For the sake of a song

Lambudju's Repertory

Bobby Lambudju Lane (1941-1993) was one of the two leading songmen at Belyuen in the late 1980s and early 1990s (the other being Barrtjap, see chapter 4). The character of his songs stands, however, in marked contrast to those of Barrtjap. Whereas Barrtjap’s repertory is marked by an economy of form, Lambudju’s songs were more varied: his texts use a richer variety of forms and lexicon, and even mix two languages, Batjamalh and Emmi; his melodies are diverse and use an array of different modes. Lambudju’s extensive use of sung vocables during instrumental sections is another distinctive feature.

The key to this diversity is the fact that Lambudju’s repertory came from a number of different sources: apart from those that he composed himself, he inherited songs from his two Wadjiginy ‘fathers’ Aguk Malvak and Alalk, as well as his Emmiyangal adoptive father,, as well as from other members of the family.

Three of Lambudju’s father’s brothers, Aguk Malvak, Alalk and Tjulatji, were leading songmen in the first half of the twentieth century. Because Lambudju was too young to learn these songs before they died, his father, Jack Lambudju, asked his sister’s daughter’s Emmiyangal husband, Nym, to hold the songs in trust until such time as Lambudju came of age. In our two earliest recordings, from 1959 and 1962 respectively, we hear a very young Lambudju singing alongside’s son Rusty Benmele Moreen, who at that time was undoubtedly the more accomplished singer. Benmele, however, died young, and by the time that Marett arrived in Belyuen in 1986, Lambudju was the undisputed master of this tradition, singing songs inherited from the upper generations alongside many of his own composition.

The texts of many of Lambudju’s songs concern his country to the north of the Daly River and in particular Rak Badjalarr (North Peron Island), the place to which people from Belyuen return after their death. Many of his songs, for example ‘Rak Badjalarr’ (tracks 1-6), ‘Bandawarra-ngalgin’ (tracks 7-9), ‘Karra Balhak Malvak’ (track 10) and ‘Karra-ve kanya-verver’ (tracks 11 and 12) contain the words of Wunmalang ghosts, singing as they return to Rak Badjalarr and its surrounding country. Other songs, for example ‘Benmele’ (track 13), Tjerrendet (track 15) and Tjerrendet (track 16) concern specific individuals, while others, for example ‘Bangany Nye-bindja-ng’ (track 17) are about the act of singing and dancing themselves. There are also a number of songs, for example ‘Lima Rak-pe’ (track 24), ‘Bende Ribene’ (track 28) and ‘Limil Karrawale’ (track 29) that are entirely, or largely in ghost language (vocables),

Notes on the recording sample

Because Lambudju’s life was cut short at a relatively young age, the corpus of recordings is not large, although it does have an intriguing historical depth (see table 7.1).

Track  Song #  Title  Singer  Recording 
Track 01  ‘Rak Badjalarr’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s07 
Track 02  ‘Rak Badjalarr’  Lambudju  Moy62-01-s01 
Track 03  ‘Rak Badjalarr’  Wurrpen and Benmele  Wes61-s15 
Track 04  ‘Rak Badjalarr’  Benmele  Wes61-s25 
Track 05  ‘Rak Badjalarr’  Worumbu  Mar97-13-s13 
Track 06  ‘Rak Badjalarr’  Worumbu  Tre08-01-s26 
Track 07  ‘Bandawarra-ngalgin’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s02 
Track 08  ‘Bandawarra-ngalgin’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s03 
Track 09  ‘Bandawarra-ngalgin’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s04 
Track 10  ‘Karra Balhak Malvak’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s09 
Track 11  ‘Karra-ve kanya-verver’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s01 
Track 12  ‘Karra-ve kanya-verver’  Lambudju and Rankin  Moy62-01-s02 
Track 13  ‘Benmele’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s10 
Track 14  ‘Winmedje’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s06 
Track 15  ‘Tjerrendet’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s05 
Track 16  ‘Tjendabalhatj’  Lambudju  Mar86-04-s11 
Track 17  ‘Bangany Nye-bindja-ng’  Lambudju  Mar91-04-s04 
Track 18  10  ‘Walingave’  Lambudju  Mar91-04-s05 
Track 19  11  ‘Djappana’  Lambudju  Mar91-05-s04 
Track 20  ‘Djappana’  Lambudju  Mar91-05-s05 
Track 21  ‘Djappana’  Lambudju  Mar91-05-s06 
Track 22  ‘Djappana’  Lambudju  Mar91-05-s07 
Track 23  12  ‘Karra Balhak-ve’  Lambudju and Benmele  Moy59-03-s01_02 
Track 24  13  ‘Lima Rak-pe’  Lambudju and Benmele  Moy62-01-s03 
Track 25  14  ‘Mubagandi’  Yarrowin  Mar97-05-s01 
Track 26  ‘Mubagandi’  Yarrowin  Mar97-05-s02 
Track 27  ‘Mubagandi’  Yarrowin  Mar97-05-s03 
Track 28  15  ‘Bende Ribene’  Worumbu and Yarrowin  Tre08-01-s08 
Track 29  16  ‘Limila Karrawala’  Worumbu and Yarrowin  Tre08-01-s14 

Table 7.1 Songs from Lambudju’s repertory discussed in this chapter.

In all, sixteen songs have been recorded over a fifty-year period from 1959 to the present. [96] The earliest recording, from 1959, was made by Alice Moyle when Lambudju was only in his late teens. In 1962, Moyle again recorded Lambudju, now about twenty, singing four songs, including the song with which he is most strongly associated, ‘Rak Badjalarr’ (track 1-6). Lambudju was also recorded by Marett in 1986 and 1991. Lambudju’s adoptive brother, Rusty Benmele Moreen, was recorded singing with Lambudju by Alice Moyle in 1959, and later recorded solo by LaMont West at Beswick Creek (Barunga) in 1961. Colin Worumbu Ferguson, who took over Lambudju’s repertory after his death, was recorded on a number of occasions by Marett in 1997 and by Treloyn in 2008. Worumbu’s brother, Les Kundjil, also sang Lambudju’s songs on occasion, and Roger Yarrowin, Lambudju’s brother-in-law, also received some of his songs. In 2008, Worumbu was at particular pains to fill in any gaps in our knowledge of the various Belyuen repertories.