Published 08 June 2018
‘Ngarukuruwala means we sing songs. The Tiwi 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.’
Together with their Sydney band and the recorded voices of Elders from generations past, this event will see traditional Tiwi songs performed in a collaboration that brings together the music of Bathurst Island, Northern Australia and the sounds of contemporary jazz, blues and swing.
Join us for an evening of song, stories, dance and laughter as we celebrate the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and acknowledge the essential role of song in maintaining language, ceremony and culture, and in building a shared experience between all of us – past and present.
The Tiwi Strong Women’s Group: Regina Kantilla, Anthea Kerinaiua, Augusta Puangatji, Jacinta Tipungwuti, Francis Orsto, Gregoriana Parker, Frances Therese Portaminni, Marcella Fernando
Band: Dr Genevieve Campbell (Horn), Michelle Kelly (Violin), Simon Bartlett (Trombone), Dave Manuel (Drums), Jason Noble (Clarinet), Dave Ellis (Double Bass)
As the societal context of those who create and perform Tiwi songs has changed, so too have Tiwi songs. The women involved in Ngarukuruwala see this as a positive cultural and artistic phenomenon, which allows the art of Tiwi song to remain a vital and relevant part of Australian contemporary music. Through intertwining indigenous song, with modern jazz, the Strong Women continue to preserve Tiwi traditions and stories, while developing a new form of music-making.
Regina Kantilla, Anthea Kerinaiua, Augusta Puangatji, Jacinta Tipungwuti, Ella Puruntatameri, Gregoriana Parker and Frances Therese Portaminni are members of the Strong Women’s group. They have been singing together since they were young girls, learning the traditional songs of their people from their mothers and grandmothers. Through their connection with the group and the shared experience of singing they feel strength and pride, knowing they are keeping deep-past Traditional Knowledge alive in their songs. They are respected in the community as mentors, drawing on their knowledge of Tiwi song traditions to help young Tiwi people connect with their language and cultural identity.
As part of Ngarukuruwala they have performed at the Darwin Festival a number of times, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the NT Deadly Awards, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the Sydney Recital Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and to a crowd of 400,000 people at the Papal Mass at World Youth Day celebrations. They are actively involved in the preservation and maintenance of Tiwi song practice and language and travelled to Canberra in 2009 to reclaim archived Tiwi song recordings from the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Studies and the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra. Their first CD Ngarukuruwala-we sing songs won Best Traditional Music Recording at the 2008 NT Deadly Awards. Most recently, our CD Ngiya awungarra – I am here now won an APRA AMCOS Art Music State Award 2017.
Since Les Misérables in 1988, Genevieve Campbell has played horn in many of the major Music Theatre shows in town plus everything from Musica Viva to Australian Idol, Opera Australia to the Wangarratta Jazz Festival and toured with Anthony Warlow, Barbra Streisand, Michael Crawford and (her favourite!) Shirley Bassey. Ngarukuruwala and her close involvement in the discovery and repatriation to the Tiwi islands of archived song recordings led her to complete a PhD, working with elders to document and preserve Tiwi song language and melody. She now juggles horn and running a high school Ensembles program with her commitment to helping her Tiwi colleagues share their song culture. Genevieve has recently been awarded a 2019 Sydney University Fellowship for her research project titled: The interconnection between Tiwi song culture and death in the context of artistic creativity, cultural maintenance and community health.
Michelle Kelly, violin, has been busy! – recording and performing for ABC, 2MBS FM, EMI, Point Blank Productions, Sony, Festival Records, for multiple movies, concerts and CDs, such as David Hobson, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Silverchair, Wendy Matthews, Jimmy Barnes, Yvonne Kenny, Marcia Hines, The Whitlams, Jimmy Little, Alex Lloyd, Powderfinger, Jerry Lewis, Archie Roach, Christine Anu, Robbie Williams, Andrea Bocelli, Kate Cebrano, Cruel Sea, Gurrumul, Sydney and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras, ACO, State Orchestra of Victoria, guest principal Australian Opera Orchestra, Sinfonia Australis, Paris Opera Ballet Orchestra, Bolshoi Ballet, Concertmaster Sydney Philharmonia, and as a soloist in ABC’s Classic 100 Concertos.
Simon Bartlett is a member of the Royal Australian Navy Band, playing Trombone, and working as a member of the band’s community outreach program. He also Leads the Black & White Big Band, and works with Galapagos Duck, and The Big Ol’ Bus Band, has toured Las Vegas, Singapore, Qatar, Noumea, Christmas Island, and Indonesia and has recorded extensively with a number of swing and stage bands. In 2004, he was commissioned to write the score for the swing musical “Jump Sugar Jump”.
David Manuel has performed and toured as a percussionist with Michael Crawford, Shirley Bassey, Jerry Lewis, Marvin Hamlisch, Peter Allen, Hugh Jackman, Kylie Minogue, Olivia Newton John, Anthony Warlow, and was regular percussionist with Tommy Tycho’s Sydney International Orchestra for nineteen years. His professional theatre credits on both drums and percussion include; A Chorus Line, The Pirates of Penzance, Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, Sunset Boulevarde (in concert), Mamma Mia, Dirty Dancing, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Atomic, High Society, Singin’ in the Rain and Big Fish. David has recorded many varied projects with Tommy Tycho and James Morrison, as well as albums with Anthony Warlow, Guy Sebastian, Mark Vincent and David Campbell.
Jason Noble is a clarinettist performing in styles from classical to experimental and popular music. As a member of Ensemble Offspring for more than ten years , he has toured to Europe twice , China, and performed in most Australian cities and regional centres. Recent projects have included the world premiere of “Am I” with Nick Wales and the Shaun Parker Dance Company at Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Festivals, a return to the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul , and a sold out performance of Hurricane Transcriptions with Mike Patton and Lee Ranaldo at Sydney Festival. He is a member of Ensemble Offspring.
Dave Ellis, Double Bass: In a playing career that has spanned nearly 50 years, Dave has been a member of the Western Australian (WASO) and Sydney Symphony Orchestras (SSO), the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust (Sydney) Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), the Australian Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), the latter three as Principal Double Bass, and several Freelance Orchestras (always as Principal). His non-classical work includes Jazz, Rock, Country Music, Cabaret and Experimental and Improvisatory Music. He is now a member of the contemporary Flamenco group, Arrebato Ensemble.