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Vitality and Change in Warlpiri Songs

[by Naomi van Groll]


Warlpiri songs hold together the ceremonies that structure and bind social relationships, and encode detailed information about Warlpiri country, cosmology and kinship.


Today, only a small group of the oldest generations has full knowledge of ceremonial songs and their associated meanings, and there is widespread concern about the transmission of these songs to future generations.


While musical and cultural change is normal, threats to attrition driven by large-scale external forces including sedentarisation and modernisation put strain on the systems of social relationships that have sustained Warlpiri cultures for millennia.


Despite these concerns, songs remain key to Warlpiri identity and cultural heritage. Vitality and Change in Warlpiri Songs draws together insights from senior Warlpiri singers and custodians of these song traditions, profiling a number of senior singers and their views of the changes that they have witnessed over their lifetimes.


The chapters in this book are written by Warlpiri custodians in collaboration with researchers who have worked in Warlpiri communities over the last five decades.


Spanning interdisciplinary perspectives including musicology, linguistics, anthropology, cultural studies, dance ethnography and gender studies, chapters range from documentation of well-known and large-scale Warlpiri ceremonies, to detailed analysis of smaller-scale public rituals and the motivations behind newer innovative forms of ceremonial expression.


Vitality and Change in Warlpiri Songs ultimately uncovers the complexity entailed in maintaining the vital components of classical Warlpiri singing practices and the deep desires that Warlpiri people have to maintain this important element of their cultural identity into the future.



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