For the Sake of a Song: Wangga Songmen and their Repertories
For the Sake of a Song: Wangga Songmen and their Repertories
Allan Marett, Linda Barwick and Lysbeth Ford
Sydney University Press
ISBN: 9781920899752

Wangga, originating in the Daly region of Australia's Top End, is one of the most prominent Indigenous genres of public dance-songs. This book focuses on the songmen who created and performed the songs for their own communities and for the general public over the past 50 years.

The book is organised around six repertories: four from the Belyuen-based songmen Barrtjap, Muluk, Mandji and Lambudju, and two from the Wadeye-based Walakandha and Ma-yawa wangga groups, the repertories being named after the ancestral song-giving ghosts of the Marri Tjavin and Marri Ammu people respectively.

Framing chapters include discussion of the genre's social history, musical conventions and the five highly endangered languages in which the songs are composed.

The core of the book is a compendium of recordings, transcriptions, translations and explanations of over 150 song items. Thanks to permissions from the composers' families and a variety of archives and recordists, this corpus includes almost every wangga song ever recorded in the Daly region.

Representing the fruit of more than 20 years' work by Marett, Barwick and Ford with the families of the songmen, and drawing on a rich archival record of photographs and recordings from the communities of Belyuen and Wadeye, this book is the first phase of a multimedia publication project that will also include a website and a series of CD packages. It is the second book in the series 'The Indigenous Music of Australia' published by Sydney University Press.

All the recordings are available to stream. Links to the wangga songs are listed under specific repertories.

About the authors

Allan Marett is emeritus professor in musicology at the School of Letters, Art and Media at the University of Sydney and is a former director of the National Recording Project for Traditional Performance in Australia. He has published widely on the Indigenous musical traditions of Northern Australia and in the field of Sino-Japanese music history.

Linda Barwick is Associate Dean (Research) at the University of Sydney Conservatorium of Music and chair of the steering committee of PARADISEC (The Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures). Her longstanding engagement with musicians and communities in the Daly region has resulted in numerous publications and several community music projects including CD collections and local digital repositories of traditional song.

Lysbeth Ford is an honorary research associate in the Linguistics Department at the University of Sydney. Over the last 25 years she has worked with the last fluent speakers of several endangered Australian languages of the Darwin-Daly River region of north-west Australia to document the complex morpho-syntax of these languages.