Ancient Languages, New Sounds

Ancient Languages, New Sounds


This double album, Buku-waṯthunawuy Nininyŋu Rom, features the traditional and contemporary sounds of Yolŋu clans from northeast Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia. These clans belong to the Dhuwa moiety and their music expresses the complex kinship between families, ancient stories and lands.


This album emerged from ARDS Aboriginal Corporation’s Ancient Languages, New Sounds project. Over 2 years, a team of 14 people worked across 4 Top End communities to record and document these clan languages and songs. The songs, stories and designs remain the treasured property of the Yolŋu clans and their descendents; others are not free to copy or appropriate this content in any way. We ask all listeners to respect the primary purpose of this project: to retain valuable knowledge for current and future generations of Yolŋu. 

The booklet contains some of the team’s language work: Yolŋu lyrics, stories and synopses. The English is a humble attempt to describe the imagery evoked in Yolŋu song. We hope that the English commentaries help non-Indigenous audiences to appreciate the beauty of the Yolŋu catalogue and to recognise the cohesive Yolŋu knowledge which in English may be classified into specialist fields like geography, sociology, spirituality, ecology or history.

ARDS Aboriginal Corporation gratefully acknowledges the Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts (ILA) for the funding and many Yolŋu cultural authorities for strong leadership and contributions.

“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.Workshop Participant, 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.” Workshop Participant, 2017

Disc 1

  • 1.Gamunuŋgu (dhäwu)
  • 2.Dhamuku (biḻma ga yiḏaki)
  • 3.Dhamuku
  • 4.Dhamuku (biḻma ga yiḏaki)
  • 5.Dharpa (dhäruk, biḻma ga yiḏaki)
  • 6.Gapu (dhäruk, biḻma ga yiḏaki)
  • 7.Gapu Muḻmuḻ’mi (biḻma ga yiḏaki)
  • 8.Gapu Muḻmuḻ’mi
  • 9.Lupthuwan Gapu Muḻmuḻ’ḻi (biḻma ga yiḏaki)

Disk 2

  • 1.Yolŋu Nhina, Gapu Nhäma (biḻma ga yiḏaki)
  • 2.Yolŋu Nhina, Gapu Nhäma
  • 3.Djarrak (dhäwu)
  • 4.Djarrak (biḻma ga yiḏaki)
  • 5.Djarrak (milkarri)
  • 6.Djarrak
  • 7.Ŋäṉḏi Baywara
  • 8.Mokuy Maṉḏa, Ṉakirritjŋu ga Wuḻŋarrk (biḻma ga yiḏaki)
  • 9.Mokuy Maṉḏa, Galpaṉ, Wäk (biḻma ga yiḏaki)
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