Australia’s finest and most imaginative vocal ensemble “ The Song Company – has pushed the envelope yet again, into the indigenous. And typically of this now-25 year old group, lead by the irrepressible Roland Peelman, it’s an enveloping experience they offer.
‘Kalkadunga Yurdu’ is the result of a 2 year collaboration between the musicians and William Barton “ still in his 20s but already an Old Master of the Didgeridu who can vocalises the didgeridoo to produce a visceral sound much lower than any human voice could ever sing, and a young master of taking it successfully from the ceremonial context into the widest range of musics; and also with Allan Chawner, a photographer capable of bringing Barton’s Kalkadoon world of anthills, big skies, symphonies of spinifex and world-weary rocks around Mt Isa into the concert hall with his images.
The cross-fertilisation of Aboriginal and Western music isn’t that new of course: Peter Sculthorpe and Ross Edwards have achieved wonders from the Western viewpoint over the years “ though increasingly, Barton himself has taken Sculthorpe’s music with him on a wild Kalkadunga ride. Now Barton is writing his own music based on the sounds he heard from his uncle in childhood; also on the sounds of the animals and birds of his homeland.
These all gain riches in the concert-hall when presented in the Kalkadunga tongue. And that achievement occurs despite the last living fluent speaker of the language having died in 1980. How sad that Lardie Moonlight had a whole decade after her husband, King Moonlight died in which to speak to no one else in her birth tongue. Fortunately, white linguists like Prof Barry Blake were on hand to record her words. But as even he admits, With each language that has died is lost a distinctive system of concepts, a system for encoding and encapsulating experience, and a literature of songs and stories (with) elements that go back thousands of years.
But now young composers like Rosalind Page, Sarah Hopkins and Dan Walker are writing music for the Kalkadunga tongue. And as audiences in concerts from Casula to Melbourne discovered, Ngata ayarku yangaaluu – We belong to one language.
The musical, emotional and visual experience that is Kalkadunga Yurdu/Man has already broken bounds for the Song Company. The 6-person acapella group sang for the first time at the new Melbourne Recital Centre, at the National Museum in Canberra and at Casula Powerhouse. But there are more concerts planned for Over West “ in Perth and Broome; and way away at the Festival of Flanders in Belgium. There’s also a CD/DVD set that could almost reproduce the experience at home – and that’s now available via the URL below!