For the sake of a song

Mandji's Repertory

Billy Mandji was a prolific and popular Belyuen songman. He was first recorded by Alice Moyle in 1959 (and again in 1962, 1964 and 1968) (see Moyle’s Songs from the Northern Territory (1967) (AM Moyle, 1967a)for published examples of some of these recordings). He was last recorded by Allan Marett in 1988, shortly before his death. In discussing the musical conventions of Billy Mandji’s repertory, we must remember that any generalisations made here are, as was the case with Muluk, made on the basis of a relatively limited sample of songs.

Although Marett met and recorded Mandji, he was never able to work with him on the documentation of his songs. All translations and interpretations presented here are the result of working with other speakers, especially his extremely knowledgeable ‘daughter’, Marjorie Bilbil.

In addition to composing songs of his own, Billy Mandji inherited songs from the Emmiyangal brothers Robert Man.guna, George Ahmat and ‘Darkie’ Appang Wanggigi. For this reason, several of his songs are in Emmi. Only one song recorded here has text in his own language, Marri Tjavin, and many that are attributed to him comprise only vocable texts (ghost language). This conspicuous use of vocable texts was perhaps a strategy for coping with the fact that he was living in a community, Belyuen, where Marri Tjavin was not widely spoken. Billy Mandji also sang the Mendhe songs of Jimmy Muluk (some recordings were included in chapter 5), and often took the role of backup singer to Muluk.

Notes on the recording sample

Mandji’s repertory was probably substantially more extensive than the eleven songs that we have been able to include in this chapter. Songs by Billy Mandji have been performed by singers such as his ‘sons’ (brother’s sons, or nephews according to western nomenclature) Colin Worumbu Ferguson and Les Kundjil, the Jaminjung singer Major Raymond, the Wadjiginy singer Kenny Burrenjuck, and Mandji’s ‘daughter’ (brother’s daughter) Marjorie Bilbil. There may still be unlocated recordings of Billy Mandji himself. The full documentation of these songs remains a task for the future. [88]

The recorded sample under consideration here is therefore limited: most of the tracks are taken from recordings made by Alice Moyle in 1959, 1962 and 1968 and by Marett in 1988 (see table 6.1). Other recordings exist, but for a variety of reasons we have not been able to include any tracks from these at this stage. [89] Future research on these, and on the recordings of Billy Mandji songs by Kundjil and Worumbu may lead us to modify some of the conclusions below.

Track  Song #  Title  Singer  Recording 
Track 01  ‘Duwun’  Mandji  Moy62-27-s09 
Track 02  ‘Duwun’  Mandji  Mar88-40-s12 
Track 03  ‘Happy (lerri) Song No. 1’  Mandji  Moy68-01-s01 
Track 04  ‘Happy (lerri) Song No. 1’  Mandji  Mar88-41-s04 
Track 05  ‘Happy (lerri) Song No. 2’  Mandji  Moy68-01-s02 
Track 06  ‘Happy Song No. 3’  Mandji  Moy62-27-s10 
Track 07  ‘Duwun crab song’  Mandji  Moy68-01-s03 
Track 08  ‘Karra Mele Ngany-endheni-nö’  Mandji  Mar88-40-s13 
Track 09  ‘Song from Anson Bay’  Mandji  Moy59-03-s03 
Track 10  ‘Song from Anson Bay’  Mandji  Moy59-03-s04 
Track 11  ‘Robert Man.guna's Song’  Mandji  Moy62-27-s08 
Track 12  ‘Happy (lerri) Song No. 4’  Mandji  Mar88-40-s09 
Track 13  10  ‘Happy (lerri) Song No. 5’  Mandji  Mar88-42-s04 
Track 14  11  ‘Happy (lerri) Song No. 6’  Mandji  Mar88-42-s05 

Table 6.1 Songs from Billy Mandji’s repertory discussed in this chapter.