For the Sake of a Song

Wangga Songmen and Their Repertories

Allan Marett, Linda Barwick, and Lysbeth Ford

Regular price $50.00 Sale

Format: paperback
436 pages
ISBN: 9781920899752

Publication: 27 Jun 2013
Series: Indigenous Music, Language and Performing Arts
Publisher: Sydney University Press

Read online: Open access
Buy ebook: Kindle

Wangga, originating in the Daly region of Australia’s Top End, is one of the most prominent Indigenous genres of public dance-songs. This book focuses on the songmen who created and performed the songs for their own communities and for the general public over the past 50 years. The book is organised around six repertories: four from the Belyuen-based songmen Barrtjap, Muluk, Mandji and Lambudju, and two from the Wadeye-based Walakandha and Ma-yawa wangga groups, the repertories being named after the ancestral song-giving ghosts of the Marri Tjavin and Marri Ammu people respectively.

Framing chapters include discussion of the genre’s social history, musical conventions and the five highly endangered languages in which the songs are composed. The core of the book is a compendium of recordings, transcriptions, translations and explanations of over 150 song items. Thanks to permissions from the composers’ families and a variety of archives and recordists, this corpus includes almost every wangga song ever recorded in the Daly region.

Representing the fruit of more than 20 years’ work by Marett, Barwick and Ford with the families of the songmen, and drawing on a rich archival record of photographs and recordings from the communities of Belyuen and Wadeye, this book is the first phase of a multimedia publication project.

There is a separate website associated with this title,, and the song repertories can be streamed at

Allan Marett is professor emeritus of musicology at the University of Sydney.

Linda Barwick is a musicologist collaborating with First Nations communities in Australia since 1985 and Italian communities since 1979. She is currently Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Lysbeth Ford is an honorary research associate in the linguistics department at the University of Sydney.

List of figures
List of tables
A note on orthography
How to read Marri Tjavin/Marri Ammu words
How to read Batjamalh words
How to read Emmi-Mendhe words
Abbreviations in morpheme-by-morpheme glosses to song-texts
A note on sound recordings

1. A social history of wangga
2. The music and dance conventions of wangga
3. The language of wangga
4. Barrtjap’s repertory
5. Muluk’s repertory
6. Mandji’s repertory
7. Lambudju’s repertory
8. The Walakandha wangga repertory
9. The Ma-yawa wangga repertory

Appendix 1: characteristics of the rhythmic modes
Appendix 2: list of recordings
About the authors
List of CD tracks

'The book takes concepts usually out of reach to those unacquainted with the intricacies of music and speaks to the 'regular' reader. A lively introduction details the social history and cultural meaning behind wangga and outlines the ways in which to interpret the song analyses.'
Bronwyn O'Reilly   Aboriginal Art Directory

‘This publication is a truly remarkable compilation of songs from one of Australia's unique performance traditions, born from a deep attachment to land. The text, audio and images are brought together superbly. For the Sake of a Song is a must for anyone seeking a greater understanding of Aboriginal music, poetry and song.’
Dr Myfany Turpin   Context: Journal of Music Research

‘The reader is struck by both the great amount of detail that finds its way into the book, and by a sense of clarity and conciseness in the way that material is presented ... For the Sake of a Song is a valuable summary of more than twenty years of research undertaken jointly and independently by Marett, Barwick and Ford. The need for this book may be seen not only in the cultural value of the performance practice and the wealth of accumulated knowledge that the authors provide, but also by the need to document a performance practice that exists today in a very precarious state.’
Steven Knopoff   Musicology Australia

Format: paperback
Size: 250 × 176 × 24 mm
436 pages
10 colour illustrations, 38 b&w tables, and 48 b&w illustrations
Copyright: © 2013
ISBN: 9781920899752
Publication: 27 Jun 2013
Series: Indigenous Music, Language and Performing Arts