Mawng songmen travel with Dr Reuben Brown to Portugal for a cross-cultural exchange

In July 2022, Mawng songmen Rupert Manmurulu and Renfred Manmurulu travelled from the remote community of Warruwi, western Arnhem land to Lisbon, Portugal to collaborate with DECRA Fellow Dr Reuben Brown for the 46th International Council of Traditional Music (ICTM) World Conference.

The group co-presented a paper titled: ‘‘Remix!’: sustaining dialogues between past and present in the manyardi song tradition of western Arnhem Land’ which highlighted examples in Mawng of dialogic engagement such as ‘kiniyarrun la yamin’ — ordering songs in performance by matching ‘new’ songs with older versions conceived by previous generations of singers. The group then held a participatory workshop on Inyjalarrku ‘mermaid’ songs, passed on to Rupert and Renfred from their father and grandfather, in which participants learned the men’s and women’s dancing that accompanies the songs.

Dr Reuben Brown, Renfred Manmurulu and Rupert Manmurulu pictured co-presenting at the ICTM world conference, Lisbon Portugal.

Dr Reuben Brown, Renfred Manmurulu and Rupert Manmurulu co-present at the ICTM world conference, Lisbon Portugal. Photo: Brian Diettrich.

During the conference, the group met Marin Naruse from Amami Island, Japan. After sharing stories of the Japanese pearling history in Arnhem Land and exchanging songs, they performed a cross-cultural collaboration of shimauta and manyardi for the Closing Ceremony of the conference, to say ‘thanks’ to the hosts in Lisbon and the ICTM and ‘bobo’ (goodbye).

Renfred Manmurulu plays arawirr (didjeridu) and Rupert Manmurulu sings Inyjalarrku, backed by Dr Reuben Brown on nganangka (clapsticks) and Marin Naruse on the sanshin instrument for the closing ceremony.

‘Renfred Manmurulu (didjeridu), Rupert Manmurulu, Dr Reuben Brown and Marin Naruse (sanshin) perform at the closing ceremony in Lisbon. Photo: Brian Diettrich.

The trip was supported by Brown’s ARC DECRA project ‘Modern diplomacy: understanding ceremonial exchange at Indigenous Festivals', the ICTM Study Group on Music and Dance of Oceania, the Research Unit for Indigenous Language, and the University of Melbourne.

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