In the Bininj Kunwok language of western Arnhem Land, there is a genre of hunting songs (performed pre-dawn) called morrdjdjanjno [mɔrcːaɲnɔ]. I have been documenting these songs for many years. One of my favourites is a song about Antilopine kangaroos that lie in the part shade in the heat of the day. The singer, Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek made this commentary about that particular song:

LBN: Karlwardba ka-keyo ka-yo Burrmarlarla kalaba karndakarndayh, karrarangkan yiman njale delek kandakidj dakbameng ka-yo ka-warre.

This sentence contains the song language name for antilopine kangaroos ‘burrmarlarla’ that refers to – of these kangaroos that lie down (ka-keyo) under trees in the heat of the day. LBN says they look as if they have been smearing themselves with white clay and they shine in the light from a distance, ka-warre ‘fantastic’ (antinomy ka-warre =bad > to mean ‘good’).

If you’re interested to read more:

Garde, M. 2007 Morrdjdjanjno ngan-marnbom story nakka,‘songs that turn me into a story teller’: the morrdjdjanjno of western Arnhem Land. Australian Aboriginal Studies 2007/2, pp35-45

Photo of euros (Macropus robustus): Bob Gosford


In this post – words: Murray Garde; picture: Bob Gosford. This post was originally published in November 2016 at Murray Garde’s blog, Discoveries of the Unexpected here.