 
dengalma dengalma nga-ve  I’m out of breath 
yangarang nga -bindja -ya  Today I’m singing 
bangany nga-bindja-ya  I’m singing the song 
ngwe ngwe ngwe  Ngwe ngwe ngwe 

This song was composed by Kenny Burrenjuck, who ‘made up’ rather than dreamed his songs. The reason for this was that he lived at the community of Milikapiti on Melville Island, away from his community of Belyuen and hence his familial ghosts. Kenny was nonetheless acknowledged as Barrtjap’s main heir in the matter of songs and he frequently visited Belyuen for ceremonial and other reasons, hence his nickname, ‘Come and go.’

Kenny was asthmatic and this sometimes made singing difficult, hence the song’s reference to breathlessness. At his rag burning ceremony in August 2008 this song was frequently sung, making it particularly poignant when his ‘puffer’ (inhaler) was thrown into the fire along with his other belongings (Barwick & Marett, 2011).

Song structure summary


Melodic section 1

Text phrases 1-2

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

anadadada  bangany  -nyaya  nga  -bindja  -ya 
SW  song  SW  1MIN.S.R  sing  SW 

‘Anadadada’ is the song I’m singing

Text phrase 3

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

dengalma  dengalma  nga  -ve 
breathless  breathless  1MIN.S.R  move 

I’m out of breath

Text phrase 4

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

yangarang  nga  -bindja  -ya 
today  1.MIN.S.R  sing  SW 

Today I’m singing

Text phrase 5

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

bangany  nga  -bindja  -ya 
song  1.MIN.S.R  sing  SW 

I’m singing the song

Text phrase 6

Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

ngwe  ngwe  ngwe 

Ngwe ngwe ngwe


Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)


Rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple)

yit ngayi ngayi yit ngowe …

Music analysis of Barrtjap’s repertory

This section of the chapter provides an overview of Barrtjap’s song structures, text structures and use of rhythmic and melodic mode across his repertory, as well as additional musical detail on some of the tracks.

Song structure overview

All Barrtjap’s songs take the form of an introductory instrumental section, followed by repeating pairs of vocal section plus instrumental section and a coda. The coda, a structural constituent unique to Barrtjap’s repertory, is accompanied by characteristic vocables (didjeridu mouth sounds), which vary according to its rhythmic mode. Not infrequently the coda is in a different mode from the immediately preceding instrumental section, and because it ends the song item, in several respects it may be viewed as structurally equivalent to the final instrumental section in the other repertories (Marett, 2005, p 93).

All but two of the songs discussed here have either two or three paired vocal/instrumental sections. Barrtjap’s songs tend to be very stable in their vocal sections, with very little textual variation. They also tend to maintain the same melody and rhythmic treatment from one vocal section to another, and from one song item to another, even over long periods of time.

Most Barrtjap songs have two or three melodic sections within the vocal section, the exception being ‘Anadadada Bangany-nyaya’ (track 26), which has only one melodic section). Melodic sections begin on a high pitch and descend to cadence on the note articulated by the didjeridu tonic. In most cases melodic sections are sung in one breath, though in unusually long melodic sections, such as that in ‘Ya[garra] Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’ (track 7), the singer may be forced to subdivide the melodic section by taking a breath.

Text structure overview

The predominant themes of his songs are acts of song-giving—where we hear the words of the song-giving ghost as he or she addresses the songman in his dream, as in ‘Ya[garra] Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’ (chapter 4, track 7)— and the act of singing itself. There are a number of generic references to country: for example, in ‘Yagarra Nedja Tjine Rak-pe’ (chapter 4, track 20), the ghost is asking the singer (addressed as ‘son’) where his ancestral country lies. Barrtjap’s repertory is nevertheless conspicuous for its lack of references to specific named places. This is undoubtedly because Barrtjap and his kin were living far from their traditional country on Anson Bay.

Most of Barrtjap’s texts comprise both ghost language (or other forms of unintelligible vocables such as didjeridu mouth sounds) and Batjamalh. A distinctive feature of Barrtjap’s style is that that the text in human language (Batjamalh) comprises a limited number of text formulae (Marett, 2005, pp 156-158). His songs are quite diverse in text structure. Some of his songs, for example ‘Ya[garra] Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’ (track 7), have through-composed text (with no repeated text material within the vocal section), while others, for example ‘Nyere-nyere Lima Kaldja’ (track 11), are made up entirely of cyclical text that is sung isorhythmically (that is, several repeats of the same text string within a vocal section, using the same rhythmic setting each time). The vast majority of songs, however, use both types of text, sometimes using cyclic text for one melodic section and through-composed text in the next. An example is ‘Yagarra Ye-yenenaya’ (track 15).

Rhythmic mode overview

Table 4.2 shows that Barrtjap used no fewer than nine different rhythmic modes. Barrtjap was generally very consistent in his use of rhythmic mode from performance to performance of the same song, both for vocal sections and instrumental sections.

Barrtjap is the only wangga singer to use quintuple metre (rhythmic mode 4d). He uses a gapped quintuple beating pattern (qqQqQ) in two of his three songs in the moderate tempo band: ‘Yagarra Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi-ngaye’ (chapter 4, track 2) and ‘Yagarra Tjüt Balk-nga-me Nga-mi’ (chapter 4, track 22), and it also appears in the coda of the third song in that tempo band. The fast tempo song ‘Be Bangany-nyaya’ (song 7, chapter 4, track 10) is also in quintuple metre, though here it is the vocal rhythm rather than the stick beating that articulates the metre (see further in Marett, 2005, pp 172-174)

Tempo band of vocal section  Song title  Rhythmic mode of VS  Rhythmic mode of IIS  Rhythmic mode of coda 
Without clapsticks  ‘Ya[garra] Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’ (tracks 7-8)  5b+5a+2, 5d  5d 
10  ‘Karra Ngadja-maka Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’ (track 13)  5a  5d  
Slow (58–65 bpm)  ‘Kanga Rinyala Nga-ve Bangany-nyung’ (tracks 5-6)  5d  
17  ‘Yagarra Tjine Rak-pe’ (track 23)  5d  
18  ‘Yagarra Delhi Nya-ngadja-barra-ngarrka’ (track 24)  2a, 2b+2a  5a  
Moderate (117–20 bpm)  ‘Yagarra Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi Ngayi’ (track 2)  4d  4d  4d 
15  ‘Ya Rembe Ngaya Lima Ngaya’ (track 21)  4a  4a  [4]
16  ‘Yagarra Tjüt Balk-nga-me Nga-mi’ (track 22)  4d  4d  4d 
Fast (126–44 bpm)  ‘Yagarra Bangany Nye-ngwe’ (track 9)  5a  5a  5a 
‘Be Bangany-nyaya’ (track 10)  5a  5a  5a 
‘Bangany-nyung Ngaya’ (tracks 3-4)  5c  5c  5c 
11  ‘Yerre Ka-bindja-maka Ka-mi’ (track 14)  5c  5c  5c 
19  ‘Nga-ngat-pat-pa Mangalimba’ (track 25)  5c  5c  5c 
22  ‘Anadadada Bangany-nyaya’ (track 26)  5c  5c  5c 
Fast doubled (268–288/134–144 bpm)  ‘Ya Bangany-nyung Nga-bindja Yagarra’ (track 1)  5b, 5b, 5a  5b, 5b, 5a  5a 
‘Nyere-nyere Lima Kaldja’ (track 11)  5b, 5b, 5c  5b, 5b, 5c  5c 
‘Nyere-nye Bangany Nyaye’ (track 12)  5b, 5b, 5c, 5c  5b, 5b, 5c, 5c  5c 
12  ‘Yagarra Ye-yenenaya’ (track 15)  5b, 5b, 5c  5b, 5b, 5c  5c 
13  ‘Naya Rradja Bangany Nye-ve’ (tracks 16-19)  5c (Bandak)5b, 5b, 5c (Barrtjap)5b, 5c, 5c (Burrenjuck)  5c (Bandak)5b, 5b, 5c (Barrtjap)5b, 5c, 5c (Burrenjuck)  5c 
14  ‘Yagarra Nedja Tjine Rak-pe’ (track 20)  5b, 5b, 5c  5b, 5b, 5c  5c 

Table 4.2 Rhythmic modes used in Barrtjap’s repertory (coda is bold when different). VS = vocal section, IIS = internal instrumental section. Commas indicate successive vocal or instrumental sections in sequence through the song, where these are different. Plus signs indicate sequences of rhythmic modes occurring within a section. Names of performers in brackets.

It is clear that Barrtjap’s favorite rhythmic modes were fast (twelve of his songs are entirely in this tempo band). He had a particular liking for songs in the fast uneven quadruple rhythmic mode 5c (qqqQ) and it can be seen from the table that nine songs (almost half the repertory) are sung wholly or partly in this mode.

While fast songs are associated with a happy celebratory mood, by contrast the songs with unmeasured vocal sections (rhythmic mode 1), or vocal sections sung with slow beating (rhythmic mode 2) have a certain weight to them, and it is these songs that are performed at particularly serious parts of ceremonies. Three of these songs—‘Ya[garra] Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’ (chapter 4, track 7), ‘Yagarra Tjine Rak-pe’ (chapter 4, track 23) and ‘Yagarra Delhi Nye-bindja-ng Barra Ngarrka’ (chapter 4, track 24) ­ are rarely, if ever, performed today.

Presenting the same text in different rhythmic modes in different vocal sections within an item

All six songs with vocal sections in rhythmic mode 5b change in their last vocal section to a different fast rhythmic mode; the fast even rhythmic mode 5a in the case of ‘Ya Bangany-nyung Nga-bindja Yagarra’ (track 1) and the fast uneven quadruple rhythmic mode 5c for the remaining five songs (the so-called lerri ‘happy’ songs—see further below): ‘Nyere-nyere Lima Kaldja ‘ (track 11), ‘Nyere-nye Bangany-nyaya’ (track 12); ‘Yagarra Ye-yenenaye’ (track 15); ‘Naya Rradja Bangany Nye-ve ‘ (tracks 18-19) and ‘Yagarra Nedja Tjine Rak-pe’ (track 20). In all cases the instrumental sections (including coda) take their rhythmic mode from the immediately preceding vocal section.

The five lerri ‘happy’ songs have the following characteristics in common with lerri songs in other Belyuen repertories (Mandji and Muluk):

  • Fast tempo;
  • Largely or totally isorhythmic texts, with some variability in the end point of the isorhythmic cycle;
  • A high proportion of vocables (‘ghost language’) in the song texts.

Barrtjap’s group of lerri songs shares the following additional characteristics:

  • The first one or two vocal sections are sung in rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled) and the final one or two in rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple);
  • Metre is always compound, that is, with triple subdivisions of the main beats;
  • The instrumental sections continue the rhythmic mode of the preceding vocal section, except when a new rhythmic mode is to be taken up in the following vocal section. In these cases, the new rhythmic mode may be introduced at the very end of the preceding instrumental section.

Distribution of rhythmic mode between vocal sections and instrumental sections

Songs in the moderate and fast tempo bands remain in the same tempo band throughout, and some —namely those that use rhythmic modes 4d, 5c and 5a in their vocal sections—remain in the same rhythmic mode throughout all sections of the song, including the coda (the only example of a song in rhythmic mode 4a maintains that mode in the instrumental sections but changes to 4d for the coda).

By contrast, songs with vocal sections in the unmeasured and slow tempo bands change tempo band and rhythmic mode between vocal and instrumental sections. Songs in the slow even rhythmic mode 2 maintain that mode in the instrumental sections, but change to a fast tempo for the coda, while songs with vocal sections in the unmeasured rhythmic mode 1 tend to use fast tempo rhythmic modes both in instrumental sections and in the coda. I

Mixing of rhythmic modes within a vocal section

The slow tempo song ‘Yagarra Delhi Nya-ngadja-barra-ngarrka’ (track 24) is the only one to exhibit any variability in rhythmic mode within a vocal section, hère depending on whether or not parts of the song are sung with the suspended form of slow beating (rhythmic mode 2b).

Mixing of rhythmic modes within an instrumental section

In one case unique in his repertory, ‘Ya[garra] Nga-bindja-ng Nga-mi’ (chapter 4, track 7), Barrtjap uses a series of different rhythmic modes for the first instrumental section of the first item (5b+5a+2) but then settles on the fast uneven triple rhythmic mode (rhythmic mode 5d) for the remaining instrumental sections.

Melodic mode overview

Every one of Barrtjap’s songs has a different melody, but the repertory is given melodic cohesion by the fact that all but one song are in the same (dorian) melodic mode. The exception is ‘Yagarra Delhi Nya-ngadja-barra-ngarrka’ (chapter 4, track 24). Perhaps its different (major) mode is attributable to the fact that it refers to a local Larrakiya Dreaming (the Hairy Cheeky Yam, Wilha), while the remainder of the repertory is associated with Barrtjap’s own Wadjiginy traditional country south of the Cox Peninsula. Given that there is traditionally a close relationship between the melody of songs and the Dreamings of those who perform them, Barrtjap may have felt obliged to use a different melody in order to avoid any appearance of appropriating another group’s cultural property.

Further notes on selected tracks

Here we provide some additional analytical notes on musical features of seven songs (tracks 1, 10, 12, 13, 18, 21 and 24).

Track 1 ‘Ya Bangany-nyung Nga-bindja Yagarra’

In other recordings of this song (Moy68-05-s01 and Mar88-04-s10 and s11) all vocal sections are sung with fast even beating (rhythmic mode 5a). This version is a little more varied in that it uses fast doubled beating (rhythmic mode 5b) for the first two vocal sections and reserves fast even beating for the third and final vocal section. The instrumental sections, as is always the case with fast even and fast doubled beating, maintains the rhythmic mode of the previous vocal section, but the change of rhythmic mode from 5b (fast doubled) to 5a (fast even) occurs towards the end of instrumental section 2. The coda, too, is in the same metre as the preceding vocal and instrumental section and uses the didjeridu mouth-sound pattern ‘yit ngayi ngayi’ typical of fast even beating. It is in the coda that the most vigorous and most formalised dancing occurs.

Track 10 ‘Be Bangany-nyaya’

Text phrases are realised as a two- or three-beat rhythmic cells, which at first follow each other in an irregular configuration but then settle into pairs that articulate a regular 5/4 metre (see musical transcription in example 7.4 in Marett, 2005, p 173). The conventions that determine the relationships between text phrases and rhythmic cells in this song are set out in detail in Marett, 2005, pp 172-74.

While the instrumental sections and coda maintain the fast even beating of the vocal sections (rhythmic mode 5a), the quintuple grouping of the sung text is reflected in Barrtjap’s use in the coda of a quintuple form of didjeridu mouth sound: yit ngayi yit ngayi ngayi yit ngayi ngayi.

Track 12 ‘Nyere-nye Bangany Nyaye’

Here vocal sections 1 and 2 are in rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled) and vocal sections 3 and 4 in rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple).

Track 13 ‘Karra Ngadja-maka Nga-bindja-ng Ngami’

The instrumental sections of this song are unusual in a number of ways: first, they employ a number of rhythmic modes (fast even beating, followed by slow even beating, followed by one cycle of fast uneven triple); secondly, as elsewhere occurs only in codas, they are accompanied by didjeridu mouthsounds from the songman. Perhaps for this reason there is no instrumental section following vocal section 3. The singer proceeds directly to the coda, which is in the rhythmic mode hinted at at the end of each instrumental section, namely, rhythmic mode 5d (fast uneven triple).

Track 18 ‘Naya Rradja Bangany Nye-ve’

The song item begins with the fast doubled rhythmic mode (5b) for the first two vocal sections, and then changes in vocal section 3 to fast uneven quadruple (5c) (the same rhythmic mode used by Bandak and Wurrpen throughout their performances in the previous two tracks). Barrtjap follows the same sequence of rhythmic modes as for performances of his other lerri ‘happy’ songs 8, 9, 12 and 14 (tracks 11, 12, 15 and 20).

Track 21 ‘Ya Rembe Ngaya Lima Ngaya’

A similar juxtaposition of duple and triple elements as described for melodic section 1 also occurs in melodic section 2, where text phrase 7, yagarra yine nga-bindja-ya (‘what am I singing?’), is set to four beats, but the partial repetition in text phrase 8 is set to three beats. This juxtaposition of text elements set to two- (or four-) beat and three-beat rhythmic cells reminds us of song 7 ‘Be Bangany-nyaya’ (track 10). That the metrical irregularity is intentional is confirmed in the coda, where Barrtjap explicitly adopts a quintuple beating pattern coupled with the didjeridu pattern used for quintuple beating (this aspect of the song was also missed in Marett, 2005).

Track 24 ‘Yagarra Delhi Nya-ngadja-barra-ngarrka’

This song unusually uses both forms of rhythmic mode 2, the first involving slow even beating (rhythmic mode 2a, see text phrases 1 and 5), the second involving a suspension of the stick beating but the maintenance of the slow even pulse by the didjeridu (rhythmic mode 2b, see text phrases 2-4). As with other songs in slow rhythmic modes, the metre switches to a fast rhythmic mode in the coda in order to facilitate dancing.

Wangga Image

Tourist corroboree group at Mandorah, including Tommy Barrtjap, seated on right. (Photo James P. Slygo, 1987)

Wangga Image

Tommy Barrtjap 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 Rankine, Ginger Moreen, Brucie Pott, Harold Woodie, Mosek Manpurr, Prince of Wales, seated, Tommy Barrtjap. (Photo, Elkin collection, University of Sydney Archives)

Wangga Image

Tommy Lippo and Brucie Potts dancing, George Munggulu (seated), Mosek Manpurr, Prince of Wales (at rear), George Manbi, Nipper Rankine, Ginger Moreen, Tommy Barrtjap standing and singing. (Photo, Elkin collection, University of Sydney Archives)

Wangga Image

Jimmy Bandak singing at a burnim-rag ceremony at Bagot, 1953. Left to right:

Wangga Image

Dolly Garinyi, Maggie Woodie, Jimmy Bandak, Maudie Woodie, George Munggulu. (Photo, Elkin collection, University of Sydney Archives)

Wangga Image

Kenny Burrenjuck singing for the launch of Lysbeth Ford’s Batjamalh dictionary, Belyuen, 1997. (Photo by Linda Barwick)