Barngarla Songs

Nexus Arts will work with the Barngarla community (SA), Gunditj/Kurnai musician and student of linguistics Corey Theatre (SA), Ngaanyatjarra musician and choir leader Vonda Last (SA), Barngarla leader and linguistics student Stephen Atkinson (SA), and video and sound artist Dave Laslett (SA) to record traditional Barngarla songs and stories from Elders, and adapt and compose new songs in Barngarla through intergenerational music workshops for recording and public performance.


In recent language workshops in Port Augusta and Port Lincoln at the end of May 2016, Barngarla participants realised that there were still several Barngarla Elders alive with a substantial knowledge of language-related songs and music. As a tool for reclaiming the language and for reconnecting with Barngarla knowledge and heritage, community members discussed with the Gunditj/Kurnai musician and linguistics student Corey Theatre the recording, adapting and writing of Barngarla songs. In 2014 Nexus Arts worked with the Barngarla community in Port Augusta on the Ruby Award winning project Barngarla Stories of Resilience. The Barngarla Songs project is and extension of the relationship between Nexus and the Barngarla community.


Stage 1 (Documentation and collection of songs/stories)

The Nexus team, including lead musician Corey Theatre and documentation specialists, will be accompanied by Barngarla man Stephen Atkinson to visit Barngarla Elders who live in regional South Australia. During the visits Stephen and Corey will interview Elders and video and sound record songs and stories. Corey will be able to use his music skills to create music as directed by the Elders to accompany the songs that were used in traditional ceremonies in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Stage 1 will aim to record as much dialogue with Elders as possible due to the fragility and ill-health of so many of the Elders so their stories can continue to be shared with younger generations. The songs will be recorded predominately in Adnyamathanha and Barngarla. The Barngarla language has been lost over many decades but it is hoped that there are still songs remaining in language as songs often endure even after spoken language is lost. Those songs in Barngarla will go through a linguistics analysis to determine what they mean and if the language used in the songs differs from the everyday spoken language. The historical songs will be the foundation for Stage 2. Elders will advise on the appropriate use for each song and some songs may be classified as sacred and recorded only for documentation purposes.

Stage 2 (Community Music Workshops)

Working with the Barngarla community in Port Augusta Gunditj/Kurnai musician Corey Theatre and Ngaanyatjarra musician Vonda Last will run a series of workshops throughout the school holidays and include all generations of the Barngarla community. Throughout the workshops the community will be led by the musicians to write new Barngarla-language songs with contemporary topics and music, using the traditional songs as a foundation and inspiration. Musicians from the Barngarla community will work more closely with Corey and Vonda to learn additional skills in song writing and workshop delivery.

Stage 3 (Recording and presentation)

The final songs will be recorded at Umewarra Media and performed at a community event to celebrate the Barngarla community. The songs will also be used in ongoing language education. Copyright of song texts and music will be with the Barngarla Language Advisory Committee (BLAC) or with current copyright holders.

Video Credit: http://www.davelaslett.com/