For the sake of a song

Limila Karrawala

CD 4, Track 29

TRACK 29 (Tre08-01-s14) Song 16: Limila Karrawala

This was another song of Lambudju’s that we had previously failed to record or locate on archive copies. As for the previous track, Colin Worumbu Ferguson sang it for Marett in 2008 to complete the record of Lambudju’s songs. It has the same melodic contour as ‘Rak Badjalarr.’ No song text is currently available for this track, but we do know that the word karrawala means ‘hill.’ See the music analysis section for further comments on this song.

Music analysis of Lambudju’s repertory

Lambudju’s repertory is significant because it exhibits a wide range of forms in every dimension of performance, text, melody and rhythmic mode.

Song structure summary

The structure of three of Lambudju’s performances, ‘Karra-ve Kanya-verver’ (track 11) and the two items of ‘Bangany Nye-bindja-ng’ (track 17), is somewhat unusual in that they have only one vocal section followed by a single instrumental section (this is very unusual for any wangga song). Most of his other performances have two vocal sections and two instrumental sections. The largest number of vocal sections are contained in Rusty Benmele Moreen’s performance of ‘Rak Badjalarr’ (track 4) and Lambudju’s performance of ’Lima Rak-pe’ (track 21), which each have four vocal and instrumental sections.

Text structure summary

Structurally the texts of Lambudju’s songs take a variety of forms. Most, including songs such as ‘Rak Badjalarr’, ‘Benmele’ and ‘Tjerrendet’, have cyclical texts that are set isorhythmically, while some, including songs such as ‘Bandawarra Ngalgin’ and ‘Karra-ve Kanya-verver’, have through-composed texts. Some texts are entirely in human language, some in a mixture of ghost language and some entirely in ghost language. Most of Lambudju’s song texts are stable from performance to performance. Notable exceptions to this are ‘Bandawarra Ngalgin’ (tracks 7-9), whose text is quite variable from item to item and from vocal section to vocal section, and there are several different versions of the text of ‘Rak Badjalarr’ (see further in chapter 7, tracks 1-6).

A distinctive feature of Lambudju’s style was his practice of singing vocables during instrumental sections on the 5th and 6th degrees of the scale (in the lower octave), rising to the tonic in the final instrumental section. This is reproduced by some singers, for example Colin Worumbu Ferguson, when they take up Lambudju’s songs, but not all (see for example Laurence Wurrpen’s performance of ‘Rak Badjalarr’ on track 3).

Rhythmic mode overview

Table 7.2 summarises Lambudju’s practice with regard to rhythmic mode. He is the only singer to use the slow moderate tempo band, and his fast tempo band is slower than that of most other singers (typically 120-126bpm), which is partly why his repertory has a rather laid back feel to it. Note that Lambudju only uses the fast doubled rhythmic mode as the final instrumental section of his unmeasured songs, and never uses it in combination with fast tempo vocal sections.

Lambudju’s songs use a relatively large number of rhythmic modes (very few share a rhythmic modal profile), which Marett has suggested appears to reflect the high degree of variety found in other aspects of Lambudju’s repertory, such as melody (see below) (Marett, 2005).

Distribution of rhythmic mode between vocal sections and instrumental sections

One feature of his practice that immediately leaps out is how often he uses the same rhythmic modes for both vocal and instrumental sections (the same cannot be said for others performing his songs, see table 7.3). This is the case for every song apart from the two songs in rhythmic mode 1 (which by definition must have a different rhythmic mode in the instrumental sections), and one of his performances of ‘Rak Badjalarr’. Other singers tended to maintain the same rhythmic mode for songs in the moderate and fast tempo bands, but Lambudju extended this practice to the slow moderate and slow songs.

Tempo band of vocal section  Song title  Rhythmic mode of VS  Rhythmic mode of IIS  Rhythmic mode of FIS 
Without clapsticks  Bandawarra Ngalgin (tracks 7-9)  4a   5b or 4a  
12  Karra Balhak Malvak (track 10)  4a  5b  
Slow (64-69 bpm)  Benmele (track 13) 
Slow Moderate (ca.99-107 bpm)  Tjerrendet (track 17)  3a  3a   3a 
10  Walingave (track 18)  3b  3b  3b 
Moderate (116 bpm)  12  Karra Balhak-ve (track 23)  4a  4a  4a 
Bangany Nye-bindja-ng [100] (track 17)  4b  4b  4b 
Karra-ve Kanya-verver (track 11 and 12)  4c  4c  4c 
Fast (119-22 bpm)  11  Djappana (tracks 19-22)  5a  5a  5a 
Rak Badjalarr (track 1)  5d  5d  5d 
Rak Badjalarr (track 2)   5a  5d  5d 
Winmedje (track 14)  5c  5c  5c 
16  Tjendabalhatj (track 16)  5c  5c  5c 

Table 7.2: Rhythmic modes performed by Lambudju (Track references are to chapter 7) (Final IS is bold when different)

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

This does not occur in Lambudju’s own practice, but see the discussion below regarding performances of Lambudju songs by Benmele, Worumbu and Yarrowin.

Mixing of rhythmic modes within a vocal section

This does not happen in Lambudju’s own practice or in that of others performing his songs.

Variation in rhythmic mode of instrumental sections across items

This happens only in ‘Bandawarra-ngalgin’ (tracks 7-9) where the first performance uses rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled) for the final instrumental section, while the second and third items use the same moderate even rhythmic mode 4a as found in the internal instrumental sections. Perhaps Lambudju initially followed the same pattern as used for ‘Karra Balhak Malvak’ (the other song in rhythmic mode 1) before deciding that the song should be performed in the second way.

Melodic mode overview

We have already mentioned that because of its complex pattern of transmission, Lambudju’s repertory contains the widest variety of melodic modes. These are set out in table 7.3. In the top part of the table are songs that use either the lydian, chromatic or major modes. It can be seen that a number of these are attributed to Lambudju, sometimes alone, and sometimes in combination with other singers. In the lower part of the table are songs that use the dorian mode. Because none of the songs known to have been composed by Lambudju use this mode, and because those in the dorian mode have qualities that suggest that they are old—either by attribution to a composer of Lambudju’s father’s generation (Aguk Malvak), or because they were recorded when Lambudju was very young, or because they refer to places such as Djappana and Walingave about which Lambudju himself had little or no knowledge—it seems plausible to suggest that songs that use a lydian, major or chromatic series were probably composed by Lambudju himself, while those that use the dorian series are perhaps those that he inherited from his father’s brothers.

Song  Pitch series  Attribution 
‘Tjerrendet’  A–G–F-sharp–D–C 
‘Tjendabalhatj’  A–G–F-sharp–F–E–D–C  Lambudju 
‘Mubagandi’  A–G–F-sharp–F–C  Lambudju 
‘Bandawarra-ngalgin’  chromatic D to C  Lambudju 
‘Benmele’  chromatic E to C  Lambudju 
‘Winmedje’  E–D–C–A–G–E–D–C  Lambudju/Benmele/Audrey Lippo 
‘Rak Badjalarr’  A–G–E–D–C  Lambudju/Audrey Lippo 
‘Limila Karrawala’  A–G–E–D–C  Lambudju 
‘Bangany Nye-bindja-ng’  G-F-D-D-C  Lambudju 
‘Karra Balhak Malvak’  C–B-flat–A–G–F–E-flat–D–C  Attributed to Aguk Malvak 
‘Walingave’  C–B-flat–A–G–F–E-flat–D–C 
‘Djappana’  B-flat–A–G–F–E-flat–D–C 
‘Bende Ribene’  C–B-flat–G–F–E-flat –C 
‘Karra Balhak-ve’  C–B-flat–A-flat–G–F–E-flat–D–C  Recorded in 1959 
‘Lima Rak-pe’  C–B-flat–A-flat–G–F–E-flat–D–C  Recorded in 1962 
‘Karra-ve Kanya-verver’  C–B-flat–A-flat–G–F–E–E-flat–D–C  Recorded in 1962 

Table 7.3 Melodic modes and attributions of songs

Songs that share a melody

Only ‘Rak Badjalarr’ and ‘Limila Karrawala’ share a melody.

Further notes on selected tracks

Here we provide some additional analytical notes on musical features of several songs (‘Rak Badjalarr’, ‘Bandawarra-ngalgin’, ‘Mubagandi’, ‘Bende Ribene’ and ‘Limila Karrawala’).

‘Rak Badjalarr’ (tracks 1-6)

It is interesting to contrast Lambudju’s use of rhythmic mode with the performances of his songs by other singers. Table 7.4 sets out the rhythmic modes used in all six performances of ‘Rak Badjalarr’ (tracks 1-6). Wurrpen’s performance uses rhythmic mode 5b throughout, which as we have noted was never used in this fashion by Lambudju himself; it is, however, not uncommon in other Belyuen song repertories. Benmele’s version of the song uses a number of different rhythmic modal settings in vocal sections: the first vocal section is unaccompanied by clapsticks, but has a definite didjeridu pulse in synchrony with the vocal rhythm, so is probably to be counted as a suspended form of one of the fast rhythmic modes (we have classified it as 5a (var)). Fast doubled beating follows this and continues throughout vocal sections 2 and 3 and their following vocal sections, before the clapsticks change for the final vocal and instrumental sections to an unusual pattern unique in the wangga corpus: fast uneven sextuple rhythmic mode 5e, consisting of five crotchet beats followed by a crotchet rest. Note that both Wurrpen and Benmele remain within Lambudju’s usual relaxed tempo range for fast songs (120-126bpm).

The final two performances by Worumbu are noteworthy in a number of respects. Like Benmele (but also like Worumbu’s ‘father’ Billy Mandji) both Worumbu’s performances change rhythmic mode in the course of the song item, with the final item in a different rhythmic mode (the change is from 4c to 5a in track 5, and from 5b to 5d in track 6). It is in tempo that we find the most interesting developments. We have already noted that Bobby Lane’s fast tempo is performed with a more relaxed tempo than other singers. Worumbu’s 1997 performance is so relaxed indeed that the fast uneven triple rhythmic mode 5d used in Lambudju’s performances (at about 122bpm) becomes what can only be interpreted as a moderate tempo uneven triple rhythmic mode 4c (performed by Worumbu at 116bpm, the same tempo as used by Lambudju for ‘Karra-ve Kanya-verver’). The final vocal section in fast even beating (rhythmic mode 5a) returns to Lambudju’s preferred tempo (123bpm). In 2008, Worumbu performs the first two vocal sections with fast doubled beating (reminding us of Wurrpen’s performance on track 3), finishing with Lambudju’s characteristic rhythmic mode 5d. Remarkably, however, this song is performed throughout at approximately 130bpm, much faster than any of the other performances, but within the range commonly used by Billy Mandji for fast songs (see table 2.4 in chapter 2).

Tempo band of first vocal section  Song title  Rhythmic mode of VS  Rhythmic mode of IIS  Rhythmic mode of FIS 
Fast  ‘Rak Badjalarr’ (track 1)  5d  5d  5d 
‘Rak Badjalarr’ (track 2)  5a  5d  5d 
‘Rak Badjalarr’ (Wurrpen) (track 3)  5b  5b  5b 
‘Rak Badjalarr’ (Benmele) (track 4)  1 (5a (var)), 5b, 5b, 5e  5b  5e 
Moderate  ‘Rak Badjalarr’ (Worumbu 1997) (track 5)  4c, 4c, 5a  4c  5a 
Fast  ‘Rak Badjalarr’ (Worumbu 2008) (track 6)  5b, 5b, 5d  5b  5d 

Table 7.4 Rhythmic mode in six versions of Lambudju’s song ‘Rak Badjalarr’. Lambudju’s two performances are shaded.

There are also small but significant textual differences between the various performances. Even in Lambudju’s own performances, the text of the opening text phrases is slightly different. As we have seen, the text of the first version is ‘[I am singing] for the sake of a song for my ancestral country, North Peron Island’). In Lambudju’s second version, the song-giving ancestral ghost simply issues his orders to the song-man: ‘you sing a song for my ancestral country, North Peron Island.’

Wurrpen (track 3) often truncates the text of the opening text phrase. For most text phrases he simply sings rak badjalarr-maka bangany (‘A song for my ancestral country North Peron Island’), sometimes extending this to rak badjalarr-maka bangany-nyung (‘for the sake of a song for my ancestral country North Peron Island’). Wurrpen does not use Lambudju’s distinctive vocalisation during instrumental sections, instead adding a coda of the type found in Barrtjap’s repertory. This is a rare case of a singer mixing aspects of the two singers’ styles. Benmele’s practice in instrumental sections is similar to Lambudu’s, where he sings similar vocables moving from the 6th to the 5th degree in non-final instrumental sections, resolving to the tonic in the final instrumental section.

Worambu’s performance in 1997 (track 5) uses the same text phrase 1 as used by Lambudju on track 2, rak badjalarr bangany nye-bindja-ng (‘You sing a song for my ancestral country, North Peron Island’), but Worumbu puts his own stamp on the song by introducing an additional repeat of this text phrase at the end of melodic section 2. In the 2008 performance Worumbu consistently sings the elliptical text rak badjalarr bangany-nyung (as did Wurrpen) while his back up singer, Roger Yarrowin, caught unawares, appears to sing the full line.

‘Bandawarra-ngalgin’ (tracks 7-9)

The occurrence of both moderate and fast tempo bands within an item, as in the instrumental sections of tracks 7 and 9, is relatively unusual in wangga. While using moderate tempo (rhythmic mode 4a) for non-final instrumental sections, in the final instrumental sections of these tracks Lambudju uses fast doubled beating (rhythmic mode 5b).

‘Mubagandi’, ‘Bende Ribene’ and ‘Limila Karrawala’

Table 7.5 shows the use of rhythmic modes in the three Lambudju songs performed only by others.

Tempo band of first vocal section  Song title  Rhythmic mode of VS  Rhythmic mode of IIS  Rhythmic mode of FIS 
Fast  14  ‘Mubagandi’ (tracks 25-26) (Yarrowin)  5c  5c  5c 
14  ‘Mubagandi’ (track 27) (Yarrowin)  5c (var)  5c  5c 
Moderate  15  ‘Bende Ribene’ (track 28)  4a  4a  4a 
16  ‘Limila Karrawala’ (track 29)  4c  4c  4c 

Table 7.5 Rhythmic mode in four modern performances of Lambudju’s songs ‘Mubagandi’, ‘Bende Ribene’, and ‘Limila Karrawala’.

‘Mubagandi’ (tracks 25-27) is performed by Yarrowin in fast uneven quadruple rhythmic mode 5c (the same mode as used in ‘Winmedje’ and ‘Tjendabalhatj’ as performed by Lambudju). He performs the song at a much faster tempo than anything by Lambudju himself: 133bpm, which is a similar tempo to that used in the other wangga repertories for this rhythmic mode. In track 27, Yarrowin suspends the clapstick beating, though audience members and the didjeridu player Nicky Jorrock maintain the beat.

‘Bende Ribene’ (track 28) and ‘Limila Karrawala’ (track 29) were both performed by Worumbu in 2008. They are both performed at about 117bpm, closer to the usual range for Lambudju’s moderate tempo songs (110-116bpm) than to his fast songs (120-126bpm). In Lambudju’s own performances, he uses rhythmic mode 4a (moderate even) for ‘Karra Balhak-ve’ and rhythmic mode 4c (moderate uneven triple) for ‘Karra-ve Kanya-verver’. Note that ‘Limila karrawala’ shares a melody with ‘Rak Badjalarr’, which Worumbu likewise performed in 1997 using rhythmic mode 4d at about the same tempo for 2 our of 3 vocal sections (see comments above).


Wangga Image

Bobby Lambudju Lane at Indian Island (Photo by Adrienne Haritos McConvell)

Wangga Image

Tourist corroboree performers at Mandorah, 1987. Bobby Lane Lambudju is second from left (rear). Rusty Moreen Benmele is second from right (kneeling). Tommy Barrtjap is the singer seated on the right. (Photo by James P. Sylgo)

We are taking steps to track down the photographer for permission. It is marked copyright James P. Sylgo 1987, and was printed as a postcard, from which the image has been scanned. It is labelled “Number eighty four” “Aboriginal tribal traditions are passed down through the generations”. The postcard was distributed by Artique Designs 09 4433819, and printed by Kaleidoscope print and design.

This may be the same James P. Sylgo who is the registered proprietor of Sylgo Publishing Pty Ltd in Osborne Park, WA (ASIC search). ACN 009 242 808 – business address 25 Wandarrie Ave, Yokine WA 6060 according to There is no ABN registered to these names.

There are also some poor quality stills taken from a Hi-8 video shot in 1991 byAllan Marett. It may be possible to improve these if we can find the recording.

Wangga Image

Lambudju recording for Allan Marett with Nicky Jorrock (didjeridu) in 1991. (Photo still taken from Marett video 1991)

Wangga Image

Lambudju takes a break from the recording session, Belyuen, 1991. (Photo still taken from Marett video 1991)

Wangga Image

Roger Yarrowin (wearing decorated belt) leads the dancing at Belyuen to celebrate the 2006 launch of Allan Marett’s book Songs, dreamings and ghosts. (Photo by Gretchen Miller, ABC)

Wangga Image

Women at Belyuen, including Lambudju’s daughters, dancing at the launch of Allan Marett’s book, Belyuen, 2006. (Photograph Gretchen Miller, ABC)

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Men at Belyuen, including Lambudju’s son and grandsons, dancing at the launch of Allan Marett’s book, Belyuen, 2006. (Photo Gretchen Miller, ABC)

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Colin Worumbu singing ‘Rak Badjalarr’ at Mandorah, 1997. (Photo by Allan Marett MandorahBelyuen97-34)