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Arnhem Land Music
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Database was last updated on:
May 11, 2006

Other Links:
* iDIDJ: Australian Didjeridu Information and Cultural Resource Centre
* Djalu Gurruwiwi's Website - Rripangu Yirdaki
* Yidakiwuy Dhawu Miwatjngurunydja
* Recordings by Australian Indigenous Artists 1899-1998 [PDF Format]
* Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
* Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre
* Skinnyfish Music
* Black Mujik
* Yothu Yindi
* White Cockatoo Performing Group
* Yirdaki Making With Djalu Gurruwiwi
* Garma Festival of Traditional Culture
* Aboriginal Studies WWW Virtual Library
* Center For World Indigenous Studies
* More Links...

Stop the Jabiluka Uranium Mine

Online videos featuring traditional Arnhem Land music

  • IDIDJ AUSTRALIA on YouTube. Dozens of video clips showcasing some of Arnhem Land's most talented yirdaki and mago players. If you like what you hear, you can purchase the instrument being played! A must for anyone interested in practicing traditional playing techniques.

  • YIDAKIWUY DHAWU MIWATJNGURUNYDJA - A wonderful site with yirdaki tutorials and Yolngu cultural information. The site has many video clips of Yolngu discussing cultural issues surrounding the yirdaki and also clips of yirdaki playing by Djalu Gurruwiwi, Milkayngu Mununggurr and many others.

Films and videos featuring traditional Arnhem Land music

  • ABORIGINES OF THE SEA COAST. Director: Charles P. Mountford. MCML - An Australian National Film Board Production. 19 minutes. Records of the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition, sponsored by National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institution of America, and the Commonwealth of Australia. This was filmed at Yirrkala, mostly around the beach and creek. Lots of footage of kids playing and swimming but also some footage of turtle hunting, bark canoe construction and shelter construction. There is also a brief bit of bunggul - just young kids playing yidaki and dancing. Mawalan Marika appears on a few occasions - mainly paddling a canoe when turtle hunting. His young son Wandjuk also makes an appearance with the children - he makes some sand drawings on the beach of fishing scenes and he's in the background when the kids are singing and dancing and playing didj.
  • DIDJERIDU, 1999. Gaia Films. 28 minutes. Features South Western Arnhem Land didjeridu playing. Includes scenes of hunting and painting with David Blanasi, and Blanasi singing and playing sticks in a funeral ceremony, while didjeridu is played by Tom Kelly. Also included are excerpts of a North Central Arnhem Land Morning Star ceremony in Ramingining, with Bobby Bununggurr.
  • GROOTE EYLANDT MUSIC AND DANCE, 1969. Director: Alice Moyle. AIATSIS. Film made for study of Wanindilyaugwa (Groote Eylandt) and Nunggubuyu (Numbulwar) music and dance. Continual song and dance with well played didjeridu. Includes close-ups on the players.
  • INITIATION, 1987. Director: Michael Pearce. FGH. 92 minutes. Contains a "corroboree" scene, featuring Wandjuk Marika.
  • THE RIGHT STUFF, 1983. Director: Phillip Kaufman. The Ladd Company, distributed by Warner Brothers. 193 minutes. Contains a brief scene in the Australian desert, with David Gulpilil speaking and dancing, Wandjuk Marika looking coy, and a nighttime song and dance scene with yidaki.
  • THOMSON OF ARNHEM LAND, 2000. Director: John Moore. Film Australia. 55 minutes. The tale of important Australian anthropologist Donald Thomson. Includes a brief excerpt from a ceremony at the 1999 Garma' Festival, when message sticks transported and collected by Thomson were given to members of the Djapu clan.
  • WAITING FOR HARRY, 1980. Director: Kim McKenzie. AIATSIS. 57 minutes. Frank Gurrmanamana prepares final rites for his deceased brother. Takes place not far east of Maningrida, Northern Central/Western Arnhem Land.
  • WHERE THE GREEN ANTS DREAM RealAudio sound clips, 1984. Director: Werner Herzog. Wenrer Herzog Filmproduktion and Zweites Deutches Fernsehen (ZDF), USA distribution by Orion Classics. 100 minutes. Contains Rirratjingu clan members in song and dance, and several segments with Wandjuk Marika playing yidaki.
    A series of 22 films shot by Ian Dunlop, mostly during the 1970's, at the invitation of various Yolngu and centred around Yirrkala and its associated outstations. The films explore the issues and struggles facing the Yolngu at that time. A major focus of the content of the films is the examination of various aspects of ceremonial life and what non-Yolngu refer to as the 'arts'. Only those films containing traditional music are listed here.

    • Hard Time Now 1974-76 (1996) 54 mins. Contains around 30 mins of manikay including yidaki. Features Banapana Maymuru, Yikaki (both Manggalili) & Bunbatjiwuy on yidaki, Mithili (Marrakulu), Birrkitji Gumana (Dhalwangu), Yama Munungguritj & Watjung (both Gumatj).
    • From a Long Time Ago 1974 (1996) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 20 minutes. Filmed in 1974. Munggurrawuy Yunupingu sings and plays bilma, describing the current goings and referring to Macassans while painting of a hollow log continues, and Daymbalipu Mununggurr interprets the designs.
    • Marrakulu Funeral 1974 (1996) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 54 minutes. Documents a funeral ceremony featuring Marrakulu, Djapu and Rirratjingu songs and clansmen, including notables Dundiwuy Wanambi, Daymbalipu Mununggurr, Wandjuk Marika and Roy Dadaynga Marika. Continual song, dance, bilma and yidaki, including a ceremonial high-pitched drone pipe.
    • Singing in the Rain 1972-74 (1996) 53 mins. Contains a few minutes of a ritual washing ceremony (Djapu) featuring Wandjuk & Dadaynga Marika (Rirratjingu), Mungurrawuy Yunupingu (Gumatj), Gatjil Djerrkura, Djirin.
    • Dhapi Ceremony at Yirrkala 1972 (1996) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 91 minutes. Excerpts from the several weeks of song and painting leading up to the ceremonial circumcision of a group of young boys. Continual song, dance, yidaki and bilma throughout.
    • Dundiwuy's House Opening 1971 (1996) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 35 minutes. Filmed in 1971. A ceremonial reopening of a house that had been closed due to the passing of a resident. Subject matter is Wititj, Olive Python, seemingly presided over by Galpu clan members, including Monyu Gurruwiwi (Djalu's father) and Rirratjingu clan members. Continual song and dance with yidaki and bilma.
    • Purification Ceremony 1971 (1996) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 15 minutes. A purification/healing ceremony performed by Djapu clansmen, including yidaki, bilma, and singing by well known elders such as Maw' and Djiriny Mununggurr. Dove and other bird songs are featured, with the accompanying vocal coo-ing.
    • Pain for this Land 1970-71 (1996) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 43 minutes. Filmed in 1970-1971. Short excerpts of song and dance, and video of a yidaki being painted, are included in this film which primarily deals with the issues of change in Yirrkala at the time of the building of the bauxite mine and town of Nhulunbuy.
    • Conversations with Dundiwuy 1970-82 (1996) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 50 minutes. Interviews with Dundiwuy Wanambi and other Marrakulu clan members between 1970 and 1982. Early on in the film, a couple of songs are played over a few drinks in the Walkabout Hotel bar.
    • Djungguwan At Gurka'wuy 1976 (1989) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 233 minutes. Excerpts from several days of ceremony based around the Wawilak Sisters. Members of Rirratjingu and Marrakulu clans are particularly featured, such as Dundiwuy Wanambi, Wandjuk Marika and Roy Dadaynga Marika. Includes use of a ceremonial high-pitched drone pipe. Video is in Parts 1-5 (only available in PAL).
    • We believe in it - We Know it's True 1982 (1986) 46 mins. Filmed both in Yirrkala and at the outstation of Wandawuy (Djapu clan land) and features a Madarrpa funeral ceremony with Madarrpa, Munyuku, Djapu and Gumatj participants (Gumatj are mari; mother's mother for Madarrpa). Features Gambali and his brother Dula Ngurruwuthun (Munyuku) Daymbalipu Mununggurr (Djapu) and Matjuwi Burarrwanga (Gumatj). 24 mins of music. A very young Mandawuy (known at that time as Bakamana)Yunupingu (Gumatj) is also to be seen as an educator.
    • One Man's Response 1971 (1986) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 54 minutes. Filmed in 1971. Contains excerpts of a performance by the children of the Yirrkala school, including Brolga played on yidaki, and a dance with yidaki and percussive vocal noises. More prominently featured are excerpts from a day long memorial ceremony hosted by Narritjin Maymurru. Kingfisher songs are highlighted.
    • We are the Landowner 1982 (1985) 39 mins. 3:45 mins of Madarrpa bunggul at the end.
    • In Memory of Mawalan 1971 (1983) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 92 minutes. Filmed in 1971. Documents the memorial ceremony Wandjuk Marika initiated for his father Mawalan. Continuous vocals, bilma, and dance dramatizing the Djangka'wu Sisters' travels. No yidaki.
    • Narritjin in Canberra 1978 (1980) 40 mins Filmed at the Australian National University, Faculty of Arts, Canberra. Only 2:40 mins of Manggalili manikay at the end. Features Narritjin and Banapana Maymuru (Manggalili) Howard Morphy, John Mulvaney and 'Nugget' Coombes.
    • Narritjin at Djarrakpi Parts 1 and 2 1974 (1980) 95 mins. Just 3:40 mins of manikay performed by Narritjin Maymuru (Manggalili) and his son Banapana. A bamboo yidaki is to be seen and heard briefly in Part 1. Also shows a few minutes of burning out the bore in the creation of a softwood 'tourist didjeridu' in Part 2.
    • Madarrpa Funeral at Gurka'wuy 1976 (1978) Director: Ian Dunlop, Film Australia. 88 minutes. Filmed in 1976. Madarrpa and Gumatj songs are particularly important in this 2 day funeral ceremony held for a small child. Narritjin Maymurru, Daymbalipu Mununggurr, Dundiwuy Wanambi, Yama Mununggurritj, and many others are featured. Continual singing and bilma, and lots of yidaki and dance. Heron and crocodile songs are featured, as well as a yellow ochre ceremony. The book "Journey to the Crocodile's Nest" by Howard Morphy gives considerable detail about the ceremony.
Copyright 2002-2006 J.H. Burrows and Peter Lister