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The Sounds of Tiwi

If you’ve never heard the voices of the Tiwi Strong Women’s Group before, then you’re in for a treat this month. If you know them well, then you probably already have your ticket.

Ngarukuruwala is the name of the collaboration that has been uniting the incredible culture, stories, and songs of the Tiwi women with Sydney-based musicians for over a decade. This kind of collaboration with partnership and two-way learning is truly the best in Australia, and makes you count yourself lucky to experience it.

This month’s show is a very special one-off, just for Darwin. Yoi – which means ‘to dance’, and also ‘coming together to dance’ – promises all the power of the senior ladies, singing unaccompanied, as well as introducing a number of the emerging singers of the Tiwi Islands, both men and women.

One to watch out for is Francis Orsto, a beautiful singer, but also wellversed in language and culture, who is increasingly taking his place as a respected songman.

Genevieve Campbell has spent many, many years working with the Tiwi singers, and returns to the Islands every few months. As well as being a horn player in the band (and mini bus driver, handbag holder and coordinator) she was instrumental in the return of archival recordings of Tiwi songs to the singers, taken between 1912 and 1981.

Reclaiming the recordings has been highly significant for the senior Tiwi artists, and Genevieve says there are a number of songs literally performed with the old recordings, bringing the voices of their ancestors into the room, and having them sing for us.

“We’re going to have the big screen up and we’ll have some translation of text, and images of the particular country the songs are coming from, and some archive tracks that we’ll then be playing live around,” she says.

“Then there are a few songs that are completely new, that the young guys have written that they want to perform, so we’ll be getting into some electric bass and drums and keyboards and grooving action as well.

“We don’t want to lock it in – it always has to be current and real on the night. Tiwi songs are always in present tense and first person. Most of the songs are not set in stone. Whoever is singing, whichever of the old ladies is singing, is singing her version. We can’t write down charts or anything, really we just have to go with it, on the night.”

So while it might be impossible to entirely predict the evening, you can be sure Yoi! is going to be something special.

Tiwi Strong Women’s Group – Ngarukuruwala: Yoi!
COST $38 | $34 MEMB/CONC $30 U30


Photo: L-R Leonie Tipiloura, Jacinta Tipungwuti, Callista Kintilla

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