Ancient Languages, New Sounds
Over the last two years, a team of 14 people worked across 4 Top End communities to record and document Yolŋu clan languages and songs. On Thursday 21st June, ARDS Aboriginal Corporation celebrates the launch of a double album which features some of the music and language emerging from the Ancient Languages, New Sounds project.
Yolŋu society is governed by kinship structures which are formalised in languages and songlines. This project celebrates the diversity of Yolŋu knowledge, contemporary expression and the stories that unite Yolŋu across northeast Arnhem Land. Nyäluŋ Ḏuṉḏiwuy Wunuŋmurra is a veteran Djapu language worker who attended the first Nhulunbuy workshop in 2017.
“We Yolŋu are still living here with our languages, our clans, our law, our character and our culture. We continue these unbroken traditions. How do we share our way of life with non-Indigenous people – near and far? Through song. Through dance. Through ceremony.”
“Ŋilimurr dhuwal yolŋu nhina yukurra dhärukmirr, ga bäpurru'mirr, ga rommirr, gakal'mirr, djuŋunymirr.Dhuwali ŋilimurruŋ dhuwal ḏäpthun marrtji,ga ŋilimurr dhuwal yolŋu balanya nhakun ŋilimurr yurru djäma nhä malanynha milkum ŋunha bala ŋäpakiw walalaŋ barrkumal, galkimal ga dhiyal bäymathrough nhäkurr malanyŋukurr? Manikaykurr.Buŋgulkurr.Biḻmakurr.”
Nyäluŋ Ḏuṉḏiwuy Wunuŋmurra
Yolŋu clans and their languages are organised into two moieties – Dhuwa and Yirritja. Although the new album contains only some of the Dhuwa audio from the project, every Yolŋu listener will relate to these songs and stories. They remain the treasured property of the Yolŋu clans who have recorded their music and documented their languages. Indeed, the primary purpose of this project is to retain this valuable knowledge for current and future generations of Yolŋu. Nyäluŋ elaborates on why languages are so important,
“...our languages contain all of that knowledge. Our languages are not irrelevant. We are intimately connected with our languages, because as human beings we use words to talk together. We hold our languages close and ready.”
“...Ŋunhiyinhdhi warrpam marrtji yukurra djunama dhäruklil.Dhäruktja dhuwal ŋilimurruŋ, yaka ŋayi barrku, dhäruktja dhuwal ŋilimurruŋgal galki. Bili ŋilimurr yurru waŋany yolŋunhany dhiyaŋ ga dhärukthu. Ga yaka ŋayi dhuwal dhäruk ŋilimurr ŋuli nhäwiyirr nhanŋu galki yan ŋayi ga bitjana bili ŋilimurr ŋuli nhäma ga märram bala waŋan ŋuli dhäruk, yolkal ga yolkal.”
Nyäluŋ Ḏuṉḏiwuy Wunuŋmurra
The double album booklet contains some of the team’s language work: mostly Yolŋu lyrics, stories and synopses. English reading audiences will also see English paraphrase throughout. The English is a humble attempt to describe the histories and imageries evoked in Yolŋu song. Through this process, our team has sometimes decided to make implied information more explicit. On other occasions, the team has obscured some detail from the English, for example, place names and family names. Our team worked hard to choose and order the songs and stories that make sense to Yolŋu audiences and simultaneously educate non-Indigenous audiences. We hope that the English commentaries help non-Indigenous audiences to recognise and appreciate the depth and beauty of the Yolŋu catalogue.
ARDS Aboriginal Corporation gratefully acknowledges the Department of Communications and the Arts (ILA) for the funding and many Yolŋu cultural authorities for strong leadership and contributions. For those who can’t attend the official launch in Yirrkala, the double album Buku-waṯthunawuy Nininyŋu Rom will be available to purchase online very soon.