‘The songs are about people. We hear stories. We put the story into songs. Events, celebrations, funerals, so that singing and dancing about everything is how we maintain our culture. We don’t write things down like you mob. Our songs are our history books’

 Regina Kantilla

 

                               

Ngarukuruwala means we sing songs. The Wangatunga Strong Women's Group don't really 'rehearse' or 'perform' - they come together to sing. They don't really see themselves as a choir. They are a group of women who share a connection through the songs they know, create and sing together nearly everyday. Using Ngarukuruwala as the project name reflects the fact that the Tiwi songs are the starting point of the idea as well as the fact that the aim is to "sing" or make music together. This project aims to add to the body of indigenous Australian song as well as contribute to the sustaining of a fundamentally important part of Australian musical culture. Tiwi songs have undergone changes and developments which reflect the society of those who create and perform them. Those of us involved in Ngarukuruwala see this as a positive cultural and artistic phenomenon which makes Tiwi song an important part of twenty-first century music. Rather than it being seen as a type of exotic or ethno-defined music which remains a marginalized art form, we reckon Tiwi music is vital and relevant. It is, after all, Australian contemporary music. The delight of this collaboration is the combination of cultures and the freshness of the women's singing. It makes for a unique experience, one that balances the strength of indigenous song and culture  with  modern jazz in an ensemble that is diverse in age,culture,background and experience. The process of writing, rehearsing and performing together is a rewarding and enriching experience for everyone. The unifying language of music has helped to connect people, both artists and audience, on a level of mutual respect and empathy that is sometimes difficult to achieve in Australian society.

 Ngarukuruwala played to a sell-out crowd at the Darwin Festival and as guests at the Australian Indigenous Music Awards in 2007, then again to a sell-out audience at the Studio, Sydney Opera House in July and at the NT Museum and Art Gallery in August 2008. In 2009 we concentrated on fund-raising and planning for the visit to the archives in Canberra. 2010 was another great year.  In August we performed back at the Darwin Festival with resounding success. We look forward to being back together making music again soon.